What We've Learned from Black History Month this Year
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Black History Month is ending in a few days, and although learning about Black history doesn't end in October, there are a few things we've learned which we think could be useful to you.
Writer, speaker, podcast host, creative and events producer, consultant and the host of An Introduction to Antiracism Jess Mally has been running a few online events throughout the month of October with her new venture Belovd Agency and gave very useful tips for Black History Month and beyond.
Belovd Agency, is a DEI and representation partnership, providing education, training and strategy for the advancement of all intersections of humanity in the workplace. Belovd's first point of call since its launch has been to partner with and support businesses ahead of Black History Month. Jess Mally and her business partner Marvyn Harrison have been offering content for companies and organisations that needed it, from curated panel conversations and keynote talks to seminars and workshops, with a range of products delivered by their network of experts.
One of the things we learned is that some words, although widely used in the media to describe certain ethnic or racial groups, are not welcome and we should break up with the habit of using them. Two terms in particular have come to our attention.
'BAME' is a word that doesn't make sense (and we've never liked it), nor is it respectful to the ethnic groups it is supposed to describe, as it gives off the impression they are a monolith. It is commonly used in the British media and isn't necessarily welcome. As the Belovd team explains on their blog, "the term BAME is problematic for a number of reasons, first and foremost the fact that most people who technically fall into this category don’t self-identify as BAME. Secondly, any data and reporting based on this terminology is essentially falsified as one can have a large percentage of employees from another ethnic group and not a single Black employee, whilst still present as diverse on BAME standards."
If Black History Month taught us one thing, it is to listen and question the status quo. Just because a term is often used doesn't mean its right, so we encourage anyone reading this to break up with 'BAME' once and for all.
One word we have used in the past is the word 'minority', and for the same reason, will no longer use. That term doesn't do any justice to the people who were meant to fit that 'category', as each person or group have their own characteristics, or may not even be a numerical 'minority' depending on the group you compare them to. As brilliantly explained in Forbes this month, when used to describe Black and Brown people, it certainly implies the group described is 'minor', and we do not think it is. As Rashaad Lambert explains in the piece, "first, non-whites are already a majority of the world’s population. Second, in my lifetime, people of colour will compose a majority in America. Finally, as any Black or Brown person will tell you (and as echoed in the words of Prince), there is nothing minor about us."
Language is important, and words have a big impact. So we must be mindful about the terms we chose to use on a daily basis. Another change we have made is to capitalise the letter B when we use the word Black or Brown as we are talking about people and not a colour.
Something else that has been clear throughout Black History Month is that it is a celebration of joy and achievements, not of pain. This starts with celebrating the great Black thinkers, authors, inventors, artists and political figures, and Black role models for the past, current, and future generations.
As explained on the Belovd blog, "too often the idea of Black History Month is linked to a narrative of defeat and oppression. This Black History Month, focus on celebrating the contribution of the Black Community to society, celebrate Black Excellence and celebrate Black Joy. Create space for Black History that is underrepresented in mainstream education, Black History that is truly our history. From the continent before colonisation to the incredible stories and histories throughout and after colonisation and enslavement."
We have learned much more this month but these are first steps individuals and businesses can take to celebrate the Black community (in October and the other 11 months) properly, with the right language, tone and intention.
How have you celebrated Black History Month this year? We would love to hear about you and what you have learned.
For more information about the Beloved Agency please visit the link here. And for more information about Jess Mally and her future events, Introduction to Anti-Racism course, and podcast please visit her website.
And to enquire about out PR services for mindful businesses please contact us here.