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The 'Black Power' Salute at the 1968 Olympic Games -- The National Museum of African American History and Culture (DC). Photo: Ron Cogswell / Flickr / cropped from original / CC BY 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

The 'Black Power' Salute at the 1968 Olympic Games -- The National Museum of African American History and Culture (DC). Photo: Ron Cogswell / Flickr / cropped from original / CC BY 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

Floyd Codlin responds to right wing attacks on Black History Month

Black History Month in the UK has come under more scrutiny than usual this year. The reason for this has been that many activists have linked it to continued demands to “decolonise the curriculum” following Black Lives Matter.

A number of institutions and corporations such as the Tate Gallery and Sainsbury’s have given a very performative and public support to BLM & BHM. In turn this has led to sneering from the right that these institutions are “virtue signalling” and surrendering to a “woke” mob.  

Following a Sainsbury’s announcement that racists were not welcome in its shops, Laurence Fox threatened to boycott the supermarket because because according to him, this amounted to “racial segregation” and division. Fox is a man who calls’ himself a “passionate liberal” and leader of the “Reclaim Party” that he founded.

In a six-hour debate in House of Commons on October 20th 2020, ironically supposed to commemorate Black History Month, the Tory Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch chose instead to attack it. She insisted that,

“We do not want to see teachers teaching their pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt, any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

Black History Month has had a relatively short history in the UK, only being celebrated officially since 1987, but it has taken a lot longer for it to be taken seriously. Even then, despite what the likes of Fox, Toby Young, Spiked, Spectator, Daily Mail, and Express might think, many workplaces and institutions only pay lip service to it.

But it seems that this year, even such tokenistic gestures are proving far too strong for many on the ‘respectable’ right, in light of Black Lives Matter.

For those of us in diaspora, this is a rare moment, where we find out not only about our ancestors abroad, but also the role our ancestors played in making Britain. It goes beyond Windrush, though the scandal of that is neither forgotten nor forgiven. It shows us our own context, within our own shaping of the narrative with less of an external interlocutor mediating that experience. 

Black History Month matters because it is a means by which we get our intellectual and creative efforts recognised. Because it’s when the world sees that we can do more than just sports or dance (there was always more to us than that, but you get the point). Because it’s when our calls to decolonise the curriculum, get treated just that little bit more seriously.

Black History Month also matters as a means of connecting the struggle of our ancestors, the fight of our parents, with the unlocked, fierce and focused determination of the current younger generation in BLM. Black History Month matters because we make the connections that brings memories back from the spirits and mists in acts of remembrance as we give them back their voices as we say the names of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Brianne Taylor, Cynthia Jarret, Cherry Groce.

All of the above and more is why Black History matters.

Floyd is writing in a personal capacity as a PCS Culture Black member.

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