'It's not racist' say Black Country residents after latest flag row

Residents of the Black Country have declared the region's flag is not racist - after West Midlands Fire Service banned stations from flying it this week.

Black Country Living Museum worker Bernard Lewis doesn't think the flag is racist
Black Country Living Museum worker Bernard Lewis doesn't think the flag is racist

Senior bosses at the fire service asked stations not to display the flag on Black Country Day due to concerns that the imagery of a chain could have links to slavery.

However shoppers in Dudley town centre did not agree with those claims, saying the design represented the industrial heritage of the Black Country.

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Bernard Lewis, 60, from Dudley, who works at Black Country Living Museum, said: "I have got nothing against the flag at all.

"I am born and bred in Dudley. I am 60 years old now. I work at the Black Country Living Museum - I have got nothing against it."

He continued: "Some of the things, like the statues, black this and that. Some of the things they have probably done slavery.

"But I have got nothing against the flag."

Dave Prosser, 55 from Lower Gornal, disagreed the flag was racist.

Dave Prosser

He further questioned where to draw the line, referencing the region's name as being "the Black Country".

He added: "In Netherton they made the anchor for the Titanic. This is an industrial area. It is not about being a racial thing."

Paul Scriven, 54, originally from West Bromwich but now living in Dudley, couldn't see any problem with the flag.

Paul Scriven

He said: "To be honest, this is the first thing I have heard about this. It doesn't bother me at the end of the day.

"I just look at the flag like I would a normal flag. It doesn't look unusual."

Those thoughts were echoed by Sharron Rogers, 50, from Tipton.

Sharron Rogers with son Leighton, 16 and niece Esmae, 7

Ms Rogers said: "To me, the flag should be allowed to be flown anywhere.

"It is called the Black Country because of the industry. It should be allowed wherever you go.

"To me, the decision [by West Midlands Fire Service] is disgusting. You should be allowed to put it up outside. We are in England.

"I'm not racist. But to me, stations should be allowed to put it up. The firefighters are risking their lives for us."

Firefighters called for meetings with station commanders in a bid to get the ban overturned after the policy was made public.

One firefighter, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Express & Star: “This is our culture and the flag is flown all over the world.

“We had a message a couple of days ago, sent to Black Country stations, saying flags can’t be flown because they are looking into the meaning of the chain and links with slavery.

“But the flag is flown every year and they have had enough time to check it out.

“This has upset a lot people. The red, white and black flag features chains across its centre, which represent the Black Country’s manufacturing heritage and specifically the chainmakers who worked long hours in poor conditions with little pay.

"It also signifies strong links across the region’s communities.

“There is a short-sightedness about what it actually means.

“OK, we did make chains. But we made chains for a lot of things.

“When every other authority is waving the flag and celebrating Black Country day – and the fire service is going down that line – it divides people more than bring people together.

"We are waiting to have further meetings with the people above. We have all emailed our station commanders to express our feelings. Hopefully, when it comes out and they realise what it is about, we will get an apology from above.”

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