General secretaries of the World Council of Churches are not given to irresponsible statements for public consumption. At Nairobi, however, Dr. Philip Potter evidently felt the need to create a diversion, for he fired an unexpected broadside at the British. That people he called “one of the most racist in history”; they have, he said, “established a racist system wherever they have gone in the world.” This remark, made in a press interview, has caused much ill feeling in Britain. Some of us wish that he would further underline his hatred of racial discrimination by directing his fire at a Russian Empire that was collecting dependencies when Britain was relinquishing them.
The normally irenic archbishop of Canterbury felt constrained to deliver a rebuke—in more courteous terms than this piece of crass non-ecumenicity deserved. Dr. Coggan admitted that the British and other Western nations had much to repent of. “We have been racist,” he said, “in many of our attitudes in the past, but during the last thirty years we have been engaged in a process … of rectifying the situation. Some kind of historical balance must be kept if the truth is to be told.”
The need for balance and truth-telling was stressed also by an African priest, writing in a prestigious Anglican newspaper. The democratic system Britain had given her former colonies, he pointed out, “has been dethroned and replaced by a bogus democracy which in fact is a cloak for African-type hitlerism and is dishonestly called a one-party system of government.” No one who looks around Africa today is likely to deny it.
But back to Britain. Let me update my race-relations comments on this page of six years ago when I forecast troublous days ahead. First a few facts about England ...1
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