Important opportunity yesterday to make a speech during Black History Month and pay tribute to the immense contribution made by the black community in Ipswich. We’d be much poorer without this community among us and I thought it was right to pay a particular tribute to the Caribbean and African Health Support Forum in Ipswich which I was able to visit in August and does excellent work raising awareness of the health issues disproportionately impacting Caribbean and African people in our town.
As part of the debate we were also discussing petitions on black history in the school curriculum. I do think there is more we can do to teach the history of black people in this country, including the injustices they have suffered in the past. But this must be done as part of a shared history, which also recognises the great many things we have to be proud of in our past, rather than a separate curriculum being proposed by some. There is much more that unites us as Britons than separates us based on what colour skin we happen to have, and we mustn’t encourage separateness among young people by deciding what they learn based on the colour of their skin.
It was also important to talk about the shocking death of George Floyd and the importance of continuing to stamp out the racism which still exists in our society. I believe this is the true intention of the majority of protesters but it is disappointing that some leadership figures in BLM UK have strayed beyond a unifying anti-racism message into sometimes promoting divisive political rhetoric with calls to abolish things like the police, the nuclear family and capitalism. I also think we have to be careful about divisive terms being used by some like institutional racism which smear entire institutions. We need to root out racist individuals in our institutions and society but it’s counter-productive to label many who aren’t in this way. We must uphold a message of unity and one that focuses about how we can keep improving on the past.