By Leah Conway
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering the ‘Banknotes of Colour’ Campaign’s proposal to feature a BAME figure on UK currency for the first time.
Mr Sunak said: “As a British Asian of course I know that racism exists in this country. And I know people are angry and frustrated. They want to see, and feel, change.”
Former Conservative politician, Zehra Zaidi is leading the campaign.
Zehra Zaidi said, “Who we have on our legal tender, our notes and our coins, builds into a narrative of who we think we are as a nation.”
In the past, there has been a commemorative coin featuring Walter Tull, an English professional footballer and the first black Army officer in the UK.
However, commemorative coins perhaps do not have the same significance as legal tender.
Ms Zaidi commented, “… commemorative coins are not the same as legal tender because legal tender acts as a passport, an ambassador.”
BAME figures up for consideration include Mary Seacole, a British-Jamaican Crimean War Nurse, Noor Inayat Khan who was a World War II agent and one of four women to have received the George Cross and the first Indian and Gurkha soldiers who received the Victorian Cross.
This step is a step toward inclusivity and acknowledging that present and past Britain is not only white, as Ms Zaidi states, “People from all backgrounds helped build Britain.”
The campaign has received lots of support.
The Sunday Times published a ‘Letter to the Editor’. Over 200 people signed the letter, including Lords and Baronesses.
The letter highlighted that BAME communities represented 14% of the British population and stated, ‘Changing this would send a message that the contribution of ethnic minorities to Britain’s history, culture and economy is recognised and valued.’
The step towards including BAME figures on British Banknotes is an essential symbol of acknowledgment and inclusivity.
While this campaign is a significant step towards progress, it cannot stand alone without action behind it.
It cannot be seen as the only step or as ‘enough’.
It cannot be another addition on the lists of ‘firsts’ that are then presented as though our problems are solved and amended.
Otherwise, it will be another hollow distraction from carrying out real change and progress.
It needs to be implemented as part of a more comprehensive campaign for change, action, and progress.
With Alan Turing set to feature on the new £50 in 2021 and the new £5, £10, and £20 notes being reasonably new it will be interesting to see when or if this campaign will be put into action.