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Letters to the Times re David Smith's article

On 9 Aug 2010 at 5:00pm Soutover Girl wrote:
I know of 3 people who have already written to the Times in response to David James Smith's article "England's Green and Prejudiced Land" published in Sunday Times Magazine . As not all the letters will be published by the Times, I propose that we post them here as well.
To start the ball rolling here is one my daughter wrote eariler today:
To the Editor:
Dear Sir,
I am writing with regard to the article "England's Green and Prejudiced Land", by David James Smith, published in the Sunday Times Magazine yesterday. As a long term resident of Lewes - my family moved here 20 years ago when I was just 10yrs old - I was dismayed to find that the article painted a completely false and unrecognisable picture of the town. Far from being the hotbed of racist activity that Mr Smith portrays, Lewes is a welcoming, highly liberal, and very culturally diverse town considering its provinciality. My mother is assisant manager of the All Saints Centre - the local arts centre - where multicultural performance pieces fit comfortably into the calendar alongside egyptian belly dance classes, art workshops and the local childrens toy library. We also have a number of local festivals including the guitar festival and the live literature festival. John Agard (born in what was then British Guyana), whose poem "half caste" has featured in the AQA English GCSE anthology since 2002, is a much loved resident of Lewes, and we have a number of asian families who are respected members of the community, and whose children seem to have very little problem with making friends in the town. Indeed, Mr Smith admits that he wishes to stay in Lewes because his whole family, children included, have made good friends here.
Mr Smith's main worry seems to centre around a percieved inherant racism within the educational sector. But I would argue that Mr Smith is teaching his children to be super-sensitive to their race by blaming every slight or failure on it; surely that is, in itself, racism? Why does his wife feel that she must seek out the company of other black people in order to feel secure? Surely if we are all equal and race is not an issue, she ought to mix just as happily with the white residents of a provincial British town (where the population is of course predominantly white, that being the colour of the native residents of this country). If she seeks the company of others from a mixed background in order to discuss shared experiences, why limit herself to black-only residents? My mother is an immigrant to Britain (from the former USSR), does she suppose that, as a white woman, my mother will have no shared experiences as an immigrant, nor I with my mixed race heritage? Likewise, why must the school focus on teaching the children about black cultural heritage? What about Asian heritage? I was not taught about Ukraine at school (being in a minority of one in that respect), but my mother taught me about it at home instead. If Mr Smith wishes his children to embrace all elements of their heritage, why not introduce them to it at home?
Mr Smith seems to perceive Brixton as some sort of multicultural utopia, in which people of all races live happily side by side. I suspect he lives in Lewes and not Brixton because the crime rate in Lewes - including racially motivated crime - is significantly lower here. This article is sensationalist at best, guilty of racism in itself at worst. Four BNP members in a town of nearly 20,000 people does not a racist town make, and if Mr Smith could live next door to one of them for a whole year before discovering that he was racist, at least one of them is clearly not very vocal in his opinions.
Yours sincerely,
On 9 Aug 2010 at 5:05pm Southover Girl wrote:
Has anyone written to Mr Taylor at Sussex Express?
On 9 Aug 2010 at 5:49pm sashimi wrote:
Southover Girl speaks for us all. If the Sunday Times ignores her letter, we should boycott their newspaper as Liverpool did when the Sun slandered Liverpool Fans over the Hillsbough disaster in which 97 fans died. Have a look at dontbuythesun.co.uk/site.
On 9 Aug 2010 at 10:06pm Poppy Cock wrote:
If the "David Smith Jewellery" shop is his, I shall certainly be boycotting that too.
On 9 Aug 2010 at 10:53pm MuttsNuts wrote:
David Smith the jeweller is not the same David James Smith who wrote this article.
On 9 Aug 2010 at 10:54pm Brixtonbelle wrote:
Hadn't read these posts, but agree completely Sashimi - a boycott of The Times, Sunday Times and Sun would be fantastic. A town boycott of the complete Murdoch empire even better.
On 9 Aug 2010 at 11:01pm Lewesbusker wrote:
No it's NOT the same David Smith who owns the jewellery shop. He's a really nice bloke.
On 9 Aug 2010 at 11:31pm Me wrote:
On 9 Aug 2010 at 11:32pm Me wrote:
put www. in front
On 9 Aug 2010 at 11:48pm Hoodie Hugger wrote:
Unfortunately, the population of Liverpool is rather larger than the population of Lewes so I'm not sure a town-wide boycott is really going to be noticed. Still, no harm in trying, eh?
Did anyone else write any letters?
On 10 Aug 2010 at 12:30am Alfred the OK wrote:
HOODIE HUGGER: I'm from Liverpool and now live in Lancashire - it doesn't matter how big or small you are - boycot the Murdoch Empire! As a result of that appalling load of rubbish by Smith, I will no longer be ordering the ST after over 30 years of loyal readership.
Just do what YOU feel to be right.
On 10 Aug 2010 at 10:30am Stephen English wrote:
Following on from Southover Girl's superb comments I wrote yesterday morning in my capacity as Southover Bonfire Chairman.
Dear Sir

I would like to register my deep distaste for the article on the education system within Lewes, East Sussex entitled somewhat sarcastically 'England's Green and Prejudiced Land' which appeared in the Sunday Times this weekend. He writes of a town that I and most other residents simply do not recognise. Ethnicity is welcomed in all aspects of the town and this is perhaps more evinced in the bonfire societies about which he writes so disparagingly. His assertion that they are anti-catholic shows at best a complete lack of understanding of their traditions and at worst his own personal form of bigotry. I would have to ask that if in his opinion Brixton is so culturally liberal why he felt the need to bring his own peculiar brand of racism to Lewes.

Chairman - Southover Bonfire Society
On 10 Aug 2010 at 11:43am Leaf wrote:
Dear Sir
I too would like to show my disgust at this article. I am part of a dual heritage family with a school age child, and in all honesty we have never felt or experienced any racism of any kind from anyone in Lewes we have lived here for many years. My partner is of African descent and feels totally at ease and at home here. I feel Mr Smith the one who feels uneasy with his family diversity. If you look hard enough for racism you will find it anywhere. That is the way of the world for better or worse. He is the one with a massive chip on his shoulder and sadly it seems the race issue lies in him.
On 11 Aug 2010 at 10:25am Richard Head wrote:
David Smith - stop exploiting/using your family to further your own cause (you are a very second rate writer) bet you wish you yourself could have been black/disabled/gay in order to get yourself upset directly on a daily basis eh?
On 12 Aug 2010 at 4:44pm Lewesian Lad wrote:
As a native Lewesian, I find Mr Smith and his narrow-minded assertions detestable. Lewes is without doubt one of the most embracing, liberal and welcoming towns in all of England ? and a place that I am extremely proud to be from.
I don't need to justify Lewes' welcoming culture ? there's an entire population who know what a unique place our town really is. What I do wish to say is that I am so tired of people's continued vilification of Bonfire Night. This is a famous, historical, traditional event that permeates the very spirit of Lewes and connects everyone in the town. Rich cultural heritage like this should be encouraged ? Zulus included. By eradicating elements of it, we would succumb to the same cultural persecution that Mr Smith dreams that he is 'suffering' from.
Lewesians can take comfort in two facts:
i) Our town is a beautiful, embracing, unique place that welcomes everybody.
ii) This dribble was published on The Sunday Times, which users now have to pay to read. Their online readership has dropped dramatically as a result, which means this idiotic vitriol will not reach many people.
Perhaps some of the bonfire societies could oblige by building an effigy of Mr Smith this year...
On 13 Aug 2010 at 3:31pm Jim Bullen wrote:
Sir, as a native Lewesian too I fully agree with the points made in David James Smith's excellent article. The first point to make is that his article was superbly written, the same can't be said for the "dribble" (sic) and misspellings from bigots such as "Soutover girl" and Lewesian lad.
Lewes is an extremely smug Sussex town with a number of racist bigoted traditions such as blacking up Zulus and burning religious effigies. This happens in truly bigioted states like Iran, Saudi Arabia etc.
I am not suprised that the family has suffered racism and as someone from Lewes can only offer a wholehearted apology to David. People here hide behind the mask of liberalism, but at heart it's an old style Tory town- just witness how the local councils have "ethnically cleansed" the old Lewes working class from the council estates and sold off the whole stock to rich outsiders.
Unsurprisingly the rascist undertones which permeate the whole town are replicated by teachers in local white only schools. Congratulations David, a pertinent timely article highlighting smug hypocrisy. Let's hope the local education authorities take note and make sure teaching staff are adequedely trained to deal with modern multicultural Britain.
Best wishes
On 13 Aug 2010 at 5:53pm Peter B Ex Friars WalkR wrote:
Jim You are a BUFFOON of the highest order. Get living my man and stop being so smug and dull and move if you find the 'locals' not to your liking. Goodbye. Ps Your surname suits you Sir, it is all Bull.
On 13 Aug 2010 at 6:12pm Peter B Ex Friars WalkR wrote:
For all I know Jim aka BS'r may possibly be Mr Smith's alter ego?? So therefore I refuse to discuss the matter any further. Thank you.
On 13 Aug 2010 at 6:23pm Slightly Cynical wrote:
OK then Jim. Perhaps you can explain why an opinion is 'dribble' if you happen to make a spelling mistake (which, coincidentally you did - there is an 'h' in Southover, oh and only one 'i' in bigoted, and while I am at it only two 'e's' in adequately, and one 'd', and there is a 't')

Anyway, I would then like you to explain to me why it is any more racist to dress up as a Zulu on bonfire night than it is to dress as a native American, a Saracen, a Mongol, a Japanese or indeed a white person? Are you saying you can dress up as a white person, but not a black person? What is the difference? As has been said, if you want to find racism, you will interpret things to suit what you want to find, but it is not necessarily grounded on anything more than your imagination. Chances are that you are just looking for something to be offended by on behalf of someone else anyway. There is a marvellous post by Leif Eriksson in the magazine section of this site titled 'Outrageous Racist Atrocities' which highlights the silliness of all of this perfectly.

Moving on to your rather ignorant statement about burning religious effigies. Perhaps you could take some time to understand what you are actually talking about before levelling such a criticism. How many times does this have to be spelled out? The effigy of the Pope to which you refer, is not burned (it is actually blown up but that is another matter) as a religious statement. On the contrary, it is actually a statement AGAINST religious bigotry and represents a particular historical Pope from 400 years ago in whose name an act of religious terrorism was attempted. Do you think that so many Catholics would be involved in bonfire if there was more to it than that? In the same way the effigy of Guy Fawkes represents one of the perpetrators of that act. You would not consider burning Guy Fawkes to be an anti-English statement would you ? - no, of course you wouldn't. Effigies have been made of many people - Bill Clinton and George Bush, but not because they are American, Condaleeza Rice, but not because she is black (or a woman), Osama Bin Laden, but not because he is a moslem, and a mad cow, but not because it was a Frisian (and no it wasn't a BULL so don't think we were having a go at you).

You state that racist undertones permeate the whole town. A strange thing to say considering you also say that you live here. Do you include yourself in this, or your family or friends? I guess you would be horrified to be included in such a sweeping generalisation, so I am sure that you will understand the outrage felt by so many other Lewes residents having read the ramblings of an attention hungry hack.
On 13 Aug 2010 at 6:45pm Peter B Ex Friars WalkR wrote:
Slightly Cynical. Best piece of writing I have read in a long time, you could teach Smithy and Jim Bull a lesson or two, do an article for Guardian in response to the piffle Mr Smith wrote for Times. Well done. PS Only a broke hack would stoop so low as Mr S did, trust me on that.
On 16 Aug 2010 at 10:08am Bhavin Patel wrote:
I was absolutely shocked and disappointed by the pathetic article written David James Smith in the Sunday Times. I am of Indian ethnic origin and grew up in Lewes and I am proud to call it my home town. The article in my mind was complete dross and a product bad research which unfairly marks Lewes as a prejudiced and racist town. I went to school in Lewes and was one of two 'coloured' people, sure there were some microaggressions (as he puts it) from time to time, but hey that can happen anywhere. If you have an inferiority complex then unfortunately even the smallest things will be magnified and that is exactly the case here. One of the things I enjoy most about Lewes is Bonfire Night and watching the procession...he completely misses the point on this and yet again shows he done very little to understand it's real meaning. I could carry on and on about how terrible this article is, but suffice to say Lewes in my humble opinion is a beautiful town with great and real people.

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