Dear White People…

Here we are again, Black History Month (BHM): Or to some others, October, and 30 days before Halloween. For many people the very existence of BHM is a sign of social regression, a sign that we still think in terms of colour. Some even go as far as to argue it’s no longer necessary and that we live in a post-racial society, this is just dragging us back.

Although I was cringing heavily while writing that last sentence, I think it raises a very important topic, and the topic is ignorance. Ignorance is bliss, Ignorance is abundant, and Ignorance is life. The purpose here is not to create a hierarchy of ‘the ignorant and the non-ignorant’ because the truth is; everyone is ignorant to varying degrees. We are all selectively ignorant, we as human beings take interest in areas we are passionate about and tend to ignore the vast seas of knowledge available to us. In such a way I urge my readers to be compassionate towards those who are blissfully unaware. The girls in the club who wear bindis as decoration, the guys who when first see I am a black male, proceed to tell me how much they love hip-hop, or articles that will do anything to link the victory of Nadiya Hussain in the Great British Bake off to Islamic extremism.

However, I’m not here to discuss the line between appreciation of cultures and cultural appropriation or even begin to try and tackle socialized behaviours of racial stereotyping. What I am here to do is, cut through the bull and give my subjective take on reality. Black History Month, to whoever created it. Thank you, sincerely everyone who gives a damn. But, sorry in this day and age it’s just NOT ENOUGH. Firstly we as ‘black’ people are not and I repeat are NOT a homogenous group of people, we do not all share the same history. Our history does not begin at slavery and end with the Civil rights movement. Nor is it a romanticized and fetishized view of the ‘motherland’ full of ‘kings and queens’ and pyramids and inner cities with ‘black is beautiful’ plastered everywhere. NO. Sorry, but as necessary as those movements were to the re-actualization of the black identity in a racist system still operative to this day, it is not by any means an accurate representation of a diverse peoples. ‘We’ and I use that term loosely, ‘black people’ are just like every other person on this planet: a collection of individuals not bound by stereotypes and rigid institutional constructs. ‘History is told through the eyes of the victors’ a quote I often resurrect when explaining to people who ask why we still have BHM: Because our history is riddled by slavery, colonization, institutional racism: Because our history is complex and multi-dimensional: Because we can tell our own story. This is not about black and white, this about the accurate re-telling of history, not black history: human history.


Sifan Zelalem

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