Dear David Austin Roses,
I feel it is my duty to write to you to request that you assess your cultural bias when naming roses. Whilst I understand that your heritage is ‘English’ roses, I feel that at present it is a very backward-looking Little England that you are choosing to celebrate.
It may not seem important to you if you are white British, but if you are black British, imagine how it feels to see yourself completely unrepresented in the David Austin catalogue.
Your names of roses tend to feature writers or characters of famous novels, or poets, composers, actors, musicians.
We have a rich seam of black talent to draw from. To name but a very few black writers:
Dreda Say Mitchell
I am more than happy to discuss this further with you, as a long-time customer who feels strongly that we all have a part to play in combatting everyday racism. This is not to shame you, but to draw attention to something that needs redressing for the good of all of us.
Can I also suggest that David Austin Roses might also consider apprenticeship schemes and recruitment opportunities to open out the world of gardening to BAME young people?
Maybe your Chelsea Flower Show display next year could showcase diversity alongside the release of newly named roses?
This is one of many emails I am sending to companies and organisations I am involved with and care about.
BAME people are exhausted with this. It is up to white allies to take this forward and help to end every day oppression for our fellow BAME human beings. We’ve ignored it for too long.
I would love to hear your ideas for everyday activism.
We can all make micro-reparations. If we don’t address our mistakes and if we don’t acknowledge that we have contributed to the problem – and ignoring it is contributing to the problem – we are staying stuck. Our collective shame and suffering will never end.
What can you do?
You can see the response from David Austin Jnr’s PA, which I have copied into a response to a comment below.
David Austin Roses’s response is encouraging.
There is engagement and acknowledgement, which is the first step towards something better.