I do hope you can forgive this diversion from the usual subject matter of my blog, but just for today I would like to deal with a personal matter. That is not to say it does not have wider implications – I believe it does; in a very real sense it has implications for all of us.
I have decided, after giving the matter much thought, to change my name by deed poll to Rod Seacole-Liddle, in honour of the black nurse who helped out during the Crimean War. As some of you may have noticed I have been using the appellation for some time on these very pages; now I believe the right thing to do is to formalize the arrangement. In doing so, I hope to confront and, hopefully, defeat the racism which exists at the core of my being – at the core of all of our beings, really, if we were brave and humble enough to admit it. Every progressive state institution in the country – hospital, school, local council office, public housing estate, jobcentre, police station – has recognised Mary Seacole’s achievments in helping out during the Crimean War, sometimes with a publicly funded statue in her honour made of copper or brass on a large plinth, sometimes with nothing more than the naming of a hospital ward, a sports centre or a small town. I cannot afford a statue: but what I can I give her, giiii-ve my heart.
As I say, I had been thinking about the matter for some time; the thing which finally prompted me to action was an entry on another blog. It came from a woman called “Brown Bess” and read as follows:
‘My kids’ school (an excellent local Comp.) recently introduced a house system (probably more inspired by Harry Potter than the Public School system). The names of the houses say so much about current thinking:
Fortunately my kids are in Brunel.’
Now, when I first read this blog I was guilty of racist and reactionary thought; a nasty little bit of me had doubts about the right of Mary Seacole to mix in the company of Madame Curie, Leonardo Da Vinci and so on. This, I now realise, was a vicious, internalized racism on my part, an apartheid within my cerebellum. There is only one way to confront such bile, I acknowledged, and that is to expunge my exclusively white identity and embrace Mary Seacole directly. Since doing so it has also occurred that anybody who doesn’t change their name to “Seacole” must also be guilty of subconscious racism – and so I would urge you all to follow suit.