We Are Black and British, BBC2, review: A fraught, thought-provoking experiment

Two-part series We Are Black and British aimed to explore race and identity from a new perspective by bringing together Black Britons of different backgrounds. They met. They bonded. Sometimes they argued.

The first part offered an illuminating profile of six people each with their own take on what it is to be Black and British. The participants – who included a A&E doctor, a professor and a rapper – didn’t always see eye to eye.

Three knotty issues were debated over the course of an hour. First to pose a question was Dominique, a 23-year-old political commentator from Manchester. She had been expelled from a prestigious school for fighting in class – prompting her to ask if it was always a school’s fault when Black students “fail”. To unpack the question, the group visited Lilian Baylis Technology School in South London, where racial awareness is at the heart of the curriculum.

Fellow participant Kehinde Andrews, the UK’s first Black studies professor, believed education was inarguably part of the systemic repression of Black people. But Dominique, who grew up poor in Moss Side, Manchester, felt children underperformed “because of poverty and family background” rather than because of their race.

Next up was the debate around race and policing. Michelle, a London security guard and mum-of-two, recalled how her son had been aggressively stopped and searched by police after he was knocked off his scooter by a car.

Mista Strange ended up walking away from the conversation (Photo: Dave Warren/BBC/Cardiff Productions)

The most fraught subject was the treatment of queer people in the Black community. Holding back tears, rapper Mista Strange recalled the abuse he received from other Black people when involuntarily outed as gay. Things got heated as another member of the group, Lin Mei, claimed “they’re sending cross-dressers into primary schools and then trying to teach homosexuality”. Strange walked out.

It was a fraught moment – and a reminder that, when people who see the world in different ways sit together, things don’t necessarily go smoothly. An emotive endpoint to a thought-provoking film.

We Are Black and British’ continues on Wednesday 24 February at 9pm on BBC Two


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