The 'Black' in BNG

We are regularly asked to explain the use of this word.  Periodically we discuss it at meetings.  Just recently we received a some-what offensive e-mail on the topic.  In the past we have been accused of being racist (mostly by those to whom racism is either invisible or something to be perpetrated).

I have always found it interesting that some people find it difficult accept that the term ’black man’ (or woman) is a political one. They seem to think that it has a basis in fact.  Also considered to have some basis in fact is the use of the term ‘white people’ to describe the ethnic minority now scattered over the globe; but originating in Northern Europe. The sheet of paper this printing is on may well be white but what would scientific analysis reveal about skin colour? Surely a whole spectrum of shades. It would perhaps be more strictly accurate to use the phrase ‘pink people’ but for some reason it has no caché!  In fact the political expediency of the term ‘white man’ can be seen clearly in it’s semantic and idiomatic connections in European languages. These associations have always been very expedient to racist attitudes and european colonialism.

Having once described themselves as white, Europeans effectively excluded the rest of the human race from their very exclusive club. In the days of the overt European use of slavery in the Americas, even someone who was less than one eighth black (and actually indistinguishable from the white slave master in complexion) was not allowed white privilege . It is the existence of increasing numbers of these people in the North leading up to the US civil war which has been suggested as one of the cultural driving forces behind the anti-slavery movement in the fledgling USA.

Divide and rule has always been an instrument of British Colonialism. Under officially condoned slavery the darker a persons skin the less human they were considered. Some people think that all this is a long time ago and these ideas are now long extinct having no effect on the present day. The lie to this is found in many recent demographic studies. Asians in Britain suffer the same discrimination and unequal opportunity as ‘African-looking’ citizens but to a lesser extent. The existance of first, second and third class British citizenship shows the continuation of these ideas today in law.  The treatment of Hong Kong citizens when compared with those of the Falklands is a case in point.  I have also wondered about the english term ‘African features’: consider the range of skin shades and 'facial types' actually in existence on the African continent; Egyptians, Moroccans, Gambians, Somalis, or the San, popularly known as "Bushmen", etc.

The use of the word ‘black’ in this context was first used in the English language as a thing of pride, a positive thing, by the civil rights movement in the USA. Because of the reality of skin shades among US African-Americans many people whose skin shades are in many ways indistinguishable from ’white’ must call themselves black in order to make sense of their cultural identity.

The use of the word black in BNG is intended to signify a group of people with a common experience of racism in British society. The BNG is open to anyone who can describe themselves as black in this sense. The group creates a safe, supportive environment where people can ‘off load’ or gain insight and strength by sharing experience and receive support in dealing with the destructive effects of racism.  Members of the group have cultural roots among all the so called races,

We feel that this kind of group is as necessary to combat the destructive effects of racism as woman’s groups are necessary to combat the destructive effects of male sexism.



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