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Why we need black British writers more than ever

Multiple award-winning UK author Zadie Smith (photo credit: Flavorwire)

BRITAIN IS on the cusp of a change and the black voice is being drowned out in white noise. In this Brexit era/Trump administration, it can be argued that the black voices that have managed to be heard, are being shut down by the far right. There is a notable trend of politics taking a protectionism path - eroding all the good work in the advancement for equality.

Black British people need a voice more than ever. We all know about the glass ceiling, we all know about the oppression but what some don’t realise is that the wave of change we all worked so hard for, is taking a dramatic u-turn.

The present political situation for black minorities is echoing the days of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X where the struggle was at your doorstep. In fact, it can be argued that modern Britain is drawing certain parallels with the xenophobic Britain of a bygone era. With the current trend of the far right building in power in the west, one wonders where this will lead us, whether we can have a United Britain, and whether Britain can indeed be great ‘again’.

Unlike America, the British civil rights movement is not well-documented in schools and so the public at large do not have an adequate level of awareness and understanding of how Britain came to be multicultural. Black Britain is also lacking the same level of exposure through documentaries and other cultural artefacts in comparison to America; reinforcing the idea that racism in Britain was more insidious than it was in America - up until Brexit.

THE WRITE STUFF: Author Alex Wheatle MBE

To help bridge this gap, black British writing is a tool, a jigsaw piece within the overall picture, and is something that we all need to use to highlight our diversity and our strength, to quell the growing fear of difference, and to help us understand each other as human beings.

It’s not just black British writing we need, it’s writing from different groups of our multicultural society. We need to hear each other's stories. Not to build up a ‘tolerance’ for each other, but an appreciation. Only then can we love and appreciate ourselves as one United Britain - and make Britain truly great. Not the old ‘great’ which has connotations of Empire, suffering and oppression, but a new great with connotations of freedom, equality and harmony.

The glass ceiling for non-white writers needs to be brought down rather than made more impenetrable by dividing walls. We are still in need of progress, of education, of the evolution of ideas. Doors need to be opened rather than shut down because of fear and greed.

Life demands we must stand up to meet the dangers that threaten an equal and harmonious existence - all of us. Black, white and Asian. We don’t need to be building any walls, we need to be taking them down and uniting under the banner of the human race. Then, and only then can Britain and America truly become an example of what a great society is.

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