Location: United Kingdom

A Naija Guy living (and loving) in the UK.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

There ain't no black in the Union Jack...

If you live in London then its unlikely that you have missed the Cross of St George that has been hanging out of about 5% of the Cars on the Roads since the beginning of the week (my estimate based on a sample of made up of all the cars going down Streatham High Road last night in a fifteen minute period, yep I'm officially crazy!). By Saturday evening some of these cars will have an accompanying soundtrack (the Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land chant of the football supporter) hopefully celebrating a win over Paraguay in that tournament that will shortly be starting in Germany (my girlfriend says I should try to reduce the amount of times I mention its name) .

There has been a lot of writing about the ubiquitous nature of the flag in the last few weeks, Asda alone expect to sell a quarter of a million flags by the end of the tournament and Tesco recently had to do a U-Turn after previously banning their delivery drivers from displaying England Flags in their Cabs. Meanwhile in a recent survey of adults in England aged 18+, a whopping 80% did not know when St Georges Day is (April 23). Imagine this happening in Nigeria, this many people not knowing when independence day is? Uncle Sege would personally take out all the failed respondents and flog them himself. What Nonsense. However perhaps a more useful test for me should be to stop all the white van men and ask them when St Georges Day is. Will the percentage increase I ask myself?

Anyway I raised the issue of buying a flag to put on my car (as a sign of solidarity of the efforts of the English lads in Germany) with my girlfriend and she was dead set against it. Her feeling is that the flag has been too closely associated with the BNP for her to ever feel comfortable with flying it. I however pointed out that this was the Union Jack (the UK flag) and not the St George's Cross (the English flag) but she refused to accept the distinction. Now in 2002, I purchased a Nigerian flag (Bedsheet size) and draped it in my living room during the world cup -oops sorry darling it just slipped out - I only stopped short of putting it in my window as I feared getting my windows smashed (if you remember England played Nigeria that year). So I definitely consider myself patriotic. Unfortunately the Super Green Eagles are not in the tournament this year so I am having to realign my affiliations.

During my sojourn on Streatham High Road yesterday I only saw one black man with the England Flag and even he had his white girlfriend sitting next to him. So I guess it got me thinking how many Nigerians will be flying the England Flag over the next few weeks?

Oh and yes I know I've cheated with my title. The article is predominantly about the St Georges Cross and I've stuck up a title that refers to the Union Jack but I just couldn't resist it. "There ain't no black in the Union Jack" is the title of a Paul Gilroy book into race relations in the UK in the eighties, but before that it was used in a racist chant of the National Front in the 1970's.

Timothy Garton Ash of the Guardian in an article titled In our search for Britishness, we should put out more flags - or none argues that the Union Jack left him feeling cold and he discusses his resentment of what it represents to him but then goes on to argue for increased use of flags in the UK. So what is it like for Nigerians living in the UK? Should we feel unpatriotic for wanting to support England or if we are choosing to stay here for a long while should we be playing a part in reclaiming the flag from those that resent our very presence on these shores?

PS: I've just heard on Radio 4 that even Tessa Jowell (British Minister for Sport) has just put out a flag on her official car.


Anonymous aihammed delot said...

First of all, can I just point out that St Georges day in England is not the equivalent of Independence day in Nigeria. The equivalent of St George’s day in Nigeria is St Patrick’s day - the Nigerian Patron saint (Big up the Irish massive...that might explain the popularity of Guinness in Nigeria)
The closest thing they've got in England to an independence day is probably Remembrance Day or victory day. Saying that I’m sure as few people know those dates as they do St Georges day. But if your point is that it’s a day of celebrating National identity (like a typical independence day) I agree, and I’m sorry for this meaningless preamble.

I'm a Nigerian fan first and an England fan very closely second (my passport is green by the way). with regards to flag flying all I can say is this: The BNP, National Front, Pro Nazi softball league and whatever other right wing sect which chooses to "uphold the whiteness of Britain" do this with the National flag as their emblem because they know for a fact that "racial minorities" tend not to fly the flag for whatever reasons: Call it a sense of solidarity with their father’s countries; call it a sense of not feeling like you belong...whatever, Black and Asian people just don’t fly the flag of St George like White people.
I’m an England football fan; I like the aggression in English football and the way that heart and determination more often than make up for the lack of pure skill, and with that in mind, even though I aint a citizen, I’ll be flying the flag…proudly!
If the majority of first, second and third generation immigrant forgot about the fact that; they, their parents, or grandparents were born abroad and concentrated on the fact that they are British, and proudly flew the flag, then what leg would the right wing organisations have to stand? They’d be pushed so hard for an identity they'll happily adopt swastikas (most of them do now anyway). They are nothing but disillusioned people who are desperately trying to grab hold of a fast fading image of a country which has drastically changed since “the good ol’ days”.
Traditional British institutions have changed drastically: The pub used to be a place of discomfort for non-white people. It still is in “UUUARRRRGH!” country, but things are changing. I’ve only heard one racial insult on a British football pitch in 10 years of watching those who shall not be mentioned.
The long and short of the story is that if people continue to look for reasons why everyone hates them, then they’ll probably find those reasons several times a day. Fly the flag bro, you’re English, be proud of it. Just fly the green and white one from time to time as well.

1:33 pm, June 06, 2006  
Blogger ijebuman said...

In my neck of the woods, only the Chavs are flying the St Georges cross and union jack on their cars ; )

But seriously I wouldn't fly it, i'm not fully comfortable with the history and bloodshed behind it.

2:07 pm, June 06, 2006  
Blogger Morountodun said...

@Delot yep you are right I should have clarified the comparison of the Nigerian independence day with St Georges Day. You may be familiar with the campaign of MP Andrew Rosindell to make St Georges Day a National Day and Public Holiday, hence the the close association in my mind. I definitely don't consider myself English (I respond Nigeria to the question where are you from)despite my Red Kpali, sitting next to my expired green one in my chest of drawers. Oh and the 'joke' associated with Bernard Manning goes something to the effect of 'just cause a pig is born in a Stable it doesn't make it a Horse'.

@ Ijebuman yep it definitely seems that the working class are flying the flag more than any other socio economic group. I was trying to explore whether we can reclaim the flag so it represents multicultural england?

2:32 pm, June 06, 2006  
Blogger Olawunmi said...

i will not be flying the flag. and ijebuman is right in saying that its mostly the chavs flying it. how many rolls royces and s-classes are flying the cross of st george? well, i'm an aristocrat too, and my peers show more restraint in showing their emotions.

i will however support england in all games, except against brazil, where i will be supporting the winning team....

4:59 pm, June 06, 2006  
Blogger culturalmiscellany said...

You guys have beaten me to it. Call me a snob if you like but you don't to see middle class people flying the flags on their cars. I can't remember my parents ever doing it. That doesn't mean you can't support the team but you just to do it a slightly more refined way than swilling beer, chating like a hooligan and running around the streets shouting like a maniac. Oh God I really do sound like a snob, better stop there!

7:24 am, June 07, 2006  
Anonymous aihammed delot said...

@ CULTURALMISCELLANY: Yeah you did come across as being a snob. Football is the national sport and some people see it as much more than a game cos it is much more than a game.
all football fans who swill beer and cheer from the bottom of our hearts arent hooligans. I really dont know why people always just automatically brand football supporters who like their larger as touts.
If you want to see a group of england fans eating strawberries, swinging champagne and muttering "tally-ho" under their breaths as a more refined mode of showing enthusiasm, then i suggest you watch cricket. or maybe even get yourself onto Henman hill/Ruzedski ridge/Murray mound at the end of the month. good luck with that.
Till then i and the rest of the "hooligans" will be cheering an English team which realistically stands a chance of winning something. COMMON IIINNNNNGEEERRRRLLAAAANNNNDDDD!!!!

11:14 am, June 07, 2006  
Blogger Nneka's World said...

The comments here are just cracking me up!!!
Delot you are too funny.

Oh well as i am not a football fan, i cant really be bothered. Flag or no Flag, i just get irritated at all the hype that is going on surrounding england.

That is all

1:42 pm, June 08, 2006  
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