A Contributor to White Supremacy
“I hate Indians. They are beastly people with a beastly religion.”
Sir Winston Churchill said that. Most of us know who he is. We’ve learned about him year after year in school and have watched movies and read books dedicated to his life and accomplishments. We’ve repeatedly talked about him but every time we have, we’re always left with only half the information.
Before he became prime minister, he was first a reporter, and after World War II, he was a historian. When people talk about history being written by the victors, that’s exactly what Sir Winston Churchill did. He wrote a six-volume book about the war, his victories, and everything from his personal point of view. What he didn’t discuss in his book which had so many other unnecessary details, was that he oversaw the deaths of three million people in Bengal in 1943, due to starvation and hunger.
In recent findings, it has been discovered that the Bengal Famine was not caused by a drought but by the policies made by the British government under the head of Churchill. A team from the Indian Institute of Technology discovered that between 1935 and 1945, the area of Bengal where the famine happened, actually had no drought. Scientists studied data of soil moisture in 1943, concluding on its abundance and the absence of the falsified drought.
After the Japanese occupation of Burma in 1942, rice imports stopped, and all of Bengal’s transport and market systems were disrupted. During this time, the British government prioritized giving supplies to the military and many social classes that seemed more of a priority to them (Basu). On the other hand, Churchill and his supporters wrote that he was concerned about Bengal and famine relief efforts in India (Churchill). Which view do we believe in?
Churchill was racist. He said that it was the Indian’s fault for breeding so much, said that Indians were not fit to rule, but they were fit to be ruled over and asked why Gandhi was still alive even though there were food shortages. He was blatantly racist. What he said publicly about Indian people and what he wrote in his books don’t match up. If he hated the Indians so much and created the policies that placed the people in Bengal in their situations, how could he have been the one that “indirectly broke the Bengal famine” (Churchill)? It doesn’t add together, but no, that doesn’t matter, since history is always supposedly written by the victors. That’s the side we’re supposed to learn about and believe.
It’s true, but we don’t really know the full history of the world because there will always be things left out. The winner’s side is what gets passed down through artwork, literature, and simple stories. We can’t trust what some people have written down in their books, like those of Churchill, since we never know what truly happened and what didn’t. False ideas could be added, and we wouldn’t even notice them. That’s how history is.
But, why does this matter? Churchill could have been the reason why Indians starved, but that doesn’t affect us now, does it? He could have been a great Prime Minister during WWII or an indirect murderer, but he’s dead now. Why do we still talk about him?
The life and story of Churchill lives. The ideas he passed on lives. The assumptions and racist quotes he coined lives. The stories we tell about him might be there to honor him, but there was so much more. The story of Churchill shows us a period in history when people were not equal as he believed that the British people were better than not just Indians, but everyone else. His values still live on.
Today, we are taught about how great America is; their achievements and nobility in saving the world. We indirectly learn to look at the world in the same way that Churchill did: in the way that we are better than everyone else. We need to stop such a mentality — in the way that a racist man from the 20th century thought and talked. Ideas like those of Churchill are still around, with racial ideas and national supremacy still being evident in our world. We need to use our voices to speak out against the injustices around the world.
As you scroll through social media, witness how news revolves around the happenings in America and Europe — the festivals and grand openings of newer, more advanced establishments. Proceed to then pop the thought bubble — the envy and jealousy for most of the foundations of these businesses are the blood, sweat and tears of our people. We’re living our lives in developed areas, but that doesn’t mean we get to not pay attention to other people and discard their rights and purposes. To be human, we must first recognize the under-privileged humans.
When you buy a $75 gray shirt, think about the 7-year-old girl wearing scraps of cloth, who was forced to stitch that shirt. When you buy a new laptop, think about the factory it was made in, where there are safety nets around so that workers can’t kill themselves. Think about them. Think about you. If we continue to live our lives the way we are now, years into the future, people will see us in the same way that I saw Sir Winston Churchill; losing others for our gains.
By: Manasa Boppudi