Blacks Britannica is a 1970s documentary interviewing working class Black Brits, exploring their analysis of race, class, colonialism and capitalism. It was initially banned on its release for the reasons you’d expect.
It’s kinda depressing how much of it remains relevant half-a-century on. And it flags up gentrification, back before it even existed in the form we now know it, as a tool to disrupt united communities from forming power blocs, whether that be centred around class or race. In some ways it’s grim, because the issues they flag in 1978 about the curtailment of union power, it’s nothing close to the complete gelding that has taken place by the 2020s. Horrifyingly, there was stronger tools to fight for these goals back then than there is today, and we have all the same issues writ into extremes they couldn’t imagine. The conglomeration of wealth that existed in the hands of a few in 1978 would be nothing to the explosion the 80s would bring, and it has risen exponentially ever since, the planet-destroying levels.
On the bright side, it’s nice to see Darcus Howe and Gus John speaking in their youth, talking about how what the National Front propose, the Tory party platform and the Labour party pass. That if you don’t know your history, you think the racism you’re experiencing is because Margaret Thatcher is evil – which is correct and accurate – but if you know your history, you understand that putting a nicer person in that position, or putting a black representative in that position, wouldn’t change anything. Because this didn’t begin now, it’s been going for centuries, and it replicates generation after generation because of structural racism, which will not end until the system is dismantled.
Coming from one of those generations that followed, it does feel like watching people waving from the deck below you on a sinking ship. Their voices were banned because their message was so vital, and we still struggle to find a way to mobilise a response today.