Exploring Black History Month as a white ally

by Amelia McKinnon

In the month of October, we celebrate Black History Month in recognition of the history, achievements, and influence of the black community. We observe Black History Month because honouring the accomplishments of people is important and Black History is still underrepresented in mainstream history classes and books.

This year, in particular, we would like to revisit the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement was first formed in 2013 after black teenager Trayvon Martin was shot dead by a police officer while unarmed and walking to his brother’s fiancée’s home. Martin’s death and the subsequent trial where police officer George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter highlighted America’s growing issue of racial profiling.

The movement then sparked up again in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, who was suffocated to death after a white police officer had him pinned to the ground, one knee on his neck. A video circulated around the internet of George crying out in pain and repeatedly shoutin,g “I can’t breathe!”. This led to global outrage and triggered protests all over the world against police brutality and systemic racism.

Here at The Like Me CIC, we are fully supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement and maintain that Black Lives More Than Matter. I’m going to be honest with you – when Jasmine asked me to write a blog post introducing Black History Month, I had a bit of a panic. As a white woman of entirely European heritage, I didn’t think that I would be the best person to write about this, and I found it extremely daunting. However, after some research and some important reading, I realised that that didn’t really matter. What matters is that racism and all of the myriad social and political problems that accompany Black History Month are something that I am interested in learning more about, and want to do my bit to make a change. According to blackhistorymonth.org.uk, the theme for this year is ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’. In order to create a better future, we have to look at the past, learn from what has been and improve what will be by acting. As an ally, I feel that it’s important, now more than ever, to be an active ally. It’s not enough to just be supportive but to show your support.

Taking Action starts with educating yourself. There is an incredible number of resources out there that will help deepen your understanding of the messages and themes behind Black History Month, whether that be books, podcasts, documentaries etc. One of the most important things you could do as an ally is to call out racism when you see it, especially if it’s from a friend or relative. Don’t wait for others to react or offer your sympathy after the event. Frame the confrontation as an opportunity to learn and grow. The best way to create a change is to act in the moment. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to take action? How did it make you feel? Please get in touch and share your story with us.

Over the next few weeks, we will explore great people who have overcome challenges and adversities while celebrating their heritage. We are so excited to be sharing the stories of these great people, highlighting their successes and how they achieved them. Our next post will celebrate International Day of the Girl, which we are eager to share with you.