Stop celebrating racist icons like Scouts Founder Baden Powell

#BadenPowellMustFall

As a diversity trainer, I am often asked what kind of work I do at schools. For context — unless you have had direct experiences of racism at schools, it is difficult for some people to imagine schools as places where racism thrives. However, as we live in a racist world system and schools are microcosms of society, there is sadly a lot of ways in which schools are racist, both as institutions and places where people (principals, teachers, parents, students) who hold racist ideas and ideals are accommodated, allowed and sometimes even encouraged. In South Africa, learners began detailing accounts of racism faced at schools on the back of the #blacklivesmatter social media protests across the world. Learners started the #yousilenceweamplify page on Instagram with many school specific accounts also established to lay bare the horrific experiences of racism, Islamaphobia, sexism, homophobia and other isms experienced by black learners, girl learners, Muslim and LGBTQI learners.

One of the ways in which school’s institutional racism shows up is in the selection of calendar days chosen for celebrations. Schools across the world have set days that they celebrate and even though movements like #blacklivesmatter and #RhodesMustFall forced society to question and re-think our relationship with colonialism, most schools have not reviewed their calendar days. Part of my diversity consulting with schools has been on what approaches to take towards days chosen and icons chosen to celebrate because this communicates specific messages about how far the school is or isn’t in understanding what it means to be part of a diverse society.

One of the days that are often celebrated uncritically is Baden Powell Day, in celebration of the founder of the Scouts. A brief history of Baden Powell shows that he is no different to Cecil John Rhodes and many other colonisers that we continue to celebrate in society. We need to stop celebrating racist colonial figures in a diverse country with a painful history.

Baden Powell’s history also questions the base values of Scouts clubs who use his training as their base foundational theory. Powell was a military man who “trained his men using competitions and games and taught them how to track and live in wild country.” His book “Aids to Scouting” about his methods of Army Training is used as a foundational book for Scout clubs across the world. I would like to unpack this violent history and the sexism still rampant in the Scouts at another time but for now want to focus on the racism of the man and his ideology as written about most recently.

Powell has a history of violence against black people, in South Africa, Kenya and the other parts of the world. Various articles have been written about his legacy and relationship with Hitler.

Tarik Ata writes: “Baden-Powell aligned his ideology to that of fascists like Mussolini (who he admired) and Hitler. He read Mein Kampf and claimed the book was wonderful and had good ideas (Jeal, Baden-Powell, 1989). In 1937 Baden-Powell even held talks with the Hitler Youth Movement and was even invited to meet Hitler (BBC, 2020). He was also a military man, committing crimes in British Kenya, serving out the atrocities of British imperialism.”

In South Africa’s SA history website, his legacy in South Africa specifically is laid bare in the following paragraphs.

“In 1887 he was sent to South Africa where he took part in a campaign against an African chief called Dinzulu. In 1899 Colonel Baden Powell returned to South Africa because there was the possibility of war between the Dutch settlers (Boers) and the British Settlers. War was declared and Baden Powell and 1000 men were left to defend the town of Mafikeng, which was the supply center for the British, He thought up all sorts of schemes to make it look like the town was heavily guarded. When reinforcements arrived the siege had lasted for 7 months. Baden Powell took part in a number of other conflicts and in 1903 was appointed Inspector-General of Cavalry.”

A reminder to South Africans in particular that he is a hero of the same Anglo Boer War where black people were held in concentration camps, starved and tortured, their leaders (chiefs) killed, villages pillaged and entire families killed or captured. Blacks were also forced to pick a side between one coloniser and another, namely the British (who brought imperialism and colonialism) or the Boers (who also participated in imperialism and colonialism and later led Apartheid).

Should our schools be celebrating a man with such a violent and racist history and legacy?

Do we need to now start a #BadenPowellMustFall movement to be heard?

The media has handled Steinhoff corruption with kid gloves, transformation expert says

https://citizen.co.za/news/1759254/the-media-has-treated-the-steinhoff-corruption-with-kids-gloves-transformation-expert/

Ngoasheng says the media has a history of reporting with racial bias towards white people and treating black people in the harshest possible terms for the same crimes.

The Steinhoff matter has been reported on very differently from how corruption in the public sector is reported on generally. It has also been reported on differently from how corruption by black businessmen in the private sector is reported.

Ramaphosa appoints South Africa’s new cabinet

She added that she “was really disappointed with the cabinet announcement not so much with individuals per se but it seems it’s like the class of 1996, a class reunion bringing in old ministers. Ramaphosa really had an opportunity to bring a lot of new young people. We will have to wait and see how people will perform”

For more, see: https://www.theafricareport.com/13563/ramaphosa-appoints-south-africas-new-cabinet/

Analysts speculate on President Ramaphosa’s priorities in taking office

A lot of our problems emanate from the fact that we have very weak chapter nine institutions. Once he starts that journey of strengthening the chapter nine institutions, then it becomes easy to hold people accountable particularly people who are running the SOEs.

For more, see:

http://www.702.co.za/articles/349795/analysts-speculate-on-president-ramaphosa-s-priorities-in-taking-office

Its time multiple perspectives are reflected in our history curriculum

One of the biggest issues is that there is this tendency where people are focused a lot on the impact of colonialism on colonised subjects. And we need to focus both on the impact of colonialism on colonised subjects as well as colonisers themselves. Because colonialism is a very violent system both the oppressor and the oppressed. — Asanda Ngoasheng, Academic and transformation expert

For more: http://www.702.co.za/articles/331308/its-time-multiple-perspectives-are-reflected-in-our-history-curriculum