As I See It: Steve Sampson
Guy Gibson VC, war hero, famously chose the N-word as the name for his dog. The black Labrador featured large in the film celebrating one of the greatest missions of World War 2 – the famous bouncing bomb raid on the Eder dam. Who among us didn’t shed a tear when the mutt was run over and died at the moment of greatest victory and valour.
That was 75 years ago. Now, whenever the BBC runs the film (many, many times) they put a warning about offensive language right at the start. Because of the N-word. If Gone with the Wind is a gonner then The Dambusters has got no chance. Unless they bleep out the name. The Fawlty Towers “don’t mention the war” episode became the latest to be binned – until a late reprieve – in these new times we live in. The new abnormal.
Gibson helped destroy the Nazis. Boss helped dress them. Now protesters want to tear down Churchill’s statue. Isn’t Boss a more obvious target? Didn’t Spurs footballers including England Captain Harry Kane promote Boss aftershave? Spurs – the club with traditional Jewish ties. Henry Ford gave all his European profits from car sales to Hitler in the 1903s. Burn anyone with a Ford?
Gibson wasn’t a racist. He was a classic product of a white entitled generation entirely unconscious of the human condition. He would be shocked at the current furore. We rightly call them the Special Generation. My parents. But they watched the Black and White Minstrels every Saturday. I always hated Love Thy Neighbour. Sly, low humour, objectifying the black family. Alf Garnett different again. That was an essay on society. The writer took you behind the comedy. Still binned in today’s world.
Me? Take those damn statues down. The slavers, the heartless b*stards who made millions sending millions to their deaths, a life of slavery at best. Ever been to St Lucia, looked around the island, the bits the tourists don’t see? You could weep.
Scotland’s shame is Jamaica. There are more Campbells per head than in Scotland. Inverness. St Andrew, Dumbarton. Names that were given to plantations worked by slave labour, owned by Scots. Oliver Cromwell first sent our defeated solders there after Dunbar. Then the “brighter” Scots went out a century later and became slavers. Naomi Campbell? It’s a horrible memory, one that needs expunging.
‘Round and round we go in ever decreasing circles. Are we grown up enough to understand the nuances?’
If you know the north of Scotland, there a place on a hillside less than 20 minutes from where Prince Charles is in lockdown. Just above the river he fishes. A place known as “Black Wood”. Where they felled acres of Scots pine to be turned into slave ships. The name still sticks. They still talk about to this day centuries later. And not with pride.
And so round and round we go in ever decreasing circles. Are we grown up enough to understand the nuances? Don’t ask white people. Ask those of colour. Whatever we are doing ain’t working. After eight years of a black US President his legacy is a white supremacist who has zero regard for anyone – let alone anyone of an ethnic background.
How far back do we go. We hunted Nazi exterminators who murdered millions of Jews, gypsies, the infirm and the insane. I would even take down the ridiculous 100 foot statue down to the Duke of Sutherland, the man they blame for the Highland clearances. Actually, it was his wife, the Duchess of Sutherland who was the real bitch. She cleared families and farmers from her thousands of acres to make way for sheep. Burned them out, forced them abroad.
But hands off Churchill. He is defined by the greatest moment in the last century – keeping us all free from the worst tyranny of any generation. Forgive him anything else.
Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, and a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including The Daily Record and Sunday Mail. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives, and a media adviser.