Winston Churchill ‘racist:’ Is Bloomberg News right?
- Winston Churchill was England’s prime minister during World War II who led his country “from the brink of defeat to victory.” By his death in 1965, Churchill gained many accolades as a famed journalist, military hero, and orator.
- On November 7, 2021, Bloomberg Opinion tweeted, “Churchill helped lead the free world through war. He was also racist. How should we consider him today?” In “Politicians Who Claim Churchill’s Mantle Embody His Worst Traits,” Max Hastings wrote, “Like most of his contemporaries, Churchill was an unembarrassed racist” mentioning Churchill’s treatment of Bengalis during the 1943 Bengal Famine and his refusal to allow British soldiers to be “ordered about by a brown man.”
- In the end of Hastings’ OpEd, he asserts, “The towering lesson of history, in the eyes of most of those who practice professionally the study of the past, is that we must judge every man and woman by the standards of their times, not those of our own.”
- During a Black Lives Matter protest in the United Kingdom, a statue of Churchill was defaced in 2020, and in February 2021, Professor Priya Gopal held a panel discussion of “The Racial Consequences of Mr. Churchill.”
Winston Churchill was, in fact, a racist, believing that white Protestant Christians were at the top of society's social hierarchy, according to historian John Charmley who wrote a political biography on the man. While Winston Churchill did exist during a time when racism and bigotry permeated much of society, that does not normalize his thought process nor excuse his behavior. Many argue that compliance with societal norms was not enough to make Churchill a racist. Still, his bigoted belief system was sharply and unquestionably inclined toward racist views.
Entries in President Henry Wallace's personal diary in 1943 chronicled a conversation with Winston Churchill, who defended his views on what he called 'Anglo-Saxon superiority.' Winston Churchill was not only racist but also a strong believer in social Darwinism and a eugenics supporter. In Churchill's statement to the Peel Commission on Palestine in 1937, he references 'a stronger race' and 'Aryan stock,' according to Noema Mag, who also notes that Churchill admired Adolf Hitler. In A Midnight Interview published on the International Churchill Society, he is quoted as saying, 'The Aryan stock is bound to triumph' in a statement regarding the Chinese civilization. In January 1955, Churchill told the Cabinet that 'Keep England White' was a good slogan regarding immigration.
Regardless of period-correct societal norms, it seems quite clear that Winston Churchill held racist, bigoted views, which he publicly supported and repeated. It appears that Churchill's racist views may have clouded his personal judgment, leaving him with a bloated feeling of entitlement over people of other races and ethnicities.
It is unwise for our current society to constantly look at the past through the lens of today, scrutinizing and demonizing older generations, who produced much of the good we rely upon today. Doing so certainly opens the door to our generation later being viewed unfavorably by future generations. Certainly, there are social norms today that will be deemed racist, foolish, or unacceptable by people who are not yet born. Yet, to be judged wholesale by future standards is not fair to understanding a generation in its time. People should evaluate and understand the standards of certain periods, as it allows us better to understand the present and adapt to the future.
Bloomberg News' recent assessment that Winston Churchill was a racist sees Churchill unfavorably through the lens of today's 'noisy woke brigade.' Churchill, like any other human being, had flaws and prejudices. Nonetheless, what he was able to do as Great Britain's Prime Minister in the face of incredible odds, holding off the Nazi menace during World War II can never be minimized.
Today's cancel culture loves to denigrate anyone for any indiscretion it deems heretical to the woke cause. One misstep can 'cancel' a lifetime of great works and deeds. Churchill is probably the most indispensable person of the 20th century. If the woke cancel culture had existed in 1930s Great Britain, Churchill would have been relegated an 'unperson' by the time Hitler, a true racist, had invaded Czechoslovakia and later turned his sights on England. Had that occurred, the world would look much different than today, and not in a favorable way. Churchill's greatness was in his virtue, not his flaws, and the world even today owes him a huge debt of gratitude.