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Thought for the Week – 23rd October 2022

Remembering Black History Month

October and November seem to be months for remembering; we have Remembrance Sunday and Bonfire night; in the church’s calendar we have All Saints and All Souls, somehow transformed in modern culture into Halloween. Perhaps that is why, 35 years ago, October was designated “Black History Month”. This is not something that I have ever considered very carefully; in my own explorations of local history, black history really seems to have begun in the 2nd World War, with the arrival of a black refugee from Liverpool and a black service battalion of US troops at Kinlet. At the end of war, it seems to have quickly become just a memory; the Windrush generation did not make for the communities of the Severn Valley Benefice. Highley when I grew up was entirely white; I only encountered ethnic diversity in trips to Dudley. That was my background.

We are moulded by our background, often in ways we do not realise. It is only fairly recently in my life I have become properly aware of “subconscious bias”; the assumptions that we make that we never even think about. It comes from our own histories but is also how we evolved; we instinctively trust people “like us” on the grounds that they are more likely to be friendly. Indeed, 100,000 years ago this was probably a good survival strategy. Today it is much less helpful, however we might try rationalise it. Subconscious bias goes far beyond skin colour; it is everything from how another person speaks to how they dress. Jesus has something to say about not judging people by outward appearances. Perhaps just thinking about the term “Black History month” and how we react to it, is spiritual self-examination.

Rev David Poyner