As BNP and EDL party activists, candidates and sympathisers huddle around their camp fires and trailer parks to review their final execution of their terror, confrontational tactics and misinformation campaign for voters in the May local and GLA elections in England, they will take solace and comfort from their inspiration leader and symbol of great ‘White Hope’ St George for divine intervention and spiritual guidance.
Yes, folks, St George’s Day is upon us again! BNP candidates and EDL foot soldiers will be tooled up with passion in their hearts, renewing their vows against Black and Asian communities, Jewish, asylum seekers, gay and lesbian people, feminists, trade unionists, socialists and democrats who are destroying their ‘English way of life’.
The BNP and also the EDL believe that they represent the silent majority of white voters and sadly a small but increasing number of Black and Minority Ethnic voters who see St George’s Day representing being English. The race card was used by Margaret Thatcher with the “swamping” of British culture and standards as promoted by the Tories in 1980s and which again was used in the 2005 and 2010 general election campaigns by all the mainstream political parties.
Eric Pickles and David Cameron according to their recent integration strategy want everyone to integrate and live in harmony over a pint of beer and curry. In the meanwhile, the tax reforms for the rich and the cuts in public services has a disproportionate effect on women and black and minority ethnic communities with ‘The Big Society’ domed as the latest vanity project.
The EDL, along with the BNP, UKIP and the Tories model their views, values and principles around other virtues of the patron saint:
• St George represents the genealogy of Englishness and British family history and heritage as a pure race with undiluted bloodlines;
• St George represents the tradition of fair play, respect, tolerance, diplomacy and values of an England where people lived harmoniously and where multiculturalism and integration was not an issue;
• The English patron saint St George represents medieval tradition and the role of the Crusaders who ‘fought the good fight’ in the advancement of Christianity and morality in an uncivilised and heathen world.
Well, I have news for everyone, what they promote is either incorrect or full of contradictions. It was back in 2003 while researching and developing the 100 Great Black Britons campaign and website (www.100greatblackbritons.com) that I found St George or to give him his correct name George of Lydda was actually of African and Turkish descent.
Contrary to public opinion, St George never came to England to slay dragons or save princesses but was born in Cappadocia, then in Asia Minor what is now Turkey. He was persecuted and died at the hands of Roman Emperor Diocletian on 23rd April 303 AD in Nicomedia, Bithynia, on the Black Sea.
St George’s life and the lives of other African people during this period of ancient history have not been recorded and documented in a systematic way by European academics. However, black scholars such as J.A. Rogers in the three volume book called “Sex and Race” in the 1930s have traced the black presence during the Greek and Roman periods.
St George and Septimus Severus another Great Black Briton who was the equivalent of the Prime Minster of his day (an aspiration according to Trevor Phillips is out of the reach for black people in this century ) and many others played a key influential role during the Roman Empire.
Unlike Septimus Severus, George of Lydda was a successful Roman Tribune who turned his back on the Roman political system and converted to Christianity. His commitment to religion and his subsequent torture led to his iconic status by the Crusaders when they travelled to the Middle East and North Africa. St George was subsequently adopted in the 14th century in England as our patron Saint.
The recent spate of murders and mass unemployment of young black teenagers is a major concern which is part of the wider legacy of post Empire and its impact on social exclusion, inequalities of wealth, class and the status of black communities in Britain today. It is a sad fate of history that victims of institutionalised racism over the years such as Orville Blackwood, Colin Roach, Stephen Lawrence, Roger Sylvester, Rocky Bennett, Mark Duggan and many others reflect the symbolism that St George is really the patron saint of black men and other oppressed men and women and thus a symbol of our multicultural society. St George is also a rally cry for fighting racism and fascism.
So let’s celebrate St George’s Day and reclaim this from the far right and fascist groups.
By Patrick Vernon,
Councillor, London Borough of Hackney and recent candidate in Manchester Central selection process.