Afua Hirsch

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Afua Hirsch
Fullsizeoutput 8943.jpg
Hirsch filming for Brit(ish) in Lambeth, London, December 2017
Born (1981-06-12) 12 June 1981 (age 37)
Stavanger, Norway
Occupation Journalist;
barrister;
international development
Website Afua Hirsch on Twitter

Afua Hirsch (born 12 June 1981) is a British writer, broadcaster, and former barrister. She has worked as a journalist for The Guardian newspaper, and was the Social Affairs and Education Editor for Sky News from 2014 until 2017.

Early and personal life[edit]

Afua Hirsch was born in Stavanger, Norway,[1] to a British father and an Akan mother from Ghana, and raised in Wimbledon, south London.[2][3] Her paternal grandfather, Hans (later John), who was Jewish, had fled Berlin in 1938.[4] Her great-uncle is the metallurgist Sir Peter (originally Kurt) Hirsch. Her maternal grandfather, who graduated from the University of Cambridge, was involved in establishing the post-independence education system in Ghana but later became a political exile.[5]

Hirsch studied philosophy, politics, and economics at St Peter's College, Oxford. After her graduation with a Bachelor of Arts degree, she took the Graduate Diploma in Law at the BPP Law School.[3] Hirsch met Sam, her partner, while each was pursuing a legal career.[2] He is from Tottenham, north London, and of Ghanaian descent.[6] The couple's daughter was born in 2011.[7]

Career[edit]

Hirsch has worked in international development, law and journalism. She began working as a lawyer in criminal defence, public and international law. She then became a legal correspondent for The Guardian.[8] She has lived in Britain and Senegal, and served as The Guardian's West Africa correspondent, based in Accra, Ghana.[9][10] From 2014 to 2017, she was the Social Affairs and Education Editor at Sky News.[11]

Guardian article about Nelson's Column[edit]

In August 2017, in The Guardian, Hirsch questioned whether Nelson's Column should remain in place, with the implication it might be removed. She argued that the London monument is a symbol of white supremacy because Horatio Nelson opposed the abolitionist movement.[12]

Not long afterward, the art historian and former museum director Sir Roy Strong said the suggestion the column should be taken down was a "ridiculous" viewpoint, commenting that "Once you start rewriting history on that scale, there won't be a statue or a historic house standing....The past is the past. You can't rewrite history".[13][2]

The following May, Hirsch said the idea of removing Nelson's Column distracted from her main point that Britain should look more carefully at its past to understand itself better today.[14] In an article introducing her television documentary, The Battle for Britain's Heroes, Hirsch stated that she "wasn't actually waiting in a bulldozer, ready to storm Trafalgar Square, as some people seemed to believe".[15]

Book: Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging[edit]

Hirsch's book Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging (ISBN 9781911214281) was published by Jonathan Cape in January 2018.

Reactions to Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging[edit]

  • Martina Evans in The Irish Times wrote: "Hirsch's cool, clear-eyed views in this book are a gift which we can't ignore".[16]
  • Bernardine Evaristo in The Times Literary Supplement wrote it is "a free-flowing book of ideas, experiences and analysis that reach far beyond the personal. The past and present are in conversation with each other as Hirsch interrogates the roots of racism and dismantles myths."[17]
  • David Goodhart in the London Evening Standard argued that "Hirsch's fluid definition of racism encourages victim status among minorities". While it "is a case study of disaffected identity, shaped by a sense of exclusion that she positively seeks", by the author's "own admission, her privileged start (private school and Oxford) and career success as a barrister and journalist, are a story of class trumping race".[18]
  • Colin Grant's review in The Guardian concluded: "The book’s critique of the vicissitudes of black life calls to mind one of its more potent precursors, Paul Gilroy’s There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack. Thirty years on from that academic work, it's a depressing indication of continued British prejudice that Hirsch tells – with justified anger – similar tales of the miseducation of black boys and attempts to degrade black female sexuality. The power of her writing matches that of other important black writers, among them Gilroy and, going back two centuries, the American abolitionist John Brown Russwurm, who proclaimed: 'Too long have others spoke for us [such that] our vices and our degradations are ever arraigned against us, but our virtues pass unnoticed'".[19]
  • Kwasi Kwarteng in The Times wrote: "Despite the persuasive arguments, Hirsch overplays the idea that Britain is a racist, dystopian nightmare."[20]
  • Brendan O'Neill in Spiked wrote: "Her narcissistic study of her personal identity – Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging – is intended to be a memoir-cum-treatise on what it’s like to be black and of African origin in Britain in the early part of the millennium."[21]
  • Nikesh Shukla in The Guardian wrote: "Brit(ish) is a book that seeks to explore what Britishness looks like to a mixed-race child of immigrants who was born in this country. The UK saw a lasting rise in hate crimes after a spike of 46% in the week after the EU referendum vote." "Mixing memoir and research, she explores the root of her identity, trying to reconcile Britain’s past with its present." "Like Reni Eddo-Lodge’s 2017 book, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Brit(ish) wants us to confront Britain’s past and use it to create a wider understanding about race, racism, white supremacy and otherness."[22]

TV: The Battle for Britain's Heroes[edit]

In the television programme The Battle for Britain's Heroes, first broadcast by Britain's Channel 4 in late May 2018, Hirsch raised lesser-known aspects of the career of former British prime minister Winston Churchill, such as his attitude to Indians and advocacy of gassing "uncivilised tribes" in Mesopotamia (now partly modern day Iraq) after the First World War.[23]

Reaction to The Battle for Britain's Heroes[edit]

In his review of the programme, Hugo Rifkind in The Times wrote that the "subtext is often that Hirsch is attacking Britain in even mentioning this stuff", which itself implies, because of her own background that it "is frankly uppity of her", but Hirsch does not let "her views be defined in opposition to those of her detractors".[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hirsch, Afua (26 May 2013). "What's it like being black in Norway?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Evans, Diana (2 February 2018). "Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch – island stories". Financial Times. Retrieved 2 June 2018. 
  3. ^ a b "Afua Hirsch". St Peter's College. Retrieved 21 February 2018. 
  4. ^ Lipman, Jennifer (22 January 2018). "Afua Hirsch: Asking the difficult questions on identity". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 10 February 2018. 
  5. ^ Kinchen, Rosie (11 February 2018). "Afua Hirsch: 'I'm British — why should I be grateful for that?'". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 11 February 2018. 
  6. ^ Evans, Martina (3 February 2018). "Brit(ish) review: dazzling stories about race and identity". The Irish Times. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  7. ^ Hirsch, Afua (2018). Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging. London: Jonathan Cape/Vintage. p. 288. 
  8. ^ "Afua Hirsch on human rights | British Institute of Human Rights". Bihr.org.uk. Archived from the original on 26 August 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Hirsch, Afua (26 August 2012). "Our parents left Africa – now we are coming home". London: The Observer. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  10. ^ "Afua Hirsch". The Guardian. London. 16 September 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "Afua Hirsch". Sky News. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  12. ^ Hirsch, Afua (22 August 2017). "Toppling statues? Here's why Nelson's column should be next". The Guardian. 
  13. ^ Freeman, Laura (4 September 2017). "Everywhere Sir Roy Strong looks, the thumbscrews are tightening". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2 June 2018.  (subscription required)
  14. ^ Jackson, James (30 May 2018). "The Battle for Britain's Heroes". The Times. Retrieved 2 June 2018.  (subscription required)
  15. ^ Hirsch, Afua (29 May 2018). "Britain doesn't just glorify its violent past: it gets high on it". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2 June 2018. 
  16. ^ Evans, Martina (3 February 2018). "Brit(ish) review: dazzling stories about race and identity". The Irish Times. 
  17. ^ Evaristo, Bernardine (31 January 2018). "Broken identity". The Times Literary Supplement. 
  18. ^ Goodhart, David (11 January 2018). "Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch – a review". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2 June 2018. 
  19. ^ Grant, Colin (18 January 2018). "Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch review – everyday racism and a search for identity". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 June 2018. 
  20. ^ Kwarteng, Kwasi (29 January 2018). "Book review: Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 29 January 2018.  (subscription required)
  21. ^ O'Neill, Brendan (March 2018). "The glamour of trauma". spiked-online. Retrieved 6 March 2018. 
  22. ^ Shukla, Nikesh (29 January 2018). "Brit(ish) review – what does it mean to be black and British now?". The Observer. Retrieved 29 January 2018. 
  23. ^ O'Grady, Sean (30 May 2018). "TV Review: The Battle for Britain's Heroes (Channel 4)". The Independent. Retrieved 2 June 2018. 
  24. ^ Rifkind, Hugo (2 June 2018). "TV review: Hugo Rifkind on The Battle for Britain's Heroes". The Times. Retrieved 2 June 2018.  (subscription required)

External links[edit]