Growing up in the UK. As a man of colour, I had gone through the British system of primary, secondary and sixth form education. It was at this point someone first asked, your father is Indian, what did the Indians ever do for modern society. I honestly didn’t have an answer.
I searched for personal heroes and then I searched for successful people, the only person that came to mind was Gandhi, but surely the second largest nation on the planet must have produced successful people and achievements that changed and contributed the world. As a part of the British Empire, my father’s birthplace must have contributed to the country I call home.
I search through my memory and found very little. Although what I did realise is that my brain was riddled with white middle-class males in positions of power and success. You’d think that they have a superior genetic and gendered advantage in our meritocracy.
As an 18-year-old going to a Russell group university was the point where I never have felt more inferior. Oppression, in this case, is subtle, structural and systemic. The British education system and the wider context systematically denies and omits the achievement of people who don’t fit the atypical image of a British citizen.
Let’s be clear, Britain is built upon the blood, sweat and tears of those in its the empire. As a Londoner, I reap the rewards of years of the empire. Yet we deny their voices, their names are rarely uttered never let alone in reverence and gratitude.
Upon leaving university, wanting to make change, I entered the teaching profession. With the aim of propagating the truth, actually enriching the curriculum with the myriad of colours which make and made modern Britain. What I found was resistance from those in educational power, I guess where I grew up in a system which denied the achievement of people of colour through a system of omission.
As the British culture led to my inferior self-view, subsequently they grew up in the system which made them feel superior. This brings me the ethnocentric curriculum which indoctrinates young people, us, towards an epistemological viewpoint which endorses the same view of white (Great British) superiority.
Through our history lessons we are often taught about the US, they came and rescued the allied forces in World War 2. How many soldiers of the empire fought and gave their lives? Did the greatest volunteer armies ever formed (in history) not play a part in the great wars? Well not according to my mind, and I suspect the minds of countless pupils, inculcated through the culture and community which raised us.
The current and past anti-immigration rhetoric is based around an us and them philosophy, the othering is a necessary part of collective which seek to propagate and ensure longevity. People often told what Britain did for the empire, I’m not to debate this here, but people are rarely ready to embrace the converse.
Hence I am in support of any program which recognises the contribution of people of colour, whether that be in education or the wider world.
#Banknotesofcolour is one campaign I would urge everyone to get behind. People of colour built, fought and died for his country. It’s time to stand up and recognise them. This is Noor Inayat Khan, if you don’t know who she is, follow the link below.