UK inquiry blames ‘pervasive racism’ for unequal commemoration of black and Asian troops
Hundreds of thousands of predominantly black and Asian service personnel who died fighting for the British Empire have not been formally commemorated in the same way as their white comrades because of decisions underpinned by “pervasive racism”, an investigation has concluded.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is expected to issue a formal apology on Thursday after it discovered that at least 116,000 – but potentially up to 350,000 – predominantly African and Middle Eastern first world war casualties may not be commemorated by name, or at all.
Their investigation findings, seen by the Guardian and set to be announced by the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, in the House of Commons, also estimated that between 45,000 and 54,000 African and Asian casualties were commemorated “unequally”.
All fallen military service personnel are supposed to be commemorated identically with their name engraved on a headstone over an identified grave or on a memorial to the missing.
But, quoting racist statements such as a governor saying in the 1920s that “the average native … would not understand or appreciate a headstone”, the commission has concluded that soldiers were treated differently if they came from Commonwealth countries.
- Philip K. Dick