Black History Month — End the delusion of inclusion

Take up the mantle of trend-setting Windrush elders

By Thomas L Blair 19 October 2018 ©

Dawn Butler/Evening Standard

Dawn Butler MP claims that “teaching about black history could stop young black boys from being excluded from schools”. I couldn’t disagree more with this inclusionist delusion, reported in the Evening Standard 11 October.

Black History Month was never about simplistic hopes. Rather, the American original annual observance had three self-affirming goals.

One, of course, aimed to positively re-write the school books and combat discriminatory policies.  But, USA founder Carter G Woodson and campaigners also urged action against brutal segregation and second-class citizenship.  Racism violated national morality. And, importantly, he added, celebrants must rebuild Black people’s status and confidence.

“If you teach the Negro that he has accomplished as much good as any other race he will aspire to equality and justice without regard to race…”  wrote Woodson, a dean of American scholars and foremost intellectual in The Mis-Education of the Negro.

The Delusion of Inclusion Revealed

Therefore, Black British politicians and celebrants should revise their emphasis on single issue integrationist educational debates. Ample evidence supports this view in the Black British context

In the 1920s Jamaican-born Marcus Mosiah Garvey galvanised Black Britain and the diaspora when he thundered “Up, up, you mighty race! You can accomplish what you will.”

In 1987 firebrand Bernie Grant and the Greater London Council’s Strategic Policy Unit condemned the system as ill-equipped to implement Black History initiatives. How can it with a miserable two-digit percentage of Black teachers, and white teachers with their low-expectations of Black pupils.

In the early 2000s, Diane Abbott MP’s work on the London Schools and the Black Child initiative made a crucial point. She targeted the lamentable state of the educational system expected to teach Black history.

More recent studies highlight the causes of the high rates of expulsions of mainly Black boys. The DfES’ 2004 Survey of Pupils and Teachers found that 42 percent of African-Caribbean heritage pupils in London felt that they were less respected than fellow whites by their teachers.

The Major Barriers and Solutions Are Plain Enough.

Black students entering schools are bright, intelligent and enthusiastic. Many will have fantastic careers ahead of them. (In spite of the instability of their lives and neighbourhoods.) However, the system fails to prepare too many of them to overcome their circumstances. A tragedy embedded in the school system and curriculum.

Worse yet, this failure has long lasting dangerous effects. It encourages ignorance and ill-discipline. Thereby condemning Black youth and communities to low-income jobs and welfare dependency. Serious barriers in the Information Age.

Therefore, inclusionist campaigners must change tactics. From unheeded pleas to power-holders to become agents of systemic change. Their tasks are clear:

  • Call for root and branch reform of education policies.
  • Increase the training, recruitment and retention of Black staff at all levels.
  • Ensure there are role models, mentoring programmes, focus groups and action plans in place.
  • Promote inclusion and diversity in town halls, the principal’s office and the school room.

Pressing Need for New Activism

Moreover, they must commit to Woodson’s emphasis on social action. To Black people in the diaspora, he gave dignity, a pride of heritage and knowledge that a better future is within their grasp.

The best civic-minded Black teachers will establish Community Schools to fulfill the legacy.

  • Meeting the needs of students and parents and the communities in which their schools are located, and
  • Ensuring their physical and intellectual survival within the broader society.

Like the trend-setting early Windrush pioneers, with their parent-led supplementary evening and Saturday schools, youth sports and music clubs, reading groups and self-funded voluntary mentors, the new Black History Month campaigners should:

  • Respond to need.
  • Build community.
  • Lift others onto your shoulders.
  • Bring more people into the fold.
  • Apply historical solutions that are relevant today.

Now is the time.

Campaigners should re-write the Black History Month script.  Take up the mantle of leadership. The mission is to resource, empower and support developing communities.

A Baobab tree is as Strong as it Roots

We welcome your comments.

For the Chronicleworld back-stories on Black History Month, please scroll to and read our articles. More to come.