Reggie is a young boy, 16 years old, blonde hair, ruffled and permed with a fade, he finished his GCSE exams last summer and is currently looking for work. He is white, middle-class, and delighted with life.
Jenny is a young girl, 16 years old, brunette hair which is held out of her eye by a self-cut fringe and a scrunchie. Jenny finished her GCSE exams this summer, and she’s also currently looking for work. She is a member of the global majority, working-class, and is not very happy with life, where Reggie had food on the table every single night. Jenny grew up where her personal needs were neglected because of the circumstances of those in her care.
What if I told you that Jenny is in that situation because Reggie’s father had stolen from Jenny’s family.
What is the just outcome here?
Would we expect Jenny’s family’s stolen wealth to be returned? Possibly even with an apology and interest too to factor in for the damage done to her family.
Activity 1: Do not skip through the questions, read each one and then takes some time to reflect and answer it:
What happens if Reggie’s father has passed away since the crime?
Then the wealth from his estate should surely be recompensated?
What if it wasn’t Reggie’s father, but grandfather?
What if Jenny lives in another country?
Should the wealth and consequences of Reggie’s family history be paid back to Jenny’s family?
I doubt any of you who are reading this would disagree that when we cause damage compensation is a just consequence. There should be a returning to the rightful owner with considerations the consequent impact.
Is ultimately Reggie responsible for Jenny’s outcomes? Reggie had no role in the activities of his forefathers. I’m sure that Reggie has worked very hard, like his father and grandfather, but they were given a leg up through the immoral deeds of their ancestry. Reggie’s family gained a distinct advantage, and this advantage comes with inflicting disadvantage on Jenny and her family (this is a zero-sum game).
The myth of a meritocracy fogs the way we view this in a systemic sense. As a British-born citizen, I have reaped the rewards of the Great British system, and yes, I have benefited from them greatly. However, without acknowledging that these benefits have come at least in part from colonial oppression would be willful ignorance on my part.
Pran, Are you saying that the people who are born today should pay for the sins of those born hundreds of years ago?
I am saying we should all understand where our chances in life have come from they have not just have materialised. Then making the leap that our starting point is independent of how hard we work is not as stressful.
For this to work:
1. We have to willing look objectively, at the risk that everything you know may have been distorted.
2. Disregard the fear of losing what we have. Expect this to be uncomfortable.
3. In our practice as educators- do we consider the meritocracy as a myth? do we teach the above to the next generation?
and now, dig deep, and answer this question.
4. How do you and I go about redressing the balance?