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There’s more to Black History Month than celebration

There’s more to Black History Month than celebration

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday October 23 2019

This year’s Black History Month theme is the invaluable contributions made by inspiring women of the Windrush generation. In light of the Government mistreatment that was exposed in the Windrush scandal, it is important to recognise the integral role of the Windrush generation and Black British communities in shaping British society. When their very sense of identity and belonging is called into question by the hostile policies instigated by the Home Office, Black History Month is an important reminder of the need to both recognise the contributions that these communities have made and to highlight the injustices that they have faced.

A series of Black History Month events this year have been organised to showcase the indispensable contributions of the Windrush generation and their central role in shaping civic, social, and political structures of British society today. Yet, while such events are critical in celebrating Black culture, heritage, and talent, the month is also a time where honest discussions about prevailing racial discrimination should take place.

However, the Downing Street Black History Month event recently came under criticism in light of the Government’s failure to discuss critical issues, such as Windrush Scandal, the Home Office’s Hostile Environment Policy, and the Grenfell tragedy. The event was argued to be a hollow publicity stunt in a context where the Government has been accused of implementing policies that are founded upon racism and the maligning of minority communities. Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s failure to attend compounded the event’s image as a shallow display with little genuine Government commitment.

On a larger scale, this is reflective of a broader widespread reluctance to commit to meaningful change due to the implicit reality that substantial engagement requires an uncomfortable confrontation with Britain’s role and complicity in injustices that have been committed against Black and other minority communities.

Black History Month is not just about Black history, but also the present and current experiences of personal and structural racism, which far from being eradicated, are entrenched within political structures, institutions, and policies. Acknowledgement of Black history is to ensure that historical injustices are not repeated, yet the Government has thus far failed to adequately address the Windrush Scandal, which has profoundly impacted Black communities, with many victims still awaiting the compensation due to them. Widespread concern that the Government has not sufficiently reviewed its hostile environment legislation has been further compounded by renewed fears that the Home Secretary’s promises to end free movement could risk “another Windrush”.

To tackle such toxic policies is to address the structural mechanisms that foster discrimination and to ensure that such gross atrocities are not repeated. Efforts to combat racism and dismantle the structures that uphold it requires a collective and holistic commitment to acknowledging and accounting for past and present processes and impacts of racism. MEND therefore urges the Government to engage with a wide spectrum of community representatives in order to honestly approach the continuing legacy of our colonial history and to ensure that meaningful efforts are being made to tackle racisms that remain embedded within our political, social, civic, economic, and cultural structures.


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