What do you think of when you hear the words ‘Civil Rights Movement’? Probably Martin Luther King Jr’s civil rights marches? The Montgomery Bus Boycotts and Rosa Parks? I would guess that what you think of – and what you have learnt at school – took place in the United States. Robin Bunce and Paul Field’s biography of Darcus Howe argues that in the history we learn in the UK, the narrative is that “Britain is the utopia of fair play” and therefore the civil rights struggle in the UK are dismissed in the school curriculum as it does not fit into this vision.
Following the brutal murder of George Floyd, yet another African American man’s death as a result of police brutality, the injustices of the centuries-long lynching of black men in America are no longer concealed or hidden from the public eye. With the power of social media, people around the world from Auckland in New Zealand, to Mogadishu in Somalia, are standing in solidarity with the protestors in the US to ensure that the message is clear: Black Lives Matter.
Censorship can often lead to an idealised perspective of the world around us, creating a utopia in the world of entertainment that serves as a dangerous method of escapism. Black- and brown-face needs policing, but banning isn’t the way forward. Life imitates art, and life just isn’t a perfect racism-free environment.
I write this as an open letter to myself to look back on and see the journey that I’ve taken; reflect on how much I have changed as a person and use this platform to speak my truth and advocate for those who feel silenced. I hope this may help the people I know understand me more and also bring comfort to those reading who may be facing similar problems.
Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ is the inspirational story of how a working-class girl from the South Side of Chicago came to have such an influence in US politics. Although some may think that her influence came from the sheer luck of marrying the man who would become President of the United States, this would, in fact, be taking away the credit from a strong-minded woman who hoped to make a change to the world years before meeting her future husband.