The Blog

Why I Should Have Chosen My Words More Carefully When Talking About the Holocaust

I should have taken more care not to in any way denigrate the spirit of January 27th and all it stands for.

January 27th's Holocaust Memorial Day made me question why some atrocities receive more commemoration than others. Reflecting on that, I penned a blog post for this very site. The first post had various turns of phrase that to some read as anti-semitism, but that was far from my intention.

Writing about powerful Jewish lobbies was never meant as an underhand reference to the racist trope about a worldwide Jewish cabal secretly pulling strings behind the scenes. This idea is preposterous. I believe the root of all (geopolitical) evil is money - not any one ethnic, religious or national group. I admire what the Jewish lobby has been able to achieve and wish we, "as black people", could be so well-organised and strong in our advocacy.

And the mention of "victim mentality", which I neither endorsed nor said was something Survivors practiced, was insensitive bearing in mind the same accusation has been levelled at black people.

I should have taken the care to make it clear that I have a deep appreciation for Jewish contribution to the civil rights movement in the US. After all, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman paid the ultimate price when they were murdered in Mississippi in 1964.

For any unintended offence caused, I am truly sorry. But I'm not sorry about bringing the larger topic out into the open. With "black issues", sometimes the only thing uniting us as a people is the colour of our skin. We are an incredibly diverse group - not to say that Jewish people aren't - lacking the strong, unified religious ties to bind us together. Speaking as a Black African British woman, I have been saddened even to see divisions and tensions between Black African Brits and Black Afro-Caribbean Brits. I've heard "they sold us into slavery" as well as derogatory remarks from Black African Brits about our Caribbean brothers and sisters.

I should have taken more care not to in any way denigrate the spirit of January 27th and all it stands for. It was touching to see candles lit in Westminster for other victims of genocide such as the Bosnian Muslims, Cambodians killed by the Khmer Rouge and those who were massacred in Rwanda. But the world does need to care about black historical suffering. I was ignorant to the UN's decision to make March 25th a day of International Remembrance for victims of the Transatlantic slave trade. I'm betting most of people reading this didn't know either. Why is that? Why, as the Guardian asked, was there more press coverage for January's attacks in Paris than the larger-scale attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria at the same time?

These questions can be asked without trampling on or showing insensitivity towards the commemorations by another oppressed group. There is enough humanity to go around. And, yes, my hope is that black people all over the world can work together to make March 25th just as marked a day as January 27th.