'The Black Country flag is 'racist' and should be scrapped' says Wolverhampton MP

A newly elected Labour MP has branded the Black Country flag racist and called for it to be scrapped over its ‘offensive’ use of chainmaking imagery.

Eleanor Smith said the design of the flag had been ‘a big mistake’ because it failed to represent the Black Country’s multi-cultural communities. Her comments coincide with yesterday's Black Country Day celebrations, during which the flag is flown in prominent locations across the region. The MP, who is from Birmingham, 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’. Her stance has been widely criticised by politicians from the region, with Tory MP Mike Wood saying it shows a ‘complete lack of understanding’ of the Black Country. Ms Smith said:

“I have serious concerns about the racist connotations of the flag, particularly the fact that chains are being used to represent the Black Country. The white on black imagery used together with the chains; when you break it down I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t worry me as a black person.

"People have to understand that it can be seen as offensive. I have absolutely nothing against the chainmakers. They were working people making money like working people do. But that doesn’t change the fact that I think the way the flag is done is a big mistake.”

“It is not something I feel comfortable about standing in front of. I understand the flag was designed by a young person, and I don’t for one minute think they realised its connotations. I think it is time for an intelligent conversation about the flag. I would look to have it changed.

The flag was designed by Stourbridge schoolgirl, Gracie Sheppard, and was inspired by Elihu Burritt who described the region as ‘black by day and red by night’. It features chains and a symbol representing the Red House Glass Cone in Wordsley. Stourbridge 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. Chainmaking played a big part in building our economy. For her to say that representing it on a flag that was designed by a child is absolutely nuts.”

Black Country Festival chairman, Steve Edwards, added:

“There's nothing racist about the flag at all. It's a representation of the industry from the Black Country [and] was designed by a 12-year-old girl - so obviously it's not going to be racist is it?

"For somebody to come out and say this is absolutely ridiculous. It’s the second highest selling flag in the UK and that shows how people want to celebrate the Black Country.”

West Midlands MEP, Bill Etheridge, said: “At the end of this rainbow there is not a pot of gold, just another barmy MP who is is more concerned with political correctness than the area she represents.

"Her comments are misguided at best."


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