Express & Star

Black Country flag row: E&S readers have their say on MP claims flag is 'racist'

A row over the Black Country flag erupted this weekend after Wolverhampton MP Eleanor Smith branded it racist and called for it to be scrapped over its ‘offensive’ use of chainmaking imagery.

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The Black Country flag

Ms Smith said the design of the flag had been ‘a big mistake’ because it failed to represent the Black Country’s multi-cultural communities, sparking a huge response from Express & Star readers.

Her comments came after she recently refused an invitation from fellow Labour MP Ian Austin to have her picture taken with the flag over what she described as its ‘racist connotations’.

She said she wants to see the Black Country have a flag ‘that represents us all as a collective rainbow of people’.

Wolverhampton MP Eleanor Smith

Hundreds of E&S readers have been commenting on the story this weekend on and our Facebook page.

Dave Cartwright said: "Black by day and red by night - a result of the local furnaces giving out smoke and grime during the day and glowing by night. The flag background is therefore both black and red, with the chains showing a typical product manufactured in the area."

Phillip Middlemast said: "I'm a Geordie but I've lived in or around the Black Country for 13 years now and honestly I love how proud the locals are of their flag. I really can't see the issue."

Sarah Scooky said: "This represents the HISTORY of the Black Country, from the time when the phrase was coined because of all the heavy industry."

Carole Anne Wales said: "I am Black Country born and bred and proud of it. I love the flag. It doesn't show racism. It shows what the Black Country is about. It was hard work and graft."

Bushbury North Councillor Ian Angus said: "I'm a Labour councillor in Wolverhampton and Eleanor doesn't speak for me. I'm proud of the flag and I know my constituents are too."

marissa2007 said: "Maybe it could be designed slightly different to avoid any further debates. I myself don't see it as racist but I don't much see it as something I'd want to hang outside my window with pride either."

Jo Anne said: "Don't blame her! What she actually said was that she felt uncomfortable standing with the flag and the design was a mistake. Some of the chains were used to restrain slaves for goodness sake! I find it offensive as a white person. She also added that she held no blame for the hard working chain makers. Good on her for speaking her mind and raising very important issues."

Tania Dainty added: "I sort of see both sides on this. The one is we should all be proud. But also weren't the poor black slaves kept in chains. This is something that shouldn't happen to any race. We are one race. The human race. So yes I understand her."

Wolverhampton Momentum, a grassroots network that supports the Labour party, also released the following statement in support of Ms Smith and has called for the "withdrawal" of the flag.

The statement says: " We call for the withdrawal of the flag and for a committee representative of the diversity of Black Country today to be established by the Black Country Museum to explore an alternative and more appropriate symbol for our times."

Other local MPs have already hit out at Ms Smith's claims.

Dudley South Conservative MP Mike Wood, said: “She is demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of the identity of the Black Country and its proud industrial heritage."

West Bromwich West Labour MP Adrian Bailey said: "It's an honour to represent a constituency with such a proud manufacturing industry which is symbolised brilliantly by the Black Country flag."

John Spellar, Labour MP for Warley, said there were no grounds to replace the flag. “It is a great symbol of the Black Country that has been widely accepted across communities."

Government Chief Whip Gavin Williamson, the MP for South Staffordshire, said: “It is ridiculous to think this is a racist flag. It is a celebration of the proud history and traditions of the Black Country.”

Here is a video of what the people of Dudley think:

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