White Saviour Complex / Syndrome / Trope Part 3

White Saviour in the Curriculum

Part 1 and part 2 can be found hereand here. First, let me thank you for engaging with this content, to willingly put yourself in a position that challenges your mindset and encourages growth is simply brave.

This 3 part blog now leads me to the curriculum, both implicit and explicit. I will reiterate my mantra and call to ‘Decolonise the Curriculum‘ the only reason teachers are so misinformed and propagate these inconsistencies about African/BAME poverty and thus a superiority over people of colour is because they were taught by and still are taught by a system to do so.

Do we really teach pupils about the truth? Whose truth? Whose world? Whose World history? What is the impact of the of this?

Activity 1

Who discovered the Americas?

Who discovered Australia?

If you’re tempted to answer with a couple of white European men. I would point out that civilisation lived in these places long before any European set eyes on them. Yet, even I am tempted to answer and know the stories of Cook and Columbus well.

With my own schooling and my experience of many schools as an adult is that very little is taught about the British empire and its consequent legacy.

Myself, mother, father, both sets of grandparents their parents, were all British subjects/citizens.

If I asked you who were the British Subjects? How did the freedom of movement work post and pre-war? How many of us would be able to answer from our education at school?

If I asked you who were the British Subjects? How did the freedom of movement work post and pre-war? How many of us would be able to answer from our education at school? Click To Tweet

I would posit that many of you fall into the ‘better off’ and ‘proud bars’ in the charts below. Which is absolutely fine.

I would, however, direct you to the following:

‘At the beginning of the 18th Century, India’s share of the world economy was 23%, as large as all of Europe put together. By the time the British departed India, it had dropped to less than 4%. (From the BBC)

 India’s famines during the Raj: Between 1770 and 1947, the oppressed suffered at least 11 major ones and many minor ones, resulting in 35 million deaths. For comparison, Stalin’s purge killed 25 million, Mao’s Cultural Revolution killed 45 million, and World War II killed 55 million. (Quartz and Shashi Tharoor)

How can we be sure that the British were to blame for those hunger deaths? Simple. There’s been no major famine in India since independence. Worse still, the British notion at the time was that governmental interference to prevent a famine was a bad idea. The Economist, for instance, attacked an official for letting Indians think “it is the duty of the government to keep them alive.” (The Canadian author, Malcolm Gladwell)’

When I normally deliver a ‘Decolonise the Curriculum’ session this is the point where I see the realisation that we may have been sold solely one view of the world and simultaneously fragility rises – this ‘bearded brown man must be lying’. This shouldn’t be a surprise that we are all prone to fragility we are after all unpicking a lifetime of learning.

How do we move away from these experiences that we have been indoctrinated with through our formative years and our adulthood? This starts with awareness and then to active allyship and finally to becoming an accomplice.

On to things we can actually change today.

  1. Accept that you are biased (as teachers we need to accept this to ameliorate the impact).
  2. Accept this has come from a system that iteratively pushes toxic associations into our minds. We are part of this system.
  3. As educators, we have the power to change minds and society as we know it as a whole. It starts in your classrooms.
  4. Interrogate your thinking and consequent actions.

Here is a previous blog which sums up Decolonising the Curriculum for you to start unpicking. Now let’s go a step further in recognising some of the toxic associations that are prevalent within our schools. I will provide some examples here but it would be much more effective if teachers questioned their own thinking before propagating these types of toxic (and obviously false) associations,

  1. Black people in Africa are all poor and starving.
  2. Black people are more likely to commit a crime.
  3. Immigrants are arriving in their masses and contribute very little to society.
  4. All terrorists are brown and/or Muslim.
  5. Gang members are poor and black.
  6. Gangs are prevalent in London and no other city in the UK.
  7. Knife crime is associated with gangs.
  8. There are jobs for women and there are jobs for men.

In Conclusion: Things to do

  1. When talking about charity work, think about what you are sharing and consider why you are doing what you are doing?
  2. Remove the fallacy of poor starving children of colour from your consciousness. Stop propagating this mythical sense of superiority. No more band-aid style assemblies, please.
  3. Call out white saviour in films and the wider media when you see it.
  4. Consider decolonising your curriculum.

References

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