Is he ‘Our Churchill’?

wc-1Sir Winston Churchill

An article about the vandalism of the Woodford Green Churchill statue in our last issue prompted a number of objections to how the former prime minister was presented. Reader Sarah P was invited to respond

I felt compelled to write after I read the Our Churchill article in the previous issue of the South Woodford Village Gazette. The article, written by Tory councillor Clark Vasey, was condemning vandalism to Woodford’s Churchill statue. I felt the article was one-sided, biased and failed to address Churchill’s problematic past.

If your opinion of Churchill is based solely on the war, then, of course, you’re going to think favourably of him. Churchill did substantial good for this country. However, he also did and said things that were inherently racist and it’s important we acknowledge this.

Vasey said those who vandalised the statue are “thugs who ought to read some history”. This is ironic, as examples of Churchill’s controversies are well documented. Here are just three:

He held a hierarchical perspective of race, believing white people were the most superior and black people the least.

In 1902, whilst discussing his views on the Chinese, Churchill stated the “great barbaric nations” would “menace civilised nations”, and that “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph”. In 1954, he also said: “I hate people with slit eyes and pigtails. I don’t like the look of them or the smell of them.”

His biggest atrocity concerns the Bengal famine of 1943. Churchill stated that any potential relief efforts sent to India would accomplish little to nothing, as Indians “bred like rabbits”. Up to three million people starved to death while British officials begged Churchill to direct supplies to the region. He refused and said the plague was “merrily” culling the population.

It’s easy to argue it was a different time, that everyone held similar views then. However, his actions during the Bengal famine are inexcusable – millions died. In fact, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was warned by colleagues not to appoint Churchill because his views were so antediluvian. Even his doctor, Lord Moran, said of other races: “Winston thinks only of the colour of their skin.”

Vasey said that not liking Churchill is “bizarre to any normal person”. This is incredibly unfair given the examples listed above. Being mixed ethnicity, I’m not sure if Churchill would have liked me very much, and I can certainly understand why some people are conflicted in their opinions of him. My words are not intended to completely bash Churchill or offend his supporters, but to offer a different perspective and to highlight why some people rightly have an issue with Churchill.   

Churchfields is a diverse ward. This is one of the reasons I like living in South Woodford. If our community is going to discuss Churchill, then we should consider his complete history.

The examples above were taken from Wikipedia and an article by Johann Hari which was published in The Independent, both sources list full citations.