My issue with Black History Month


Across the country many people are celebrating the contributions of black people throughout history for Black History Month. It is celebrated annually in February in the United States and now in October here in the United Kingdom. Many universities, such as the University of Leeds, hold events related to the culture and traditions of the African diaspora.

There are, however, many issues with this. For me it is the idea that there is a designated month to celebrate the contributions of one particular race. This can only harm race relations between people as it justifies the use of identity politics. Identity politics incorporates the recognisation of people’s achievements as characterised by their race or gender. This is completely wrong, as a person’s achievement is isolated and should not be seen as more worthy because of a person’s skin colour. Individuals create and shape this world, not representatives of particular race.

Even if identity politics did have some merit, it does not justify the existence of a month celebrating one race. It goes against the ideals of racial equality and fosters resentment from others. It also begs the question why white English people cannot celebrate their own heritage in their own country, but I presume there may be calls of racism. This is sheer hypocrisy.

When one looks back at history, one would recognise that slavery and the civil rights struggles are prominent. But to teach that these events exclusively only occurred for black people is false. Indeed, the slave trade has not stopped today and occurs in many parts of the world, not to mention that people are still denied their basic human rights. It can often be hard to imagine that many people do not have the things we take for granted, and I feel it does a disservice to those who are being enslaved and denied a basic standard of living by upholding the view that these issues have occurred in the past, and how they specifically occurred for those who happen to be black. It is not the case and inequality still persists in this world.

Black History Month typically takes place in Westernised countries where we have access to a range of services to allow people to lead a decent life. Yet there seems to be a narrative that black people are still being victimised. I can only speak for the United Kingdom but this country could not be more tolerant of people from a range of ethnic backgrounds. In my view, there is no such thing as institutional racism and black people have as much opportunity as anyone else – excluding factors such as one’s socio-economic background. We should not judge on people’s race or skin colour, yet Black History Month makes a big deal out of people because of these factors. Identity politics needs to be stamped out and ideally Black History Month should be scrapped completely.

Elrica Degirmen

(Image courtesy of the Huffington Post UK)

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