Thousands reject Black Country flag racism claims
Thousands of people have rejected claims the Black Country flag is ‘racist’ saying they couldn’t be prouder to fly it.
More than 26000 votes have been cast in our online poll so far and more than 95 per cent disagree with newly-elected Wolverhampton South West MP Eleanor Smith’s view.
Hundreds of comments were left on the Express & Star's messageboards, as thousands of people came together to celebrate the Black Country Festival with events taking place across the area over the weekend.
Ms Smith said on Friday – Black Country Day – she had ‘serious concerns’ over the connotations of the flag, adding it failed to represent the multi-cultural communities in the region. Her concerns centre around the use of the chains on the flag – symbolising the chainmaking industry – which she feels have connotations to do with slavery.
Today, the MP claimed her views had been 'misrepresented'.
She said she had not appeared on a photo with other Black Country MPs holding the flag because of other Parliamentary commitments'.
She said: "In response to further questions, I talked about some concerns which had been raised by constituents about the flag - specifically the image of a chain, because of their historical use in the Slave Trade.
"I went on to say that I was uneasy about this image becoming the brand for the Black Country, on the grounds that it associates the Black Country with heritage industries, rather than modern ones.
People in Dudley react to the MP's comments
"However, to set the record straight, I did not say the flag was racist. Neither did I say it should be banned. My views on this matter have been misrepresented."
"I want to assure the people Wolverhampton and the Black Country that I am intensely proud of our region, and our contribution to the Industrial Revolution."
The MP’s views have been met with fierce opposition from residents and Black Country figureheads alike.
Meanwhile, the Wolverhampton Momentum Labour grassroots movement called for the withdrawal of the flag.
Dudley South Conservative MP Mike Wood said the MP's feelings on the flag had been the subject of much discussion at Black Country Festival events over the weekend.
He added: “The poll is something which doesn’t surprise me at all. All the conversations I have had, the overwhelming number of people are really proud of the flag and shocked to hear a local MP saying it is racist.” It has also sparked debate on social media with resident Carole Anne Wales saying: “It shows what the Black Country is about. It was hard work and graft.”
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 a typical product made here.”
But Ms Smith, from Birmingham, has received backing from some in the Labour party, including Wolverhampton Momentum group. Spokesman Revd Ray Gaston said: “The reality that the chains made in the Black Country were used in the genocide that was the Transatlantic slave trade is something we should not deny.” Revd Gaston said the flag, designed by Stourbridge schoolgirl Gracie Sheppard, should be withdrawn and a replacement designed.