Black British History Month. Just for a month though.

Ok, so clearly there are a number of contested truth claim making debates we can have with this one. Or we can just accept the spectacle that is a temporal, spatial, intellectual and historical compartmentalisation of the distorted re-configuring of all historical relations. I’ve just read these two really interesting articles:

An article by Zak Cheney-Rice http://mic.com/articles/111890/12-reasons-we-definitely-don-t-need-black-history-month-anymore

An article by Gary Younge http://www.thenation.com/article/white-history-101/

They are quite oppositional in many ways, but I agree with them both. That makes me a considered, thoughtful, intellectually ruminating but ultimately un-decisive observer at best, and a fence sitting, ivory tower occupying, position-phobic at worst. Actually, though, I think its OK to agree with both of them. Here’s why.

I can sympathize, and indeed agree with ALL the points in Cheny-Rice’s article, because quite simply of the unavoidable truth of racialised experiences in the world we know. Representations, myths, stereotypes, criminal and justice systems, official policies, economic and social inequalities, violence – daily and intermittent, these are lived realities of black people the world over. So, what function does have a black history month serve? It provides some much needed educational benefits to people everywhere about ‘black’ achievements (what on earth is a black achievement?), it raises the profile of black people who have  done wonderful things in history, in all sorts of fields such as science, technology, literature, arts, humanities, etc. BUT this is ALL TEMPORALLY located – and SPATIALLY segregated, in minds as much as in space. For one month of the year, we can enter a psycho-social comfort zone, where the troubling and troublesome spectacle of blackness (and all the other racialised identities this container can hold) is restrained, kept in a semblance of order so that fragile, sensitive, mainly white middle class minds (and I DONT mean white racially, I mean the symbolic and practical existence of privilege) can process the placement of blackness within the ‘Proper’ schema of Proper History. What do I mean? If allows, for a limited time only, for the blackness in history to be shown. After this period, the ‘black’ parts of history are placed back in psychic boxes, and shut away (so that we can consume the now ever present, exciting, ‘normalised’ and less troubling history docu-drama-tainment on our TVs).

The WHOLE of human history has been about the meeting of difference, either through conquest and murder, science and religion, or trade and conquest, over long periods of time. That means that embedded inside the so called ‘DNA’ of the very epistemic roots of our existence, is the idea of PROCESSING DIFFERENCE. History is not, by and large, WHITE.!!! Nor is Black history by and large black. It is history, but as Gary Younge eloquently tells us in the second article, we all need to explore be subjected to history that is ACCURATE, and involves Black and White lives, together. Inside the history of the UK, there are many different racial, cultural and ethnic hues very clearly situated in texts and accounts, but for some reason they disappear, a bit like Race does in some other areas (see my paper here http://diversityhealthcare.imedpub.com/schizophrenia-and-psychosis-the-magical-and-troubling-disappearance-of-race-from-the-debate.php?aid=3730).

As Younge writes, Black History Month helps clear a space to relate the truth about the past so we might better understand the present and navigate the future.” and clearly, doing this over a period of 28 days is not enough. And here lies the problem: “The very notion of black and white history is both a theoretical nonsense and a practical necessity.” and it is indeed a problem, because although race is a social and political construct, a discursively formed regime of truth, a non-sense, it also, a very REAL, VIOLENT INJUSTICE, to all human societies, not just black people. So we need the exposure to the ideas, the narratives, the histories, in a word the LIVES of people. As Younge writes, Black history isn’t  always told in a passive voice, In removing the instigators, the historians remove the agency and, in the final reckoning, the historical responsibility.”

And for that reason, I can understand the Black History month, its necessity, its importance, and the way in which it CAN, POSSIBLY, mobilise an engagement with wider communities of people, with these important realities. But. But. there’s always a but. I don’t think it works this way with the White Privilege Racial imaginary. Because it reduces, segregates, offers a BLACK RACIAL LIFE SNAPSHOT ,  and then the intellectual camera lens, the racial lens, moves back to the main subject of the picture. The Unraced nature of Whiteness, in all its non-apparent-ness. Because that, as Dyer (1997) has written is the nature of the power of being just human – not being ‘raced’, as non-white people are, means that you can claim a stake in the process of ‘being’. By being raced, we are, in all aspects of emotional, psychological, social and political processes, having to speak to, from and at a position of ‘race’. Whether we like it or not.

For these reasons, I think Black History Month is a problematic relation. By changing the nature of history itself,  I’ll quite Younge here, it would give:

white people options and role models and all of us inspiration while relieving the burden on African-Americans to recast the nation’s entire racial history in the shortest month of the year. White people, like black people, need access to a history that is accurate, honest and inclusive. Maybe then it would be easier for them, and the rest of us, to make history that is progressive, antiracist and inclusive.”

My issue is that institutions, mainly academic, mainly White, reproduce this compartmentalisation, and buy into the convenient, one-stop shopping trip for black-experiences. Perhaps its part of the neo-liberal, fragmentation of black unity, that Sivandandan so appropriately remarked on in 2008; perhaps it is really well intentioned; If its the latter, its not good enough. We, black and white, who are part of a race-class consciousness that sees history as an ever changing, materially located, discursive act of power relations, and which necessarily involves the social actions of ALL its actors want to see a different engagement with ‘histories’. Sociology, philosophy and other social sciences are no saints here either – they have all played dangerous roles and continue to exacerbate some of the these problems in the racial-writing of history.

Black history month? Maybe. I think I prefer a ‘contested histories’ month, year, decade… or maybe just EVERYONE’S HISTORY.

Breaking news – Asian man earns unlimited British-ness – Ministers said to be “very happy”.

Breaking news from a small town in Lancashire, Lancstown. A 45 year old Asian man felt compelled to turn his daughter into the police, after fearing she had been radicalised by anti-democratic, jihadist and anti-western influences. “I just heard what she was saying, and saw how she was acting, and just got really suspicious. It’s the only way, it’s the British way. I mean, you can’t trust anybody…it was really difficult, but after hearing all this stuff on the news, and David Cameron, and Theresa May, about British values, and being good Muslims, I just thought, well, it’s the right thing to do.” The man’s daughter was held at a specialist anti-terror intelligence unit where she will be questioned for an undetermined length of time, in an undisclosed location, by any undetermined number of special operatives. When asked what specifically raised his suspicion, the 45 year old father said “well, I got back from work, and asked her how her day had been and she just kept saying ISIS, ISIS, ISIS. I asked her what she meant, and she just said ‘ISIS’. Well, that was it for me”. We were invited into the home to speak to the other family members. The girl in question also has two older siblings, a brother and sister, who are distraught at the sudden arrest of the youngest member of this close knit family. On speaking to them, they were understandably upset and puzzled as they tried to make sense of it all in discussions and conversations with each other. The suspected terrorist’s older sister posed a question and asked her brother if he thought this was just unacceptable.
His response was “Aye, sis. Aye.” The case continues as the 3 year old is questioned about her potential connections to terror cells.

Plot to kidnap 300 youngsters revealed – the middle classes say “we wont stand for this.”

News agencies in the UK today reported alarming news of a widespread plot to kidnap 7 to 12 year olds from several locations in the South East. The plot apparently came to light after a you tube video was leaked to news agencies in Surrey and Kent. The video containing disturbing and graphic language contained threats made by a masked man, holding a dummy of a 7 year old. The man whose identity is yet to be revealed insisted that his group of activists were acting on the “orders and wishes of a higher power, as written in the holy text”.

Concerned citizens in Kent and Surrey were interviewed last night as news of the kidnap plot came to light. One alarmed citizen said “we wont stand for this. Its an abuse of rights. They’re so young, they have their future ahead of them, and then someone comes along, out of the blue, and trashes their future. We, as a people wont stand for it, and we must do something. Its the right thing to do, its the Christian thing to do.”

Other concerned dog owners of animals between the ages of 7 and 12 have formed local activist groups to try and maintain a vigilance against any future threats of kidnapping dogs in the region.

Other news today, some young girls, somewhere else, were taken and sold into lives of torture, slavery, sexual abuse, and life long domination. The president of somewhere else, Mr Goodnight William, speaking from his presidential palace, said it was not nice. Major supermarket chains today have reported a 28% increase in the sale of Organic and Free Trade products, with Nigerian products showing a marked increase in popularity in Surrey and Kent.