Vile gay historian David Starkey says slavery can’t have been genocide because there’s ‘so many damn Blacks’

David Starkey. (Screen capture via YouTube)

David Starkey weathered intense criticism Thursday (July 2) after commenting: “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn Blacks in Africa or in Britain would there?”

The gay historian, 75, discussed with gay right-wing pundit Darren Grimes on June 30 whether the Black Lives Matter movement has veiled “aims to delegitimate British history”.

He appeared on Grimes’ YouTube channel Reasoned, a grassroots group branded by the pro-Brexit commentator as a “safe space” for conservative racists, homophobes and tranphobes.

The radio and television presenter has long gained a reputation as a provocateur, with his potent views on multiculturalism often a lightning rod for accusations of racism and xenophobia.

‘Historian’ David Starkey suggests slavery and racism was ‘settled 2,000 years ago’.

Indeed, the killing of George Floyd in US police custody has invigorated the debate over Britain’s brutal and lucrative history in the slave trade. Symbolically captured in the recent toppling of statues of colonial-era figures and sweeping changes made by television programmers, educational institutions and businesses to better support Black communities.

It’s been an uneasy confrontation, the reckoning of Britain’s racist past, but it’s one David Starkey sees as unnecessary, apparently. He told Grimes that an “awful lot” of Black folk “survived” the slave trade.

“The honest teaching of the British Empire, is to say quite simply, it is the first key stage of world globalisation. It’s possibly the most important moment of human history and is still with us.

“Its consequences are still on,” he said, saying it was “fruitful” even with the “downsides”. “As for the idea, as I said, that slavery is this terrible disease that dare not speak its name… it only dare not speak its name, Darren, because we settled it 2,000 years ago.”

The centuries of enslavement and death of Black folk has, by some historians and civil rights activists, been called the “Black Holocaust“. Terms can vary, but it has often been deployed not as as a comparison of suffering, but to compare the ways in which societies responded to and reframed the memory of a sinister chapter of history.

“Black Holocaust” is often used to refer to the systemic oppression of Black people in the context of slavery, which, historians say, continues to the present day.

‘Many Black people feel that whites don’t understand just how great an atrocity slavery was.’

Some have used the term as a way to pierce the British and American conscience with a word of demonstrated impact, and how the act of abolishing slavery does not immunise former colonial powers from the lack of action to acknowledge and repair the atrocities caused by slavery.

”Many Black people feel that whites don’t understand just how great an atrocity slavery was,” said Gerald Early, author and the director of African and African-American Studies at Washington University in St Louis.

He told the New York Times: ”The use of the word ‘Holocaust’ brings the dimension of atrocity to slavery that Black people feel is necessary for whites – and for themselves – to understand what slavery was, and what it means.

“We lost who we were as a people. If people can see behind even some of the crude anti-Semitism, they’ll see a profound sense of not having your tragedy understood.”
While even the use of terms such as “transatlantic slave trade”, historian Sylviane Diouf said, compresses years of pain, trauma and death into neat shorthand. Diouf suggests that in discussing slavery in the way reduces the deaths of millions of Black people into “collateral damage” of a commercial venture.

After all, the United Nations estimates that around 17 million Black people died during the transatlantic slave trade, but the death toll varies, with some suggesting the figure could be between 30 to 70 million.

Moreover, even after Britain dismantled the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, leaders continued to bankroll the trade in the US. Banks often used bonds to pool debt generated by slave mortgages into promises of investor annual interest – cleaning the blood of enslaved Black people off the British pound, but continuing to turn profits.

British historian sparks social media firestorm for comments on slavery. 

As a result, Starkey’s comment drew mass detraction online, with many decrying the sanitised interpretation of history as racist while others sought to remind the University of Cambridge alum of, well, the literal existence of the Holocaust.