Friday 29 March 2024

Embrace the St George's Flag

Last week, on the platform previously known as Twitter, a young, black English woman posed an interesting question.

She asked, what is the difference between Rachel Chinouriri's use of England's Cross of St George in 'The Hills' and BeyoncĂ©'s use of America's Stars and Stripes on her new album 'Cowboy Carter'. Unfortunately, before much of a debate could get underway, her tweet was quote tweeted by a Guardian journalist named Jackson King, who styles himself as a 'cultural troublemaker and comms expert'.

He stated that it is 'universally understood' that the Cross of St George denotes white supremacism.

One would have thought that such straightforward prejudice by stereotype is something that Jackson (as a gay black man, and sadly therefore likely on the receiving end of prejudice) would be keen to avoid.

But no. He went on to say that the BeyoncĂ© image was about trying to reclaim the US flag whereas the other image is simply about 'the violence of living in a country that hates you' and 'is about showing white supremacist symbology to make a point'. These insights received thousands of likes.

Rachel Chinouriri actually tells a different story about why she used the English flag in 'The Hills' video:

The music video is kind of like, I belong here as much as everyone else. The connotations of being a Black woman in front of England flags and stuff like that…it helps to make people question their pre-conceptions and talk about them.

Far from questioning his preconceptions, Jackson instead decided to be offensive to the millions of his countrymen and women.

Rachel Chinouriri continues:

In terms of the song’s origin, I went to LA and I hated it. I think it was a combination of being in a very bad place mentally before I even got there, and then I got really homesick.

So 'The Hills' in which she didn't feel at home were the LA hills. English Commonwealth takes the view that Rachel Chinouriri belongs here as much as everyone else, and welcomes her use of England bunting to challenge preconceptions.

Here's an acoustic version of The Hills, filmed in a local East End pub.

Predictably, Jackson received a few responses (of the 'why don't you leave?' variety) that will have enabled him to say 'gotcha' and feel vindicated in labelling all fliers of the English flag as white supremacists. But what has he achieved, other than being offensive? The portrayal of English identifiers as white supremacists or racists is deeply divisive and does not help English society. In fact, it only helps the racists who say 'look how much they hate us' (*they* being black people). And a few did say that in response.

The Cross of St George is our national flag and it should be flown by all of us, of all shades and politics. By denigrating it and associating it exclusively with racists, you're alienating yourself from England and its symbols and effectively making it easier for those people to hijack it. So good on Rachel Chinouriri and respect to all those who challenge preconceptions.


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