Labour MP Dawn Butler calls for ‘decolonisation’ of national curriculum during Black History Month debate

Dawn Butler today called for the national curriculum to be “decolonised” during a passionate debate on Black History Month

The Labour MP, who has been the target of racist abuse and death threats, said history is currently taught to make one group feel inferior and another superior.

She made the comments during a debate in which MPs across the house have spoken out about the racism they have faced.

Ms Butler, the former shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, told the Commons: “At the moment, history is taught to make one group of people feel inferior and another group of people feel superior. And this has to stop. We need to look at history and we need to improve it.”

The Government’s equalities minister Kemi Badenoch asked her which parts of the curriculum made black children feel inferior.

Ms Butler replied: “History needs to be decolonised. My honourable friend from Erith and Thamesmead has already discussed how you can go through the whole of your GCSE and not have reference to any black authors at all.

“You can go through history thinking that the people who were enslaved were not a part of the uprising. You can go through history and not understand the richness of Africa and the Caribbean.

“You can go through history and not understand all the leaders in the black community. I’m surprised that the minister has actually asked me that because it’s so well documented that history needs to be decolonised.”

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Pressed by Ms Badenoch, Ms Butler replied: “There is no other group where they have been systematically stripped of their humanity throughout history.

“Where colonisation has meant they have gone to their country and [captured] them and taken them by force to another country. Where they have been raped, thrown overboard into the sea.

“There is no other group that that has happened to and I’m also going to explain in my speech why it is so important that history is taught in its fullness if the minister takes time to listen I think I might just teach her a little something.”

Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan intervened and said they should not “exceptionalise” either Africans or people from African descent.

He added: “You will find slavery, sadly, has been endemic in virtually all societies as recently as the 19th century… the Barbary pirates from North Africa had enslaved over 1,300 Cornish men and women.”

However, Ms Butler replied: “Sometimes, especially during Black History Month, it would be progress if one could just acknowledge the inhumanity that happened, if they could acknowledge the systemic racism that not only existed then, but has a lasting legacy now in our structures, which doesn’t for any other group.”



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