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Why the 'race card' matters

Date
08 October 2021

Meshi Taka calls on everyone to join the conversation on race for Black History Month.

Why the 'race card' matters
Wales is leading the conversation on race with changes to its curriculum and recognition of headteacher and activist Betty Campbell with a statue. Image credit: Monumental Welsh Women/Twitter

This October we are celebrating Black History Month here in the UK.

Not the race card again! Have you heard that before?

I have, more times than I care to count.

Here’s the thing; it’s usually from friendly, sociable and up-for-banter normal sorts.

Just normal people who do not understand why it’s such a big deal.

The importance of education

My learning on Black history began in my childhood, one of my fondest memories were my high-pitched and excitable debates with my dad. I was an avid reader and through textbooks and fictional novels, together we tackled colonisation with books like Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and apartheid with Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams.

I’ve always been captivated by global news and African history. From the trans-Saharan gold trade, to the Ethiopian and Malian Empires, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the colonial era and fight for freedom.

I also remember being frustrated with how partial the education on the Black history narrative seemed to be. Several decades have passed and our historical identity (especially outside the USA) is still vastly undeveloped.

The conversation on race needs to unite

The conversation on race has become impassioned and sometimes controversial, with feelings of betrayal, dismissal and not being valued. I have felt many of these emotions, particularly over the last year.

It has become divisive instead of uniting; with feelings of distrust on one side and the perception of being attacked on the other.

All this while going through the unprecedented bulldozer that is the Covid-19 pandemic.

At times, it has felt extremely challenging to celebrate the good work that continues to be done on fairness, inclusion and respect across all spaces in our society.

"The sun does not forget a village just because it is small”

Famous African proverb

Don't avoid the conversation on race

This year’s chosen theme for Black History Month is ‘Proud To Be’ and with it for me, a moment of reflection.

It may sometimes feel like a colossal challenge to join the conversation on race, but avoiding it does not resolve anything.

Following a survey of its members, ICE launched its Anti-Racism toolkit earlier this year to help people join that conversation.

I was also extremely pleased to read recently that Wales will become the first UK nation to make teaching Black, Asian and minority ethnic people’s history compulsory from 2022. I really hope the other nations follow very soon.

Every little helps

More and more organisations are joining the fight against racism.

Kudos to local and national champions working tirelessly with marginalised and underrepresented groups, providing a platform to educate and engage on fairness, inclusion and respect.

I’m proud of the allies that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us.

I’m reminded of why it’s important to share our lived experiences and add our voices to include Black British history in our schoolbooks and curriculum.

No matter how small or large the contribution, every little helps!

How much do we really know about Black British history? As Black and British, I am very much still a student.

So, if you don’t really get why the ‘race card’ matters?

  • Be curious, talking helps.
  • Learn more about our lived experiences (no judgement).
  • Open your mind to a different reality.
  • Help update the history books.

PS: ‘No offence but’ rarely ends with a positive outcome #justsaying.

To move forward, we must learn from what has come before us and we can do this together. As the African proverb says: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

  • Meshi Taka, Associate Director, Waterman Aspen