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Black History Month – Why the HELL do we still need it?

October 2, 2019

On Wednesday 2nd October the United Kingdom had our first Black Member of Parliament lead the questions from the opposition bench for Prime Minister’s Questions.  A historic moment, more poignant for happening in Black History Month.  Hurrah, celebration, break out the party poppers, victory dance!

Those of you who have read my blog before (and the title of this one, I’m not subtle) may realise I am not cheering this event.  I’m fuming about it.  WHY THE HELL HAS IT TAKEN UNTIL OCTOBER 2019 FOR A BLACK PERSON, OR FOR ANY PERSON OF COLOUR, TO LEAD THE QUESTIONS FOR PMQ?

Dianne Abbott

Official Twitter feed photo.

I am pleased it happened, Dianne Abbott is a superb orator (if anyone points out her speech impediment please remove your ableist arse from my readership right now; listen to what she says not how she says it), a wise and witty woman, and is surprisingly short in real life (I have had the great pleasure of meeting her at a Matchwomen’s Festival a couple of years ago. She was with Shami Chakrabarti.  I squee’d a lot).

The theme of this year’s Black History Month is Black Migration.  Frankly, black migration is essential to the history of this country in that it fuelled and supported, and still does, the economic viability of this country.  We would not be a wealthy country were it not for exploiting the colonies, enslaving the people, utilising the divide-and-conquer system perfected by all empires to ensure wages (if paid) are low and the disenfranchised are too busy fighting each other to punch up instead of sideways or down.  The ladder is more slippery the nearer the ground you get and sometimes those punches are all that keeps you falling.

We should not be having ‘firsts’ of this kind in this day and age.  The UK has always been a country of migration, in and out, and there have been people of all racial identities, differing cultural backgrounds and defined as BAME in the UK.  The history of the UK is one built on migration.  It is white privilege and blinkered bias which leads all our social and political institutions into teaching us throughout our life that ‘white is right’ for all things.  We are imbued with prejudice from birth, and have to unlearn our biases throughout our lives.  It shouldn’t be this way, but it is.

It is incumbent on us all to unpack our privileges, whatever they may be (I’m white, heterosexually identified, cisgender – I have a lot to unpack).  To be an ally that is the very least we should do.  Being an ally is what every white person MUST do.

That means over-representation in all public documentation, films, TV, books, all mainstream media.  That means affirmative action in all jobs, positions of power and authority, political appointments and so on.  It means addressing the implicit bias with which we are ingrained.

It means sitting down and shutting up when a person with the lived experience of the bigotry is speaking their truth.

So I am absolutely furious about the fact we have a Black History Month because WE SHOULD NOT NEED IT.  But until there is no prejudice, I am glad we do.  Maybe in my lifetime, this will change… but I’m not holding my breath.



From → Ideology, political

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