Teach history with openness and balance to avoid racial tensions

Approaching history with openness and balance will help the UK to avoid tensions surrounding race in the future, says Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales says the way people learn about the past needs an overhaul.

Nichols says he has “spent time listening to people” and learned that the images from America of George Floyd’s death “brings back floods of memories for many black people, so I can understand how that can be a traumatic moment.”

“Everybody’s history is full of ambiguities.”

The UK must “teach history in a less selective way” if we are to tackle the debate head on in the future, he says. “We can’t hide our history, we need to approach it with an openness and balance.”

Nichols says he is aware of racism in the UK today through sharing conversations with black people in his home of Liverpool. “They do experience a different administration of justice than someone like me.” This must stop, he says.

The absence of teaching about the colonial past still reflects in the modern day.

“There are millions of slaves in the world today,” he says. He believes this is because there is no intensive teaching of slavery in British schools.

“It’s how the past relates to the present.” If the UK have addressed slavery and racism effectively in the past, we may be witnessing less hostile scenes now, he says.

Nichols is urging the public to open up dialogue and learn from each other.

“We have a chance to listen to the upsurge of indignation and outrage that’s sparked by that killing on the streets and we really have to listen to all the echoes of that,” he says.


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