Remembrance Day is an important commemoration to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during war.
While this is inherently a good thing, in the UK the day and its red poppy give a sense of nationalism that many people, especially of colour, find it difficult to connect with.
Because of this, a record number of people are opting to wear a white poppy to remember all victims of war and to promote peace and pacifism.
@PPUtoday I am wearing my white poppy with pride. I wear it to remember victims of the Blitz, soldiers shot for cowardice. I wear it for RAF aircrew removed due to lack of moral fibre (LMF). I wear it to consider all victims of war #WhitePoppy #Rememberance #NeverAgainIsNow
— Edward H. (@edward_hortop) October 31, 2018
This white poppy, despite having been around since the 1930s, causes more and more backlash each year.
This year, a record number of white poppies (119,555) have been purchased from the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) so far.
The Peace Pledge Union, founded in 1934, says that the poppies represent remembrance, a commitment to peace and “a challenge to attempts to glamorise or celebrate war”.
The white poppy commemorates those of all nationalities who have died in war, as opposed to only those from Britain and the Commonwealth like red poppies do.
I’m a pacifist but still wear the red poppy and always will, it’s remembering the fallen young men who never had a chance of a life. I personally believe this white poppy politicises something that it shouldn’t!
— COYQ1866 (@COYQ1866) November 3, 2018
Speaking to UNILAD about why he wears his white poppy with pride, Sheffield’s effortlessly cool Lord Mayor, Magid Magid, said:
I’ve worn the white poppy for about the past five years.
I never really used to be a poppy-wearer but I like what it stood for and what it represents. The white poppy remembers all victims of war.
The red poppy, as far as I understand it, remembers the soldiers who died. Rightfully so, we should remember soldiers past and present.
The white poppy remembers not just the soldiers who died, but all victims of war. Even the women and children who were back in the UK helping the war efforts, they get forgotten as well.
Something ‘Magic’ Magid particularly enjoys about the white poppy is its “commitment to peace”.
The Royal British Legion (RBL) supplies the well-known red poppies, with the money raised going to support British war veterans.
Many critics of the white poppy have said it ‘disrespects’ the veterans of war, hailing those who wear them ‘leftist’ or ‘snowflakes’ for making a commitment to peace.
Wearing a red poppy is an act of remembrance and not a statement of nationalist ideology. Wearing a white poppy is a commitment to peace. I prefer to wear red. I respect those who choose white. I doubt that WW1 servicemen were fighting over the colour of poppies 100 years later.
— Brian Vince (@lionbleu) November 1, 2018
The RBL, though, respects everyone’s right to wear different poppies. A representative told UNILAD:
We see no contradiction in wearing other emblems alongside the red poppy, and recognise the right of any group or individual to express their views within the law.
We take the view that the poppy represents the sacrifices our Armed Forces community and those from across the Commonwealth have made in the defence of freedom.
The red poppy raises funds to support our Armed Forces, veterans and their families in their time of need, as a charity that is our core purpose and that is why we focus on the red poppy alone.
A white poppy still honours the fallen. The difference is that it's a clear statement against militarism and further killing.
— GeorgeMonbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) November 3, 2018
The Legion says the “red poppy is a symbol of peace inclusive of all regardless of race, belief, origin, or sexual/gender identity”. However, the culture that has formed around it is a nationalist one that does discriminate.
A few years ago an old white woman spat at me, calling me the ‘p-word’ (my skin is brown) at Remembrance Sunday proceedings in Luton.
From speaking to Magid and seeing the experiences of other people of colour on Twitter, it’s clear that I am not alone, and many non-white people feel like they are not included in this nationalist narrative in the same way as those who have white skin.
For them, and many others who want to push for peace and pacifism, they choose the white poppy.
If you don’t want to wear a poppy, don’t. But the use of white poppies is disgraceful, hijacking a symbol that supports veterans and fallen soldiers, and instead using it to fund its own agendas. The fall in support for our armed forces by the left is deeply saddening. #RedPoppy
— Sam Harris (@samharr66484951) November 4, 2018
Magid expressed the confusion at the negativity towards his white poppy:
I’ve been getting so much abuse after my photo. I kind of expected it but there is nothing negative that I’m saying, right?
There is nothing that you can really disagree with, it’s not like I’m disrespecting anyone else or going round insulting other groups of people or saying negative things.
The language the RBL use doesn’t encompass any diversity and only focuses on certain groups of people.
For those who ask:
I remember and respect with the red #poppy.
— Dr Rachael Kay Burns (@RachaelKBurns) November 8, 2018
The Poppy Police is a term regularly used on social media. It sums up the societal pressure around the wearing of a poppy.
The poppy has become somewhat of a tool used to judge people on their perceived Britishness. As Magid said, “people like to get over the top about it”.
Magid also raised the criticism from many that the poppy is being politicised, making the point that “it’s got everything to do with politics when people have died and are still dying for people’s political agendas”.
Lest we forget….
Exactly why the Red Poppy should be worn with pride and shouldn’t be devalued by a white one! They all gave everything and more
— Matt Franklin (@FranklinMattie) November 7, 2018
The white poppy also received criticism for taking away funding from the RBL and thus the army veterans and members it supports.
The real issue here is not that citizens’ personal choice for the coloured poppy strips funding from those in need, but that those supporting charities should not be necessary.
Criticism is misplaced on white poppy buyers instead of the government that should be supporting those who were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect. They should not be forced to rely on charity.
#Remembrance2018 is a total sham . We have remembered nothing . The far right Nazis are on the march again across Europe and the US. I will never wear a red poppy. The only poppy I will wear is white. Oppose all death by war pic.twitter.com/gElVihZPwa
— Nick (@Nick_BLM) November 6, 2018
The best way to honour those who died after enduring violence and terror? Surely to do our best to prevent wars and violence in the future.
The idea that we need violence underestimates the human ability to communicate and lowers us to an unnecessary level of barbarism.
As for the colour of the poppy, everyone is paying their respects in their own way, no one is being disrespectful.
As Magid said about the colour of the flower – “It’s not that deep.”
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