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Monday, 23 January 2017

Scotland and the Klan - BBC 4

Monday 23rd January '17

I have just watched Neil Oliver’s presentation of "Scotland and the Klan" on BBC4.

Here is another powerful example of how the freedom of the BBC must be protected. Where else would you have had the remotest chance of seeing such a production?

Neil charts the history of Scottish settlement in the southern states after The Clearances and its culmination in the development of slavery, and then the Civil War with the thread and the stomach churning history of the Klu Klux Clan running through right up to present day. This was a fearless production with Neil interviewing people on both sides of the still hugely prevalent problem of racism, and his conclusion, not optimistic, with athe observation that history is not the past, it is still the present. There was much footage of the activities of the Klan and their supporters and the business of segregation that I had not previously seen, and it brought to my attention the scale of this problem which still exists today.

This documentary showed the American Scots in the worst possible light, not only in history, but in present day celebration of much of this appalling history, and for Neil as a popular ambassador for Scotland that was a brave undertaking, as it was for the BBC.

Oh how this bodes badly with present day developments!

14 comments:

The Crow said...

Yes, it does bode badly for the United States. I hope we get to see this program over here. I was born, grew up and subsisted in American South. I don't live there today for most of the things I fear the program will present, but it needs to be shown, and lessons for the future gleaned from it.

Thanks, Conrad.

afootinthehills said...

Sir Hugh - thanks for this. I missed the programme for some inexplicable reason so will catch up on iPlayer. You are so right in pointing to the worrying developments of late.

Alan Sloman said...

I'll add my thanks as well, Conrad.
I'll catch up with it this evening.

John J said...

I've just broken a cardinal rule: watching TV during the day - but I'm glad I did.
I'm extremely grateful for the heads-up on this Conrad, a fascinating and shocking exposé.

Sir Hugh said...

The Crow - thanks Martha for your contribution. Were you strongly aware of the Scottish immigrant connection? I had not come across it before, and as an enthusiast for the people and geography of our Scotland I was taken aback and shocked.
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afoot,AS and JJ - I'm glad that this has done the rounds.

The Crow said...

No, I wasn't, Conrad. (My European ancestors are Scot-Irish - with a few other nationalities thrown into the mix - but that bit of ancestral history wasn't mentioned around the dinner table.) I knew that bitter, disgruntled former Confederate soldiers and former slave-owners were instrumental in the formation of the Klan and that the robes and hoods they adopted for their night raids were adaptations of Crusaders' garb.

Let me add something, as an American witness to this despicable part of our ongoing history: Klan-think is more in the open in the South, but as Trump's campaign and election have shown, it is nationwide. The state I live in now (PA) had (may still have) the unenviable distinction as being the gateway for hate groups expanding northward. (I learned this when I volunteered with the Citizens' Advisory Council to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in the early 1990s.)

Every nation has a segment of haters in its population, and Scotland is no different; nor, however, more responsible as a nation for what grew out of those hate-filled hearts that made the Klan into the virulent scourge it was in the years from Reconstruction onward. The Klan-virus didn't die, it just went dark for awhile; still active, less in the light.

With Trump spouting neo-fascist rhetoric, from the highest office in the US, all those groups (Lord help us, there are so many!) are coming out of the woods, growing bolder, louder, more assertive than they have been in years. They think this is the beginning of The Race War they have been stockpiling weapons and other armaments for since the 60s.

Yes, I am concerned.

Sir Hugh said...

The Crow - thanks for that. I am sure my readers will value hearing these thoughts and assessment from the other side. We have also had people coming out in racist fashion as a result of Brexit which result was largely based on the issue of immigration. That vote was swung on a string of blatant lies, and breathtaking negligence from the government; they failed to analyse and get across to the electorate the true implications, and the population were inappropriately asked to vote on a hugely complex issue which they had no qualification to understand. It was like asking a hospital porter to do brain surgery.

afootinthehills said...

Our American friends are always on about their Scottish roots and ancestry. They often know more about Scottish history than my fellow Scots! Sadly, Trump's mother was Scottish.

I think your analysis of the Brexit decision is absolutely correct Conrad and of course has given Nicola the perfect excuse (as she sees it) for a second indyref, though the figures for and against haven't changed since 2014.

gimmer said...

The old maxim 'trust the people' seems to be being forgotten in the discussions of the UK's pro/leave EU (and maybe the US - I don't know) debate - mainly amongst 'remainers' (here count the BBC as chief cheerleaders of the unreconstructed): the popular groundswell which delivered both the UK and US votes and may well deliver similar votes in other European countries has come about from a long period of dismissal by the governing systems (frequently referred to as the establishment, the elite, the deep state - what have you) in most modern states of the deep sentiments and concerns of the mass of people who have not benefitted, indeed a majority who have suffered in many ways, not just economic, from the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of that virtually closed system that has characterised the past quarter - maybe half - a century.
I think that whilst it is natural for the disappointed to rail against lies and distortions, these are and always have been the currency of the hothouses of elections and politics and it is the duty of the 'other side' to counter what they consider falsehoods with a convincing 'narrative' : I think that the electorates see through deceptions and deliver the 'truth' - uncomfortable for the losers, but truth nevertheless.
Whilst I myself voted to stay in the EU, I have to say it was with a strong wish to see fundamental reforms in that 'body' , which I thought a stronger British presence might foster. The reaction of the EU 'machine' and its 'leaders' since the vote has however convinced me that the people's decision was, on balance, correct, and that the arrogance and self-serving complacency at its core would never permit the fundamental reform required from within. 'Europe' does not seem to be able to reform itself without 'revolution' - which we have been able to do, over the centuries, without too much bloodshed - the existence of their elites leads directly to the tumbril, it seems.
What is most disturbing is that these 'lessons of history' appear to be falling on deaf ears once again:
many thoughtful and informed commentators believe that it (the EU 'project') will collapse from the deep seated unresolved banking/financial crisis turning into a fatal political crisis, with paralysis of will and thinking at the centre. The news from Brussels, Frankfurt , Berlin and Paris is rather like that of the reaction of Louis XIV to challenges to his power - apres moi . . .
The detail may be complicated, but the essential truths are and were simple.

Sir Hugh said...

afoot - We have almost completed the circle now with my kick-off, The Crow from USA, and now you from the real Scotland. Anybody from Northern Ireland or Wales out there who wants to fill in the gaps? What a dreadful mess this all is.
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gimmer - I agree with much of what you say and I'm glad to read of your all party inclusive blame on governments in general for ignoring the signs and voices of their electorates, and not making this a party political issue.

Roderick Robinson said...

If the Scots turned out to be good haters, we all know whom we should blame for that. Culloden and the Highland Clearances are both burned deep into their national psyche, even if the dates (re. the US settlement) probably don't fit in the case of the latter.

Dave said...

Conrad, it's worth reading some of the stuff available online about the 'Southern Strategy' employed by the Republicans in the first couple of post-war decades (a strategy briefly and selectively revived by Reagan in the 80s). What's particularly interesting is the backlash there was against the southern democrats when they formally threw their support behind the civil rights movement (or, to put it another way, publicly renounced racism), which partly opened the door to Republican gains in the old confederate states.

Interesting that only post WW2 - under Harry Truman - did America's party of 'the left' (and it's all relative) publicly embrace the process of letting go of its attachment to the old ways as portrayed in Neil Oliver's programme. Of course, demographics have shifted a lot since then and today's southern democrats are primarily African Americans.

Sir Hugh said...

Dave - Thanks for that. The whole subject seems to be insoluble, but that is no reason to stop trying. It was the Scottish connection that grabbed my attention and I wonder if Neil Oliver overdid that, but the programme seemed to be well researched and backed up by hard facts.

I have also been watching Walking the Americas: Levison Wood's latest trip trekking from Mexico to Colombia. He meets many refugees heading for the North American border and there are dreadful scenes of them in sub-human camps where presumably, after Trump, they will be stuck for the duration.

gimmer said...

I recall that both Hadrian's and the Antonine Wall were built to keep out the haters from the northlands - and the Celtic clans had a remarkable record of internecine hatred as well as for the Lallands (Scots of the Lowlands, I think it means) - not all our fault, sir !