The token that is the new ‘Diversity Built Britain’ 50p coin

By Tahmina Begum

Updated Oct 22, 2020 at 08:43 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

This week, 2.5 million ‘Diversity Built Britain’ 50p coins will come into circulation in the UK. The coin held up proudly by Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak has been designed by the prolific Dominique Evans off the ‘We Too Built Britain’ campaign. It is to represent Evans’ lived experience as a mixed-race woman of colour living in Britain. Although it does exactly that on the exterior, it fails to mention or even see the elephant in the room.

Campaigner Zehra Zaidi, a member of We Too Built Britain, said this new coin is to celebrate ethnic minority communities and the contributions they made to the UK. A coin that will “help bridge the nation’s past, diverse present and future.” As nice as that sentiment is, to imply that this coin is a token of gratitude is like saying a mere ‘thanks’ to countries that have built the UK for centuries.

The 50p coin is just a coin. A token that overlooks the history of what actually built Britain. It dismisses the shadow cast long ago by the Empire—colonialism wasn’t just felt by our ancestors but is still deeply rooted in our identities as second and third-generation children of immigrants—and neglects to see the current systemic racial negligence that is persistent in its perversity.

It alludes to the idea that it was since the dawn of recent immigration when grandparents like mine ‘came over’ post-1950s, that has since made Britain diverse. As if my grandparents were welcomed with open arms when encouraged to ‘rebuild’ Britain after World War II. To state ‘Diversity Built Britain’ in this blase manner fails to acknowledge how Britain looted $45 trillion from India between 1765 and 1938 and is still taking over a $1 trillion in Africa’s most valuable resources today. As if our country’s power doesn’t extend to British colonies around the world today and for example, has a financial hand in the Nigerian #EndSars protests.

It romanticises Brexit Britain as an equal-opportunities country for everyone, a post-racial utopia, when in fact, it’s the motherland of racism with a brutal class system that has been exported across the world.

I don’t expect the coin to share in tiny print the ways our men and women have historically fought in the World Wars for Britain. Or how our histories are interlinked with slavery. Or the current hold colonialism has on every industry (look at how large fashion retailers failed to pay factories in Bangladesh due to COVID-19 and how countries of the tropics are being affected by conscious corporate global warming decisions).

But I do expect more than a coin to be designed to counteract the racism in the UK as well as the lack of financial support for ethnic minority and working-class families in Britain during these times. £8 per person for those living in Greater Manchester during a Tier 3 lockdown, really? This is the gratitude shown to a city that is still deemed more working-class than other major parts of Britain, where a third of its population is from an ethnic minority household for its contribution to society.

The design of the coin has nothing to do with Dominique Evans’, her artistry nor her experience in Britain. This isn’t to diminish her work as this message is intended to be one that embraces those that make Britain diverse. Yet what’s that Madonna lyric? “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” Therefore, even right-wing language such as “diversity built Britain” is parallel to when millions of white Americans said after the Civil War said they no longer “see colour.” It’s a Karen telling you that what you are is finally acceptable as if Britain hasn’t been using our diversity for when it suits her best.

Meanwhile, as Sunak rejects a bill that helps fund the NHS in a global pandemic, where 28.4 per cent of doctors are immigrants and one in five of overall NHS staff are ethnic minorities within Britain, that’s cutting off literal life support. It disregards millions of NHS workers and the fact that it is diversity that’s keeping the country alive.

If Sunak continues to oppose motions such as the COVID-19 Economic Support Package to ensure areas that have been affected highly by a coronavirus are helped (Northern and working-class areas that have a large ethnic minority population), his coin remains as a literal token, nothing more than Monopoly money to those it concerns.

Keep On Reading

By Emma O'Regan-Reidy

From gen Z farming to pro-hybrid work, here are 3 ways the younger generation will impact 2024

By Charlie Sawyer

What is the Electoral College? What is the popular vote? And how is the US president elected?

By Charlie Sawyer

You are shaming me: Nancy Mace calls news presenter disgusting for rape-shaming her over Trump

By Emma O'Regan-Reidy

Do you watch or listen to content at 1.5x speed? Here’s what it actually does to you

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Shia LaBeouf ditches acting career to become a Catholic deacon instead

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Meet Edward and Natalie Ortega, the parents of Wednesday actress Jenna Ortega

By Abby Amoakuh

Shoplifting addiction is at an all-time high. And white middle-class women are to blame

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden is the murder suspect standing for re-election in Australia

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

New HBO documentary Brandy Hellville & The Cult Of Fast Fashion set to expose Brandy Melville

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Pigeon accused of being a Chinese spy released after being detained for eight months

By Alma Fabiani

Travis Scott caught spray painting over John McEnroe’s Hall of Fame plaque

By Abby Amoakuh

Who is Nara Pellman? Meet the Mormon tradwife taking TikTok by storm

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Donald Trump supporters attack daughter Ivanka Trump following night out with Kim Kardashian

By Alma Fabiani

John Cena reacts to Drake’s nudes on Instagram

By Abby Amoakuh

Former Brandy Melville employees recount horrifying experiences after trailer for HBO documentary airs

By Charlie Sawyer

Understanding the sneaky link: Meaning of the dating trend beyond the hook-up

By Charlie Sawyer

Woman who claimed to be Madeleine McCann breaks silence months after DNA test

By Charlie Sawyer

Justice for Billie Piper: Why she’s worth so much more than her ex-husband Laurence Fox

By Abby Amoakuh

Meta’s Kendall Jenner AI avatar roasts 818 Tequila and endorses other celebrity alcohol brands

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Who is Ziwe Fumudoh? Unpacking the comedy genius putting white people in the hot seat