For the past 20 years, October has marked the start of Black History Month in the U.K. (a whole 31 days! Imagine!) But this year, the event has been mired in controversy, with one prominent Black History Month site recently targeted by hackers and some local councils now opting to rebrand October as “Diversity Month.”
Let’s start with the hacking of Black History Month magazine’s website, which was attacked twice within 24 hours. As the Guardian reports, the entire site was brought down on Monday morning, restored, and then attacked again on Tuesday morning.
Patrick Vernon, the magazine’s editor, says the site is the country’s most popular one dedicated to black history, and that the timing of the attack was deliberate.
“What we are experiencing now is part of a wider context of cyber-racism,” he told the Guardian.
“We thought initially it was because Black History Month was trending because there has been a lot of interest on social media and in newspapers,” Vernon said. “It is very clear that it has been targeted by hackers in the UK. We don’t know who it is, but it’s clear whoever they are picked on us yesterday deliberately [on the first day of Black History Month].”
Vernon added that interest in Black History Month in the U.K. was higher this year because of the “Windrush Scandal,” which involves Caribbean immigrants who came to the U.K. between 1948 and 1971—the “Windrush generation”. Recently, some members of the Windrush generation were classified as illegal immigrants (despite being invited to move to the U.K.) and were threatened with deportation or turned away from jobs and public services, like health care.
Part of the problem was that the British government had destroyed some immigrants’ landing cards, and didn’t keep track of the Caribbean immigrants allowed to stay in the U.K.
Prime Minister Theresa May recently apologized to Caribbean leaders for the debacle, reports the BBC.
The scandal also exemplifies why Black History Month is so important, especially as several London councils try to replace the month with a more generic “Diversity Month,” BHM supporters say.
According to News One, one conservative West London borough decided to focus more broadly on “multiculturalism,” rather than home in specifically on African and Caribbean culture and history. And another conservative South London neighborhood will rebrand BHM as “Diversity Month,” celebrating ... well, everyone, it seems: Indian, Polish, Spanish, Chinese, and African and Caribbean cultures will be lumped together in a month that, in attempting to celebrate everyone, will ultimately mean nothing to anyone.
(*Taps mic* Y’all do know there are 11 whole other months, right?)
As Raifa Rafiq, a host on the Mostly Lit podcast, told BBC’s Newsbeat, taking the “black” out of “Black History Month” is unacceptable.
“Black people are at the bottom of that barrel and this month is supposed to be significant because we’re supposed to be celebrating those black lives,” she said.
“So it becomes really annoying to see that just black, and that word in itself, is not taken into consideration.”