By: Pramod Thomas
SCOTLAND’s first black professor has accused fellow academics of discrimination, the Guardian reported.
Recently, an explosive row over Edinburgh’s links with slavery prompted calls for Sir Geoff Palmer to quit as chair of two groups re-examining the city’s history.
Sir Geoff criticised the Edinburgh professors Jonathan Hearn and Sir Tom Devine over their views of the 18th-century politician Sir Henry Dundas.
According to the report, the row began when Sir Geoff denounced Jonathan Hearn and Sir Tom Devine, current and emeritus professors at Edinburgh University, as members of “an academic racist gang”.
The comments came after Hearn published an article in the Spectator suggesting the city council review risked being “historically superficial” and Devine stepped in to defend him.
Palmer criticised Hearn and Divine in a series of tweets, which focused particularly on their views of Sir Henry Dundas, a controversial figure whose monument in the Scottish capital was vandalised in June 2020 during a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
Palmer and others believe Dundas has been unfairly credited with fighting slavery in Scotland when he held back abolition for a generation by delaying tactics in parliament.
A revised plaque explaining this background was erected at the monument last year, the report added.
After Palmer’s tweets, Devine called for his dismissal from the review groups, accusing him of “appalling slurs of racism against those whose only fault was to have a different view from his own”.
“I have been making the same arguments for a long time, but I think this timing has to do with this project, the fact that this work is gaining significance but some historians are unhappy that they are not involved,” Palmer was quoted as saying by the Guardian.
“This is a public debate and if some people are demanding my dismissal without providing any evidence for it then that is discrimination. If they can provide evidence that I am incompetent and biased then I will step down.”
The newspaper report further said that Devine is taking legal advice now. Meanwhile, the UK’s first professor of black male studies, Tommy J Curry, said the row exemplified a naivety in Scottish culture around discussions about race.
As the public consultation on the city review comes to an end this week, the council leader, Adam McVey, revealed it had generated thousands of “blatantly racist” responses from supporters of rightwing organisations looking to interfere with the process.