Tracking racism’s symbols and reality
03 September, 2020 — By John Gulliver
Francis Galton (by Charles Wellington Furse)
WHILE, as a libertarian, I have my doubts at times about toppling statues or removing a pedestal of Hans Sloane, the founder of the British Museum, I can understand why so many academics at London University decided to rename the lecture theatre honouring Francis Galton, whose theories about the selective breeding of humans to increase desirable characteristics engaged a wave of intellectuals in the 19th century, all following what became known as eugenics.
It found curious support among such eminent public figures as George Bernard Shaw and HG Wells.
But eugenics certainly found a home in Germany, and later in the Nazi culture, feeding its racist beliefs and poisoning scientific and medical circles.
One of London University’s eminent academics, Mary Fulbrook – a world recognised author on the hideous ramifications of the Holocaust – stood slightly aside while debate raged in the halls of learning about what to do with the Galton name. She is now immersed in researching the role of “bystanders” in Nazi Germany, who either literally stood by and allowed the abhorrent persecution of Jews and minorities to take place – or even participated in them. The professions in science or medicine were not exempt from what became a genocide. Her next book will describe this tide of hate.
Racism, of course, is abhorrent but it can be so easily manipulated as an idea – and found where, perhaps, it does not exist.
I wrote last week about a Jewish lawyer in Islington who has been suspended from membership of the Labour Party for alleged anti-semitic remarks. I hear that Bindmans, the firm of solicitors in Euston, is now representing eight Labour Party members who are either being “investigated” by Labour officials or accused of making alleged anti-semitic remarks. A crowdfunding site has so far raised £27,000 for legal fees.
Somewhere, it seems, a legal argument begins as to whether critical statements about the Israeli government get entangled and confused with remarks deemed to be anti-semitic.