RULE Britannia is “racist propaganda” because of its links to slavery, a university professor has claimed.
Kehinde Andrews said that even debating whether or not the song was inappropriate was a “disgrace”, during a fiery debate on Good Morning Britain today.
Prof Andrews, Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham University, clashed with fellow panellist Inaya Folarin as they discussed the row over whether traditional anthems Rule Britannia and Land of Hope of Glory should be axed from the Last Night of the Proms.
He said: “This is about saying what songs are appropriate.
“As you said ‘Britons never, ever, ever shall be slaves’, that’s racist propaganda at a time when Britain was the leading slave trading nation in the world.
“I’m sorry, [the fact that] that we’re having this conversation now, that’s a disgrace.
It’s not censorship it’s just saying that some songs, especially those two, are racist propaganda that celebrates that the British Empire.
“I remember my school 20 years ago taking Rule Britannia off the hymn sheet because they realised it was totally inappropriate and offensive.
“The only real problem here is that we’re having this discussion now – it should have been done a long, long time ago.”
When asked by presenter Adil Ray if he felt the songs should be banned, Prof Andrews said: “Ban is the wrong word.
“It’s not censorship it’s just saying that some songs, especially those two, are racist propaganda that celebrates that the British Empire.”
He added: “[The Empire] killed tens of millions of people – many of which now, like myself and yourself Adil, are descendants of those victims of colonialism. It’s totally inappropriate to have these songs.
“It’s not about banning and censorship it’s about what songs do we want to represent the modern moment and if, and it’s a big ‘if’, if we do want an anti-racist Britain then songs like this don’t need to be celebrated on the Proms.”
Writer and commentator Ms Folarin hit back at Professor Andrews and accused him of having a “one-dimensional” view of Britain as a land of “racism and hate”.
She also said getting rid of the songs “would not help a single ethnic minority life.”
Ms Folarin told GMB: “I find it very hypocritical that a lot of people don’t have a problem with music that talks about stabbing and violence and the n-word this and the n-word that, but a song that actually brings a lot of joy and upliftment to the majority of British people is somehow an issue of censorship.”
Songs can take on new meaning, it’s become part of a new story that represents pride.
She argued: “Many things are being done in the names of ethnic minorities, protecting them and stopping them being offended, when that’s simply not how they feel and I’m being spoken for when actually this song brings a lot of people joy and happiness.
“The majority of people don’t listen to the song and go ‘oh we want to reimpose colonialism and slavery’, songs can take on new meaning, it’s become part of a new story that represents pride.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden also criticised those calling for the anthems to be scrapped.
He tweeted today: “Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory are highlights of the Last Night of the Proms
“I share concerns of many about their potential removal and have raised this with the BBC.
“Confident forward-looking nations don’t erase their history, they add to it.”
The BBC is considering scrapping the anthems amid fears of a backlash because of their apparent links to colonialism and slavery.
Dalia Stasevska, 35, who is conducting the Last Night of the Proms on September 12 is said to be among those hoping to modernise the event.
A BBC source told The Times: “Dalia is a big supporter of Black Lives Matter and thinks a ceremony without an audience is the perfect moment to bring change.”
Rule, Britannia is usually performed by about 80 members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and a chorus of more than 100 singers.
But due to social distancing guidelines, the orchestra will be cut by half with only 18 singers expected to perform – and no audience singalong.
It is understood the rules could be used to help phase out the anthems.
Jan Younghusband, head of BBC music TV commissioning, confirmed the music content for the night is still being reviewed.
She added: “We have a lot of problems about how many instruments we can have. It is hard to know whether it is physically possible to do it.
“Some of the traditional tunes, like Jerusalem, are easier to perform…We also don’t know if we’ll be in a worse situation in two weeks’ time.”
The 125th annual Last Night of the Proms concert is due to go ahead – with one insider describing this year’s event as the “Black Lives Matter Proms”.
Live performances are being done by a host of talented BAME composers and instrumentalists – including a cellist from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.
I don’t listen to Land of Hope and Glory and say ‘thank God I’m British’ — it actually makes me feel more alienated.
Wasfi Kani, chief executive of Grange Park Opera in Surrey, has said she would welcome the removal of the anthems.
The 64-year-old’s parents sought refuge in the UK after the partition of India in 1947.
She told the newspaper: “I don’t listen to Land of Hope and Glory and say ‘thank God I’m British’ — it actually makes me feel more alienated. Britain raped India and that is what that song is celebrating.”
Rule, Britannia was written as a poem by Scottish playwright James Thomson but put to music by Thomas Arne in 1740.
But critics have questioned the line “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves” over the nation’s involvement in the slave trade.
They have also balked at Land of Hope of Glory, which praises the empire and was said to have been inspired by Cecil Rhodes.
The 19th century mining magnate helped Britain colonise much of Southern Africa.
BBC columnist Richard Morrison has previously called for the songs to be binned from the set-list – branding them “crudely jingoistic”.
Mr Morrison wrote in his column in the BBC Music Magazine last month urging organisers to replace the “toe-curling embarrassing anachronistic farrago of nationalistic songs”.