Order of St Michael and St George racist honour
Society and Social Structures

The Order of St Michael and St George: a racist Royal honour, or just apocalyptic dualism?

As the statues fall, the expurgation expands. Someone has noticed (quite impressively) that The Order of St Michael and St George (instituted in 1818) depicts a white St Michael standing on the neck of a black Satan. “This is a highly offensive image,” they say. “It is also reminiscent of the recent murder of George Floyd by the white policeman in the same manner presented here in this medal.” And so they have started a petition: “We the undersigned are calling for this medal to completely redesigned in a more appropriate way and for an official apology to be given for the offence it has given!”

Yes, there’s an exclamation mark.

And there might well be, because, oh!, this campaign is a shriek of an absurdity and a vertex of ridiculousness. Black and white dualism is as ancient as the Ancient Near East: when the earth was without form and void, there was darkness upon the face of the deep. And when the Spirit of God moved, He spoke the light into existence: ‘And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.’ And in this light there is truth and virtue and the heavenly host; and in the darkness is sin and evil and the doctrine of demons. We moved from the Dark Ages toward the Age of Enlightenment; from obscurity to clarity; from nightfall to morning.

Evil is darkness and shadows; good is whiteness, purity and innocence. We dream of a white Christmas; the President lives in the White House; Snow White is radiant and so is the Pope; pacifist poppies are white; wedding dresses are white; white lies are excusable; Mary’s lamb had a fleece…

Did you ever see ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons‘ with Colonel White and Captain Black? Who was the goody? What colour do we associate with mourning? You may not remember Black Monday 1652, but you will recall Black Wednesday 1992. It wasn’t a joyous time at all. Black magic is maleficent, and white witches are good. ‘Black fasts’ were designed to secure the death of an enemy. Cowboys are white, and Indians are black-ish. Luke Skywalker fights in white and Darth Vader stomps around in black. Should there be a petition for this racist imagery to be re-engineered to reflect the fact that black lives matter?

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him (Rev 12:7-9).

The Archangel Michael is often depicted in apocalyptic Christian art standing over a serpent, a dragon, or the defeated figure of Satan, whom he sometimes pierces with a lance. Michael is a Son of Light, and Satan is a black soul burning in hellfire. You may think this demonology a false dichotomy, or believe such dualism to be childish, but it is simply so: whiteness is purity; snow-white is perfection. Christ was wrapped in white linen; the planes of heaven are illuminated with white light and delight.

My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
At random from the truth vainly express’d;
For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

If the purge is to eradicate every expression of whiteness over subjugated or absent blackness, there will be no end to it. Can’t we just grow up and be nice to one another?