Dwayne Hutchinson, Faith and Racial Justice Lead for LCI, reflects on Black History Month and tokenism.

Think back to the 1st of October this year. Whether it was unconscious, accidental or deliberate, some people and organisations may have approached Black History month like this…

“Quick, it’s October 2023.
Get the Black History resources out.
Even if we haven’t made anything for this year, get the resources that we used last year.
Put them up, fast!
Make sure you don’t damage them.
We can use the resources again next year.
Maybe the years after too.
We’ve spent so much time creating them.

Wow, this display looks great.
This should make everyone happy.
And I think we’ve covered the major topics for Black History as well.
Slavery, oppression and black people dying early. This is what we usually hear in Black History Month.
If we miss these points out, our display won’t reflect Black History properly.

Phew, I am so glad that we kept these resources from all those years ago.
I didn’t think these resources could last for so long.
If we keep them in good condition, it will save us so much time and effort creating another display for every Black History Month in October.
Plus, we don’t have much of an allocated budget to create a new one like we did a few years ago, so this will make our leadership and management team happy, to know that it won’t cost them a lot of money to meet our diversity targets.

Just stick this year’s date on top of the resources so that it looks relevant.
And then next year, we can do the same again.
I am so glad that we thought of this idea.

Remember, we have the new starters next week so it will be a fresh resource for them.
Those who have been here for years probably won’t even say anything if they see them again. They probably have forgotten the resources because it has been that long.

Oh, I almost forgot, make sure that we post a few social media posts.
It will be great for everyone to see what we have achieved this month.

Right, it’s almost the end of October.
We need to stop thinking about Black History and focus on another subject for November.
Black History Month is almost finished.

1st November

Black History Month finished yesterday.
Please make sure that no Black History resources are left on display.
We will put them back up next October.
Remember, we only promote, support and talk about Black History in October.
If we keep our displays up any longer, and make social media posts about Black History outside of October, it could make us look outdated.

Resources taken down.

Well done everyone. I think we did a great job this year to celebrate Black History Month.”

Okay. Let’s pause and reflect on these statements, thought patterns, and actions.

Black History Month. Almost finished? Black History. Finished by the end of October? Black History, only for one month? Well done everyone? What? Wait a good minute. This was not done well at all.

This is tokenism. This is all wrong.

Unfortunately, this happens far too often, year after year, and it is the approach of many people and organisations.

How on earth can everyone learn the in-depth history of Black People, who are the global majority of people, in 31 days? There is only so much anyone can learn about any subject in that amount of time, especially if they then forget it until next year.

Oh, wait another minute. I know what they can learn in 31 days. They can learn surface level history. Black people dying before their time. Oppression. Hear about slavery again, as if the history of Black people only included doom and gloom. In fact, almost every ethnicity on this earth has experienced slavery in one way or another. Now that’s not something that you hear every day about every ethnicity and slavery.

We need to remember that Black people contributed a lot to British history, but unfortunately, their stories were hidden. God created Black people years ago. Black people have continuously contributed to society for years. This can be seen in the Old Testament books, such as, Genesis, Isaiah, Jeremiah, to name a few of the Books with references to Black people, so be careful if someone tries to convince you believe that Black people didn’t exist until recent times. It is false information and there is so much to learn about Black people in history.

It is time up for this tokenistic approach of Black History in one month of the year.

Let every person, irrespective of whether they are Black, White or Brown, enjoy learning about the fundamental and aspiring records of Black people in history, all year long.

I encourage everyone to search about Black history from January to December, every year. Yes, there are painful parts, but it is a part of everyone’s journey.  There are so many amazing, fascinating historical stories about Black people that will inspire you, may surprise you, and will encourage you too.

Challenge yourself to go against the status quo, to engage with profound learning about Black history outside of 31 days in October. Prepare yourself to learn the great history of Black people across the world, and in the UK, in Leeds, and your local area too.

Happy Learning.