Reflections on Race

After attending the Cultural Perspectives course 'Race Relations in Britain', Alaa El-Hannach considers more closely some of the issues raised.

After attending the CP ‘Race Relations in Britain’ the argument of black history being taught in the British curriculum was brought to my attention. At first I came to what I thought was an obvious conclusion that, yes black history is most definitely an important part of both British history and culture so should therefore be a part of the curriculum. As the weeks have passed I have listened to different opinions and perspectives on whether it should be a part of our curriculum or not. The multiple of diverse opinions enabled me to shape my own.

When the group was asked what we did to commemorate Black History Month the common answer within the class was, ‘I didn’t even know it was Black History Month.’ I was unfortunately one of these people. Having not been aware that it was Black History Month because, the internet is a very Americanised environment (their designated month is February) and also because school did not advertise it. I then asked why Black History Month was not incorporated someway into Harris Westminster, I was informed that it was Mr Handscombe’s viewpoint, that it was perhaps not a positive thing to marginalise the entirety of black history into one month. This triggered me to consider my previous experiences of black history month. The names Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks spring to mind. Nothing else.

For me, Black History Month is the same recycled script loosely summarising Post World War Two America and the odd mention of the Windrush Generation. In comparison to what we are able to know of Henry VIII, his pastimes, hobbies and secret relationships. My point is black history like any other history has existed for thousands of years across the globe. Interestingly, Omenyemen Ifoden from the CP gave me an insight to why she thinks black history ought to be taught, ‘It is vital that black history is taught is taught in schools and its imperative to the fight against racism. Only when people are educated can they make the changes that are required. If you don’t know what you do wrong or what has been done wrong in the past, change is impossible. Furthermore, it should be (black history) seamlessly woven into our curriculum.’ As Omenyemen describes weaving black history into the curriculum shouldn’t be a complex thing, whilst learning about the British aftermath of World War Two, the racism that the people from the Caribbean endured in West London could easily be implemented.

The most intriguing part of this CP was the opposing views within the class. This was extremely evident between Jessica and Omenyemen. On the matter of black history being taught in schools Jessica holds the viewpoint that, ‘schools shouldn’t teach black history unless it’s about the positive impacts that black people had made. Being educated about the slave trade or certain aspects of colonialism reinforces the negative perception of black people and their history.’ This does make sense. As the names that kept popping up in my experience of black history month were two civil rights activists. Why when we study black history is there an emphasis on the fight for equality and the slave trade? It is as if we only study black people when there is affiliation with white people.  Whilst of course we should be knowledgeable about the fight for black equality, should we not too celebrate Charles Drew, Philip Emeagwali and Daniel Hale Williams? I bet those names don’t ring a bell.