OPINION - Black History Month feels forgotten, so let’s change it to make it count
Black History Month has been part of the fabric of the UK since the late Eighties — so why does it feel like this is the quietest one I can remember?
After the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, the fight against racism got the equivalent of a major adrenaline shot. People around the world sat up and listened. In the UK this meant we began to address more seriously the legacy of colonialism and slavery.
Now, as far as I can tell, all those good intentions to fundamentally change institutional racism are going up in smoke. Yes, there were some obviously ineffectual gestures — the black square social media movement rubbish — but I noticed a real appetite for change at the top of big organisations.
Now, instead, Black History Month is just highlighting for me how society has switched back off.
What I mean is this: millions of people are dying in the Horn of Africa from starvation. Mass rape is committed in Ethiopia. Our government as well as our media say little. These are instances of mostly black people suffering greatly, but we pay scant attention.
On top of that, Black History Month — after all the hype and grandstanding — has also returned to being a month where we have to do the work ourselves again. As we do everyday.
For black people are often given the double burden of experiencing racism and discrimination, and then being expected to fix it.
Most of the requests I have to speak during this month show this perfectly. I have been asked to give up my time and educate mostly white people about “why they should care”. I have not bothered to reply to most enquiries, but when I have, I have made it clear how offensive it is that they seek my time and energy for free a few days before an annual event to do the work they should be doing every day. And for Black History Month they should be doing twice that work.
It’s all well and good addressing our history in this country — we cannot and must not erase it — but obviously the focus must be on the future. We have much to be proud of, but we need to step up our game.
The backsliding is not easy to stop. But here’s one thing I would like to suggest — a theme for next year’s Black History Month. This is something international women’s month does and it lends a real practical purpose to the celebrations.
We should get planning for it now because diversity is our greatest asset in this country — we need to invest in it so that it delivers for us all. Otherwise we risk losing those crucial breakthrough gains that we made just two years ago.
In other news...
Hailey Bieber and Selena Gomez posed for pictures at the Academy Museum Gala and the internet thinks this is news.
If you are not up to date with the tabloids — who can’t get over the fact that two women once dated the same man — let me fill you in. Hailey Bieber is married to Justin Bieber, who as a teen once dated Selena Gomez. Men can be free to date who they want, it seems, and be asked about it for years trouble-free, but not women.
In a recent interview, Hailey talked about the constant narrative on social media around her and Selena — a narrative twisted into a story about them being at war with each other. These people have moved on — and we should do the same.
We don’t need to be doing what we did to Britney Spears to another generation of young women.