Black Lives Matter protests made me angry. But I've changed my mind – Jim Duffy

Former police officer Jim Duffy decides it’s time to let the younger generation lead us into a brighter future.

Protestors scuffle with police officers near the entrance to Downing Street during an anti-racism demonstration in London (Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

Yes, it’s that time again! Brexit is creeping up the political and news agenda. Mind you, it is struggling to get to the top spot as there has been so much competition.

But, the news this week has made me think about where I fit in this post-pandemic, Black Lives Matter, Instagram-fuelled, celebrity-driven, personality politics, polarised world. In fact, despite having so much to say on so many things, it might be time for this pale, stale, white male to shut up and accept irrelevance. And that may be a very positive action, despite feeling hard to do.

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My first lesson in life this week was given to me by my 21-year-old daughter, although she doesn’t know that – yet. While I watched the riots in London, protests in UK cities and statues being vandalised and toppled and then dismantled by councils, I felt very uneasy. I saw cops, politicians and celebrities “take the knee”.

I saw a mounted police officer severely hurt as her horse bolted and she was bludgeoned around a lamppost. I saw George Floyd’s funeral televised with huge outpouring of grief. I saw people renaming the streets of Glasgow and defacing statues of Sir Winston Churchill. And no social distancing. I felt a little angry. Then, I read what young people were saying on social media. And the penny dropped…

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I do recall the 1970s. I remember the blatant and overt racism that people of colour endured and encountered. But, I guess at the time I was too preoccupied with religious bigotry in the west of Scotland to fully appreciate just how impactful this was for them.

Programmes like Love Thy Neighbour and even Fawlty Towers, where Manuel, the hapless Spanish waiter was racially abused by Basil Fawlty, were commonplace and we laughed at it all – as it was considered OK to do so then. But me and many in my generation are now being displaced by a far more insightful lot who probably look at us and shake their heads. Reading my daughter’s words certainly made me feel out of touch and from a very different epoch.

Churchill a racist?

This week, I feel I’m slowly unlearning what was “normal” and soaking up the new “normal”. And rather than let feelings of anger froth up within me, I need to withdraw and be open to listening and watching what evolves. It feels a little cathartic and there are moments when I want to fight back hard.

Sir Winston Churchill a racist? That’s not my recollection of what I have been led to believe... Maybe I need to look a bit deeper at history and how it was curated for me. My daughter and her pals have a very different perspective and somehow it feels better than mine.

The second lesson that I learned this week is just how dangerous Brexit Britain could become. With the UK looking fairly shambolic in its whole approach and handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, it actually scares me that as a country we are now going it alone. Moving away from Europe and the security of a big bloc of countries that work together seems pointless.

Yes, I accept that nothing is perfect and Europe needs a good kick up the arse to free it from bureaucracy, but as one group it has global weight. And never has this been needed more.

Of course, the UK and those leading it must have a master plan, right? After all, we have built two new super carriers to project British power across the world. We have nuclear submarines. We are pals with Donald Trump. We think we are better than Europe as we saved them from Hitler and we never let them forget it. We have our own currency – The Pound. We have “the” Royal family and all that brings.

But, just analyse all of this for a minute and one can quickly deduce that this “go-it-alone”, Rule Britannia mentality is what has caused so many of today’s problems and issues. It is almost like history repeating itself.

Time for new generation to lead

And where is Scotland?

Well, for a kick-off, it might need to look at some of those famous philanthropists and businessmen we named streets and squares after. One thing is for sure, Scotland will have no problems being proactive on this, albeit, it seems comfortable enough accepting a level of religious bigotry within the county.

But what about going it alone, like the UK? Is now not a perfect time for the SNP to say, “Told you so! – those Westminster politicians are leading us down another colonial, imperialist road.” Perhaps that may be a solid argument.

But a more powerful argument is that Scotland does not really want to go it alone. It wants to be part of something bigger. It wants to be part of Europe. And this may not be all that bad.

I think that being a member of a bloc that wants to work in union with others, despite cultural differences, is a good thing as the world lurks towards superpower domination. China, Russia, the USA and Europe are heavyweights that will fight for position in the global theatres of finance and power. Wouldn’t Scotland be better placed being part of Europe as the world moves to a new phase?

I’m still absorbing my lessons this week. This challenge to what I thought was “truth” and my version of UK history, along with the need to hold a strong position in a super-bloc of power and not to be isolationist, is not easy to swallow all at once.

But, I am happy to sit back and let the new generation lead us to a better way in society and I do hope Scotland distances itself from Westminster and the place where Dominic Cummings and the Prime Minister want to steer the good ship Britannia.

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