SOME of Scotland’s high teachers have grow to be embroiled in a row over racism and Edinburgh’s connections to the slave commerce.
The dispute has seen Sir Geoff Palmer, an emeritus professor and chancellor of Heriot-Watt College, label Jonathan Hearn and Sir Tom Devine, present and emeritus professors at Edinburgh College, members of “an educational racist gang” amid a disagreement over the function of Henry Dundas in abolition.
Dundas has been on the centre of a lot controversy, with some arguing that he helped within the ending of the slave commerce. Proponents of this view have pointed to a press release he made within the Home of Commons in 1792 in which he said “the slave trade ought to be abolished”.
He was additionally recognized for defending Joseph Knight, a slave dropped at Scotland who was later freed when the Courtroom of Session dominated slavery was not recognised by Scots legislation.
Nevertheless, Palmer and others consider Dundas held back abolition. They are saying that Dundas argued for a gradual finish to the commerce, which may have occurred 15 years earlier than the passing of the Slave Commerce Act of 1807 had it not been for his intervention.
It is usually argued, as Palmer has, that abolitionists of the time didn’t see Dundas as considered one of their quantity. Some say he has been unfairly credited with serving to to finish the vile commerce.
A 150-foot column with a statue of the politician – often called the Melville Monument – stands in St Andrew Sq. in Edinburgh. It was defaced in the course of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, with a plaque later installed explaining historical context.
Within the wake of the BLM motion, Palmer was appointed to guide two separate evaluations into the Edinburgh metropolis and college’s involvement within the slave commerce.
Hearn printed an article within the right-wing journal The Spectator through which he criticised the Palmer-led evaluation, saying it “dangers being traditionally superficial when it seeks to ‘right’ historical past with its revised account”.
He went on: “There’s loads of proof to counsel that Dundas’s gradualist strategy to abolition – nonetheless unsatisfactory it could appear to us within the current day – was the one strategy which might be politically profitable on the time, and as a talented political operator, Dundas was very conscious of this.
“Mockingly, it was the abolitionist revisions to his invoice that led to it being killed and delayed any progress to abolition. Dundas wasn’t a saint, however historical past is complicated.”
Responding to the article on Twitter, Palmer accused Hearn of writing “racist propaganda” and being a part of an “educational racist gang”.
Our Historical past/Our Slavery: Professor Hearn’s racist propaganda has already been seen as dangerous racist historical past in Professor Newton’s work. Tutorial racism like that of Hume and Kant has been used to justify racism. Hearn and his educational racist gang should not maintain this injustice… pic.twitter.com/hAoqg7bVNT
— Sir Geoff Palmer (@SirGeoffPalmer) January 12, 2022
Talking to The Instances, Sir Tom Devine, professor emeritus of historical past at Edinburgh College, accused Palmer of “appalling slurs of racism in opposition to these whose solely fault was to have a distinct view from his personal”.
Devine referred to as for Palmer’s dismissal as chair of the 2 evaluation teams, saying: “These roles crucially demand qualities of impartiality, delicate appreciation of various opinions and the capability to encourage consensus and sophisticated selections.”
Palmer responded saying he wouldn’t collapse to the “biased (racist) demand”. He added: “If [my critics] present me with legitimate proof that they’re proper in regards to the historic info, and I’m mistaken, I’ll resign.”
Amid the row, Edinburgh College issued a press release saying it was “dedicated to freedom of expression and educational freedom”.
Devine mentioned he was deeply shocked by the “shameful and fatuous response from an establishment which must have an obligation of look after its workers”.
“There was no trace of help and even an inquiry into these disgraceful slurs, nothing apart from supine platitudes,” he added.
Peter Mathieson, the College’s principal, emailed all senior educational workers saying he had met Palmer “to make clear expectations underneath the college’s dignity and respect coverage”.
The Instances reported that the e-mail had been extensively seen as a “rap on the knuckles” for Palmer. Nevertheless, the educational dismissed any concept that he had been reprimanded, saying he was not capable of touch upon the letter as he was not employed by the College and the e-mail’s content material didn’t apply to him.
Different teachers have since been dragged into the row. Michael Rosie, senior lecturer in sociology at Edinburgh College, described Palmer’s statements as “outlandish and weird”.
He instructed The Instances: “That Edinburgh College has remained silent while its staff are repeatedly defamed, and that nobody near Palmer has persuaded him to mirror on his social media behaviour, should give all of us severe pause for thought.”
Nevertheless, Tommy J Curry, the UK’s first professor of black male research, who additionally works at Edinburgh, instructed The Guardian the response to Palmer revealed “a naivety of Scottish tradition that it desires to have the talk however will not be used to having arguments about race the place black individuals themselves have the facility to call racism in society”.
He mentioned: “This isn’t a distinction of opinion, it’s about whether or not historical past ought to change based mostly on truth. We’ve acknowledged that Dundas didn’t abolish slavery and did take part within the commerce.”
Palmer grew to become the primary black professor in Scotland in 1989. He was born in Jamaica earlier than shifting to the UK as a youngster.
The chief of Edinburgh Council, the SNP’s Adam McVey (above), mentioned earlier this week that he had been inundated with hundreds of “blatantly racist” emails from supporters of right-wing organisations trying to intervene with the council’s ongoing Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Evaluate.
He mentioned Palmer had been a selected goal of the vitriol from “individuals who don’t have any affiliation with Edinburgh” who have been searching for to “frustrate the work that we’re partaking in”.
“I’ve been emailed by hundreds – and I imply hundreds – of individuals overwhelmingly down south from organisations I’d describe as right-wing, if not far right-wing,” he mentioned.
“The aim of this train is to not distance ourselves from [Edinburgh’s past] or attempt to run away from it. It is to inform that story extra actually and hopefully construct a better appreciation for what our metropolis truly is, not simply the closely edited model we really feel way more snug with.”