Opinion | Black History Month is not BME month


By Siavash Minoukadeh, Entertainment Subeditor

Black History Month (BHM) is a celebration of the contributions black people have made to society and a recognition of the hardships they have faced and continue to face. I am not Rachel Dolezal or Stacey Dash - my ethnicity has never been under question. Therefore, it should probably follow that, despite the fact that I am from a minority ethnic background, I should not be included in BHM narratives.

This all seems blindingly obvious. And yet, apparently I need to remind people of this. From councils to the Army, more and more institutions are re-branding BHM to ‘Diversity Month’ or ‘BME History Month’.

Black History Month | Bristol SU

To understand the issue with this, take a minute to unpack what the term BME means: it includes anybody who is not part of the ethnic majority in the UK - anyone who is not white. That’s 70% of the global population. A month dedicated to the history of this group of the world may as well be just called history month, there’s just such a broad range .

More and more institutions are re-branding BHM

To suggest that a person with a Middle Eastern background, such as myself, has enough in common with someone with a, for example, Caribbean background is absurd: our range of cultures, histories and experiences is so varied. The only common thread is that neither person is white and that both experience racism in some form.

Essentially, using the term BME, or having a BME history month is embedded in ideas of white normativism. Everyone else is only identified against whiteness, rather than having their own background recognised. A BME history month might seem inclusive, but it would become so broad that it would fail to adequately challenge the everyday racism that black people in the UK still face.

Using the term BME, or having a BME history month is embedded in ideas of white normativism

Not to mention that not every non-black person of colour is an ally for black people. In fact, the ‘model minority’ myth - where certain people of colour, often those from a Middle Eastern or South/East Asian background, are seen as the ‘good ones’ - help perpetuate racism by allowing those who are anti-black to falsely claim that their hatred is not rooted in racism.

Even worse, many non-black people of colour internalise this fiction and adopt anti-blackness themselves, using black people as a foil to boost their own position in society in a move that is both racist and also class-based, forgetting that freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by all.

Telling black-people that their experience is no different to that of people of colour in general is a mass simplification

To include all people of colour in BHM would therefore not only be so broad as to be meaningless, it would also overlook the fact that anti-black racism is not the same as other forms of racism, and that anti-blackness can be, and is, a view held by many other people of colour.

In fact, telling black-people that their experience is no different to that of people of colour in general is a mass simplification that overlooks the very specific forms of racism that are manifested in anti-blackness.

Whilst I have experienced racism, my parents were not invited to this country only to then be threatened with deportation. Despite being a young person of colour living in London, I would never see people of my age and ethnicity splashed on tabloids above an article on gang violence.

I have faced, and continue to face, racism - especially in a place as overwhelmingly white as this university - but what I experience is nothing like what black people have faced at the hands of this country over centuries. To call these experiences the same would be a reductive and destructive move.

Featured: Bristol SU

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Siavash Minoukadeh

Deputy Digital Editor 2020-21 | 3rd year Liberal Arts | Overcaffeinated