Is Britain's Nostalgia for Whites Only?
Updated: Jan 3
(This is shortened version of the original post, still available to read, which got me shortlisted for a placement at the Guardian)
We thought the days of 'No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs' pubs were a thing of the past, think again! A search for The Venue* online, a thriving, growing bar and restaurant venue, reads: "The Venue provides you with a sense of being somewhere special with a hint of nostalgia." What white people want in a pub, black people have historically not been able to access. A staff member's former black colleague also asked when he visited, "is this legit? It's reminiscent of the days when we could not get served in a place JUST like this." It makes you wonder: sentimentality for whom and to what are such happy associations attributed? From the decor to the staff outfits (picture Peaky Blinders) The Venue has an eclectic 1920s-1960s (prohibition/post-war it is hard to tell) theme. So apparently the 'nostalgia' is a yearning to return to a happy period of mainstream life, specifically pub culture in Britain.
The nostalgia is mostly white's only nostalgia, not black nostalgia. If you were white, you would have experienced humane treatment, unlike Blacks whom landlords would not serve, or if served, it would be after all the white people, once they were their drunken glasses would be smashed conspicuously in front of them by the pub's bar tenders.
In classic weird white denial, up until the 1960s, Britain did not think it had a race problem. In the 60s the state finally acknowledged it and attempted to pose a solution to rapidly deteriorating race relations with the introduction of Britain's the first ever Race Relations Act (1965).
Today, many black people could be carrying consciously or unconsciously trauma into these venues, multi-generational trauma, nostalgic experiences can trigger those thoughts and emotions I mentioned earlier. They are real, and those emotions are a fallout of what is integrally bound to the facts of Britain's legacy. We refuse to acknowledge what certain symbols represent to those that they are marginalising. I think many Brits are not being malicious, to give them the benefit of the doubt (in true deference to the White Man) they may not even know nor understand why it is racist.
Britain's pub nostalgia is a part of the toxic version of Britishness that needs detoxifying. As Afua Hirsch demands, 'we can’t detoxify Britishness and build it into a more robust, less fragile identity until... we assess the true legacy of empire and the impact of its loss.' This nostalgia for a segment of British pub life is part of the bigger story of the empire.
The Venue is but one example of our nostalgic landscape that shows a complete lack of regard for the history of cynical, violent and exclusionary treatment against BAME people that has played a significant part in Britain's past for all of us.
*Name of the company has been changed to negate impact on their reputation. I am not trying to defame this company rather I am expressing my opinion about it as we're all entitled to have one.