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'Should I give my MBE back,' asks Dotun Adebayo

HONOUR: Dotun holds his MBE, which was awarded to him in 2009 by the the Princess Royal, during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London

IT HAS not been the easiest thing to have the title MBE written after my name these past 10 years.

And this week, after the Windrush generation debacle, it has been harder than ever before. To the extent that my title hangs in the balance as I consider whether to send my gong back to Her Majesty in protest.

If I was a white person it would be a lot easier, I imagine, to have the Queen award you a medal in her Birthday or New Year’s Honours List. I reckon that’s a cakewalk for white folks, not least because they don’t have to deal with the militants, the conscious brothers and sisters and the policemen and women of black political correctness constantly on their case about how they must be ‘uncle Toms’ for allowing the acronym for Member of the British Empire to come anywhere near their names.

These commentators, most of them hostile (for who but a hater would even suggest that another ‘brotha’ is the spawn of Harriet Beecher Stowe), I usually dismiss as being entitled to their own view.

And I often disarm by reminding them that I am also on the side of fighting the struggle for black liberation, equal rights and justice, which they claim to be on. But when, the other night, one of the callers to my overnight phone-in show on BBC Radio London urged me to reconsider my MBE, I was forced to take stock and go home and speak to my missus and my daughters and to sit and philosophise over the pros and cons to B or nor to B an MBE.

You get me, tho, when I say life would be easier if I was a white guy. If the sentiments of that one caller (I think it was Trevor in Wandsworth, but I could be wrong) had not been echoed by a chorus of support from white listeners, I may not have felt as much a way as I felt on that night.

Because it’s one thing being challenged for who you are and what you represent by someone who you feel is entitled to challenge you (I’m not making a racist point, believe me, but I think when it comes to matters of what we rep as black folks, other black folks have every right and perhaps a duty to pull us up and say, “Yaow, yo, my bwoy, you are letting the side down, bredrin. Fix up. Look sharp....”) but when white folks start joining in and saying, “Oi, Dotun, wassamatter, how can you be MBE after the Windriush..?” well, you lose the will to live. Believe.

Don’t get me wrong, I did get support as well. From white and black folks, many of whom had missed the headlines when Her Majesty bestowed the honour upon me a decade ago for my “services to the publishing industry”.

My book publishing company The X Press changed not only the nature of the book industry in this country (when two ghetto boys form Tottenham, north London, start outselling the big names in the industry such as Penguin Books and Pan Macmillan, that is a revolution in itself), but don’t forget that we also got black boys reading, entering bookshops, studying, learning, writing and critically thinking.

We did the job of the schools without the thanks except for this little MBE ting from the Queen. Arguably the impact of our achievements are still being felt today. And, again, we showed that we can reclaim the narrative for our boys and girls from the bad bwoys on the streets who are telling them that the only way is DOWN – whether it’s being sent down for misbehaviour or being put down, six feet under and all of that.

It’s a template to save our mutes from disaster. That's why the Queen gave me the award. Now, you can imagine what my wife said when I went home after my night shift considering tossing my medal back over the gates of Buckingham Palace (Is that how you return your gong? I don’t know. Is that how The Beatles did it? Is there a guidebook as to how you formally send back a medal to Her Majesty? I just don’t know, but it’s one of the practicalities that you need to take into consideration be- fore you start jumping up and down in protest).

Well, if you can imagine what my wife said when I got home, you know her better than me. The last thing I expected her to say was “Leave me out of it, you make your own decisions about that.

Whatever I say, you will make your own decision anyway, so you may as well just make that decision and done.”

Anyway, so I turned to my younger daughter, as the older (wiser?) one is away at uni- versity. My lickle 17-year-old broke it down for me. “Dad, you didn’t get your award for the way the government treats black people.

Why can you not protest the way the government treats black people and still have an award that you got for your achievements in publishing? A British passport is also ‘awarded’, as those who have been treated badly over this Windrush issue can testify.

Why are you not asking the people who are urging you to hand in your MBE whether or not they will hand back their British passports in protest?”

Believe. That's how my 17year-old speaks. She was only seven when I took her to Buckingham Palace, but she does't suffer fools and has no time for unintellectualism (if that's a word). But is give ing up an MBE the same as giving up a passport?

Hear one joke though: Most white people never heard of the Windrush before last week. Even though it is a crucial part of the narrative of black people in this country. They didn’t even know about the 70th anniversary of that ship docking at Tilbury on June 21, 1948 with 491 men and one woman on board, with hopes in their eyes.

Joke or no joke, giving back my MBE is no laughing matter, which is why I am still considering it.

It is not a decision that I take lightly. Your thoughts please.

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