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Do we still need Black History Month?

CONTROVERSIAL: Tommie Smith's Black Power salute with John Carlos atop the medal podium caused controversy at the 1968 summer Olympics

Each week we ask two writers with contrasting opinions to answer the question...


YES
ALEX MCDONALD

TO SUGGEST that there is no need to create a separate event for black history is to ignore the place of black people in the UK. Black Brits are still marginalised in our society and that marginalisation still needs to be called out. Keeping the cultural contributions of the West Indies and Africa visible is important as well as highlighting the struggles and injustices that have been faced in order to come to some level of acceptability in British society.

Without Black History Month, we would move closer to that Tory monocultural paradise where black people become ‘integrated’ and therefore invisible. History in Britain is the history of Tudor monarchs, industrial pioneers, aristocracy – aside for a passing reference to slavery (which is of course valiantly defeated by white abolitionists). The history of Britain is upper class and white. That’s not the real history of most people in Britain, let alone black Britons. If anything we need more history months for other underrepresented groups in society.

There are schools in this country that have a majority of black pupils who will still be taught a curriculum that emphasises British history in terms of white aristocracy - if all they know of black heritage is slavery, what kind of mindset does that create? And conversely, why shouldn’t white Britons understand the cultural history of the Windrush generation or the context of African-Caribbean immigration? We are taught American history and some aspects of European history - why not the not-too-distant history of a significant part of the population?

But our leaders are still invariably white, middle-class and unsympathetic to the narratives that most black Britons (most British people in fact) experience.

They won’t accept that true black history can be taught as part of Britain’s historical narrative.

As such, we all still need Black History Month, because it’s going to be a long time before our monocultural political elites allow the real history of Britain, the history of the people who inhabit these isles, to be told.

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NO
VALENTINA ETAGHENE

Black History should be acknowledged 365 days of the year and not on the basis of 31 days in October. Have we not impacted history enough to have more than one month per year?

I ask the Education Secretary Michael Gove: why am I not encouraged to learn about the most positive and influential figures of black history that paved the way for our society?

There is more to black history than slavery.

I am referring to the successful entrepreneurs and inventors in history, such as Madam C.J Walker whose business in 1919 was worth over one million dollars. Why do we cram all these influential people under one month? What happens after October has passed?

London is a multicultural city with more than a third of Londoners coming from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, according to figures released this year. In London’s state schools 53.9% of pupils attending are from minority ethnic backgrounds according to the school census published in 2010.

At present, the media tries to portray London as having a strong affiliation with knife and gun crime, especially targeting the black community. The young adolescents who attend these state schools have no idea of how hard their ancestors had to work, to fight for a right to be heard in the ‘noise’ of racism.

I strongly believe that if the school curriculums were engaged in demonstrating all accounts of history, and I am referring to Black History, Asian History, European and American History then everyone in class would be able to relate and feel they were a part of world history. And that is important.

So yes, I can understand why Black History Month is relevant or has been in the past. However, it’s 2012 and we are in need of a change.

We need to stamp out the ‘month’ and leave it simply as Black History for 12 months of the year.

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