Challenging Our Racism

Challenging Our Racism/Challenging Your Racism

Download this resource here.

Racism comes in the three main forms:

Structural: Policies and practices which are seen within structures of society which favour white people over those of colour. If a fairer society were a house, then structural racism would be the foundations and walls.

Institutional: Policies and practices which are seen within organisations which favour white people over those of colour. In the house analogy Institutionalised racism would a room, the contents and the rules of that room.

Individual: Personal and stems from conscious and unconscious roots. Continuing with the idea of the house, individual racism is an act which takes place in the room.

The insidious nature of racism means that our thoughts, feeling and actions can all lead to discrimination. They are all interlinked, and these may impact unconsciously in our interactions with people and systems.

The most significant step here is recognising that their actions and biases may, in fact, be racist.

Download the resource here.

 

Individual Racism

  1. Interrogate your personal conscious and unconscious bias.
  2. Think through your personal preferences and toxic associations; this is the source of all unconscious bias.
  3. Name your favourite films, books, actors, stories and ask yourself where those ‘preference’ originated.
  4. Do the same with people you do and do not appreciate.
  5. Are they any trends with those groups?

 

Feelings:

Write down, how do you feel about different groups (positive and negative)?

 

Thoughts:

What stereotypes do you hold (positive and negative)?

 

Actions:

Have you let any of the above impact on your decisions (positive and negative)?

 

Institutional Racism

  1. Who is impacted by your current organisation?
  2. In schools think about behaviour records, exclusions, outcomes, who’s head boy and girl, etc.
  3. How do the policies and procedures impact on the above groups and why?
  4. How do the above two sections leak into the everyday practices in your organisation?

 

Evaluation:

Write down all the outcomes of your organisation. Are there any cases where PoC are adversely impacted?

 

Policy and Procedures:

What are the outcomes of the policies in your school? i.e. Who is punished for by hair policies?

 

Practices:

Are there any trends that impact on PoC?

 

Structural Racism

  1. Accept we are all complicit in structural racism; all of us are responsible.
  2. What are the structures in our society?
  3. By society, I mean what is deemed as acceptable and not acceptable in society?

 

National Policies:

Which policies do you support? And how do you they impact on PoC?

 

Unwritten Societal Rules – Procedures:

What are the implicit rules you live your life by and see in society?

 

Your Reality:

How do the above two impact on PoC in your society?

 

 

Racism is a Skipped Over Subject

This is a guest post from Ryan Dinsdale.

In school, I was taught algebra, how plants reproduce, and to play the xylophone, but I wasn’t taught why black lives matter.

Granted I didn’t need to be told, but the murder of George Floyd shows that so many others do. Race inequality in education isn’t just a skipped-over subject; it’s a serious and constant issue.

“We live in a world that pushes you towards the racist end of the spectrum,” said Pran Patel, founder of Decolonise the Curriculum, and “it all starts with education.” Subtle racism is deeply engrained within the school system in ways we don’t even consider.

In English, we read Dickens and Hemingway and Golding. We read Fitzgerald and Chaucer and Steinbeck. We read Orwell and Salinger and Shakespeare. And we should. But shouldn’t we also diversify? Shouldn’t we read something not written by middle-class white men?

“You deny children the richness of a world curriculum,” said Patel. “You can’t talk literature without talking Tagore,” the Bengali writer who won the Nobel Prize in 1913, “and you can’t talk poetry without talking Rumi,” the celebrated 13th-century Persian poet.

But schools do. Children grow up seeing so few BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) people in authority positions and as inspirational figures that it affects their worldview.
“From an early age, children are conditioned to absorb and are exposed to messages of what superiority figures, leaders, and power look like,” said Dr Susan Bartholomew, a clinical psychologist and member of the Health and Care Professions Council.

“It reinforces messages of being inferior, feelings of worthlessness, and that whiteness is the epitome of success. Children learn that something has to be left behind in order for them to succeed,” she said. “They learn that it’s one or the other; either I am black, or I am successful.”

Patel agreed. “We’re taught through the curriculum that if you’re white, male, hetero, able-bodied, and middle-class then you’ll be successful.”
During his 16 years of teaching, he found that teachers, himself included, aren’t taught to be critical of their own assumptions and ideas, and these ideas come from an already insidiously racist system.

“When I make stateents like ‘Roald Dahl is problematic,’ I get a lot of people saying ‘What? You can’t say that’” he explained. But even when you explain – consider Oompa Loompas or “the fact remains that all witches are women” – people refuse to acknowledge the common criticisms.

Marika Sherwood, a historian and retired teacher, saw this when she began teaching in the 60s and she still sees it today. “You learn all about Europe and all about England and the glory of the kings and queens,” but if you’re a black child, “you don’t exist in the curriculum. You’re just not there.

“[People] training to be teachers are the product of these schools,” she said, “and if you don’t unearth that and begin to teach them, they’re not going to behave any differently.”
Having more BAME staff within schools, especially in executive positions, would help make this change, but Allana Gay, Headteacher at Vita ex Pat Preparatory School, said: “The rate of progression for ethnic minorities is far slower than it is for white colleagues.”

In a previous, underperforming school, Gay was part of a mostly BAME staff. As they improved its performance though, the school began hiring only white teachers from Oxford or Cambridge, “and my BAME colleagues started to leave because we realised our route for progression wasn’t there.”

BAME people make up 14% of the English and Welsh population but just 3.5% of headteachers in England. “When I go for interviews,” Gay said, “the feedback is ‘you’re far too assertive,’ or ‘we don’t feel like you’d be the right person to lead this school,’ or ‘we can see some leadership qualities but not enough.’

“There’s a lot of leaders who will believe this from those above them,” she said. BAME teachers get stuck in lower positions, “put to work with the hardest groups in some of the hardest schools and are expected to turn them around.”

But getting to these positions of power is crucial, said Hakim Adi, a professor specialising in African studies at the University of Chichester. “We can write or campaign or speak or protest,” he said, “but what’s going to make the difference is when we become decision makers.

“The main problems within education are political” he said. Activists like Adi fight for change, but “it’s other people who make the decisions,” and these are the 96.5% of white headteachers who might not even understand the problem.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” he said. BAME people must reach positions of power to change racist attitudes within education, but these attitudes stop them from getting there in the first place. “You can be as educated as you like,” Adi said, “and you can still be killed by the police.”

Ryan Dinsdale is a freelance journalist exploring issues of inequality. He’s appeared in print and online in the UK and US.

University Admissions are UNFAIR!

We all know about the divide between the old universities and the newer ones. I found this out through personal experience, I somehow ended doing my undergraduate degree at the University of Birmingham, and I was shocked by the apparent snobbery between the 3 Universities in the city.

As I went to local primary, secondary schools and then on to a sixth form centre in the Black Country. As a working-class pupil, I had no idea about UCAS, no idea about personal statements, predicated grades, which courses to apply? Where to apply?

I would say this is, in at least part of the reason that working-class pupils are disadvantaged.

State-educated students with the *same grades* as their peers in the private sector are a third less likely to receive an offer from a leading university. (Boliver 2013)

State-educated students with the *same grades* as their peers in the private sector are a third less likely to receive an offer from a leading university. (Boliver 2013) Click To Tweet

‘Those of Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are known to be strikingly under‐represented in Old universities (Robertson and Hillman 1997; Coffield and Vignoles 1997; Shiner and Modood 2002), and particularly in those that make up the Russell Group (Boliver 20042006; Zimdars, Sullivan and Heath 2009). This is despite the fact that members of these minority groups are more likely than their White counterparts to participate in higher education generally (Modood 1993; Coffield and Vignoles 1997).’

Let look at Race and the Russell Group admission and rates.

What are the trends you see?

Race Percentage of entrants to Russell Group
White 25
Black 6
Pakistani 12
Bangladeshi 12
Indian 18

Boliver 2013

The whole table.

boliver 3

Now let’s look at applications

boliver1

boliver2

Before the analysis of Boliver 2013, it is worth stating the structural racism within UCAS, in May 2018 said

‘We risk prospective black students losing all confidence in what is supposed to be a fair and equitable application process’

‘52 per cent of the UK applications flagged by UCAS’ verification service between 2013 and 2017 were from black students – despite black applicants making up around 9 per cent of all university applicants, according to new data released today.’

Let me reiterate; this is not percentage based on the proportions, 1 in 97 applications from black students checked and 1 in 2139. If you are black you were 22 times more likely to be check than if you were white.

Apart from that what do we think is the reason between race (and class) and their ultimate University destination. Boliver 2013 states that the reasons why those from lower social bands are disadvantaged is due to ‘barriers of some kind to application to Russell Group universities given application to university at all’.

Boliver 2013 states that the reasons why those from lower social bands are disadvantaged are due to barriers of some kind to application to Russell Group universities given application to university at all. Click To Tweet

What happens with regards to race?

“For those from Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, the unfairness seems to stem entirely from some form of differential treatment during the admissions process by Russell Group universities.”(Boliver, 2013. p358)

Click To Tweet

Did you go to a state school and/or do you currently teach in one? Will that make a difference? State school pupils are less likely to apply for a Russel group university until there are better qualified than their private school peers by as much as an extra A‐grade A‐level.

But Pran if people don’t apply what do we do?

Even when state school pupils do apply to Russell Group universities they need to be better qualified by B grade A-Level before they are as likely to receive an offer of admission.

Even when state school pupils do apply to Russell Group universities they need to be better qualified by B grade A-Level before they are as likely to receive an offer of admission. Click To Tweet

STATE SCHOOL PUPILS… HAVE TO BE BETTER QUALIFIED BY A B GRADE A-LEVEL BEFORE THEY ARE AS LIKELY TO RECEIVE AN OFFER OF ADMISSION.

Back to race:

“Black and Pakistani/Bangladeshi applicants to Russell Group universities seem to be similarly disadvantaged in comparison with White applicants when it comes to the likelihood of being offered a place at a Russell Group university.”(Ibid, p359)

Pran, come on you’re going to say this is due to bias and you can fix it by… Well, funny you should say that as the report says

“Then the findings of this paper lend support to the argument that a post-qualifications application system in which application choices and admissions decisions are made after rather than before applicants’ qualifications are known would probably be a good deal fairer than the system currently in place (Schwartz 2004; Sutton Trust 2009; Arulampalam, Naylor and Smith 2011)” (Ibid, p359)

Racial Literacy Resources

This is a brilliant diagram from Michael Cole for those of you who would like to learn more from an academic standpoint. For the pdf version click here.

Cole, M. (2020) Understanding Critical Whiteness Studies: Harmful or Helpful in the Struggle for Racial Equity in the Academy? Chapter submitted for publication in Thomas & Arday (2020) Doing Diversity for Success in Higher Education: Redressing Structural Inequalities in the Academy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

BEING BLACK IN ENGLAND.

COLLATED STATISTICAL RESEARCH INTO ANTI-BLACK RACISM IN ENGLAND.

This document is Shereen Docherty.

The rest can be found here.

BEING BLACK IN ENGLAND:

COLLATED STATISTICAL RESEARCH INTO ANTI-BLACK RACISM IN ENGLAND

****I would like this to spread as far and wide as possible, if sharing please credit me @ShereenDoc for my time and please include the disclaimers (I am not an expert).****

BEING BLACK IN ENGLAND:

COLLATED STATISTICAL RESEARCH INTO ANTI-BLACK RACISM IN ENGLAND

Researched and collated by Shereen Docherty @ShereenDoc in response to the death of George Flloyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matters protests in Britain – and the public response of many that: “Britain’s not racist”: “Britain isn’t as racist as America”; “I’m not racist”.

What started as an idea for a simple instagram post, has become an essay. It turns out that systemic racism isn’t neat and easily contained to a single post; it’s a sprawling mass of interconnected forces that are very easy to ignore if they don’t exert much/any pressure on you… but bear down an impossible weight that *permeates every interaction, in every sphere of life* , if you’re not White in the UK. Of course, this affects all ‘other’ ethnicities in similar, but different ways.

However, the focus of this research is specific to anti-Black racism, because it is unique; because #BlackLivesMatter; and because non-Black PoC (like myself) can be just as guilty of anti-Black racism as White ppl – as we are all a product of the same racist system.

It takes active unlearning to change.

@ShereenDoc

“I’M NOT RACIST”

… but are you anti-racist?

Let’s find out.

What do you make of the below statements:

  • Britain is racist
  • White, non-Black people of colour and light-skinned people to varying degrees all benefit from White privilege
  • I am racist.

Can you put a number on the percentage to which you agree overall with the above?

Fix a number in your mind, even if it is 0.

Now let’s take a deeper dive, and revisit that number afterwards.

Some disclaimers:

  • Endeavoured to focus on Black people and not ‘BAME’ wherever possible, where not possible BAME statistics have been included.
  • If research predates 2016, a date is included.
  • As a general rule gov.uk and ONS data is as uptodate as possible (2018/19)
  • Where using comparative statistics the comparison is always their white counterpart unless otherwise stated.
  • Gov statistics pertain to England & Wales, hence focus.
  • ‘Justice’ statistics refer specifically to Black MEN unless otherwise stated
  • Education statistics refer specifically to Black PUPILS unless stated
  • Statistics in all other areas refer to Black people overall unless otherwise stated.
  • I’ve had to interpret data in some cases, I’m not a statistician or mathematician. I’ve done my best. All mistakes are my own.
  • This research is by no means exhaustive.

‘JUSTICE’

  • 7 in 10 stories about Black boys in the media are crime-related vs. 4 in 10 overall (REACH, 11)
  • 40x more likely to be stop & searched (Guardian)
  • 26x more likely to be stop & searched under Section 60 – no suspicion required (The Teacherist)
  • Despite these disparities, the rate prohibited items are found in these stops is broadly even across all ethnicities (The Teacherist)
  • 2x as likely to be fined by Met Police for Lockdown breaches (BBC)
  • 3x more likely to be arrested (gov.uk).
  • 2x as likely to be charged with drug possession (Guardian 2013)
  • 23% more likely to be remanded in custody (gov.uk)
  • 4x more likely to be sectioned under the mental health act (Gov.uk)
  • 4x more likely to be prosecuted (gov.uk)
  • 53% more likely to receive a prison sentence at High Court (PRT)
  • 240% more likely to got to prison for a drug offence (Guardian)
  • 44% more likely imprisoned for driving offences;
  • 38% more likely for public disorder or possession of a weapon;
  •  27% more likely for drugs possession (all Guardian, 2011)
  • 6x the rate of prosecutions for children (gov.uk)
  • 33% longer avg. custodial sentence for children (Disparity Audit)
  • 1 in 4 Black teenage boys convicted of homicide were given a life sentence. Not one White teenager was sentenced to more than 10 years, with most getting 4 years (2009-2017, Independent)
  • 5x more likely to be subjected to the use of force by Police (INQUEST)
  • 2x as many deaths in custody where force/restraint used (IRR)
  • Black people are only 3% of the population, but
  • 12% of the prison population (Lammy Review).
  • 8% of deaths in police custody (BBC News)
  • 52% of all deaths in ‘suspicious circumstances’ in custody 1991-2014 (IRR)
  • 1969 – the last time a police officer was successfully prosecuted concerning the death of somebody in custody.
  • David Oluwale, a homeless British-Nigerian man, was repeatedly targeted by 2 Leeds police officers, who famously wrote “Wog” on his arrest sheet. After dying in their custody, they faced manslaughter charges, dropped to assault. They served 3 years.
  • There has not been a single successful prosecution since.

EDUCATION

“The British Empire has often been glamourised and the global impact of Britain’s colonialism downplayed… whilst Black history and contributions have been whitewashed from the curriculum”. (Angharad Owen, BBC News)

“Black history is usually either omitted entirely, or taught only in terms of colonialism and slavery, rather than black people’s achievements.” (Lavinya Stennett, Telegraph)

“Institutionally racist practices are present in schools throughout the UK” (Show Racism The Red Card, 2010)

  • Disciplined more frequently, harshly and for less serious actions and less likely to be praised; from very early on (Pilkington, 02).
  • Likely to be perceived as more adult-like and less innocent – “adultification bias” leads to less support & more discipline (Vox)
  • Black boys disproportionately put in lower sets (DFES, 2006)
  • Black Caribbean boys are 2x as likely to be diagnosed with SEMH needs and have their ‘education dumbed down’ (The Teacherist)
  • 3x more likely to be permanently excluded from school (gov.uk).
  • 61% of excluded children will go to prison (No More Exclusions).
  • Schools “unfairly punish black students” with “subjective” zero-tolerance exclusions for their natural hair & kissing teeth (BBC).
  • “Exclusions gap, is caused by largely unwitting, but systematic racial discrimination in the application of disciplinary and exclusion policies” (DfES, 2006).
  • More likely to be under assessed by their teachers vs. external SATS grades;
    • 43% in English
    • 32% in Maths
    • 26% Science (Burgess & Greaves / The Teacherist)
  • Most likely to get their A-Level grades under-predicted, affecting university admission (BIS, gov.uk 2011)
  • Even in private schools, research highlights “the continued experiences of low expectations of teachers and the extra labour required of the Black middle classes to get taken seriously” (IoE, 13)
  • 20 % points less likely to achieve 5x A*-C grades (The Red Card, 04)
  • 1% of children’s books have a BAME main character (Guardian)
  • 23% rise in race hate crimes against children in 3 years (NSPCC).
  • 8% of UK university intake, but only
    • 4% of the Russell Group
    • 1.5% Cambridge uni
    • 1.3% Oxford uni (BBC, 2016)
  • Affirmative action changed this: 2018/19 Intake at Cambridge risen to 3.6% thanks in part to Stormzy scholarships and promotion, and 2.6% at Oxford, “without any reduction in offer levels”
  • 22 percentage points less likely to achieve a 2:1 or 1st class degree (ONS)
  • The university ‘attainment gap’ exists if adjusted for wealth & grades (Guardian)
  • UK Universities recorded just 560 complaints of racial harassment, despite 60,000 student complaints (EHRC).
  • 1.5x more likely to drop out of uni, most cite racism (Guardian)
  • “UK medical schools failing to deal with racism” (BMJ)
  • 1.2% of 20,000 funded PHD places awarded to Black students (Leading Routes)
  • A secret eugenics conference was held on the UCL campus in 2017!

EMPLOYMENT

  • Failure to fulfil the potential of the BAME workforce costs the British economy £24 billion/year, or 1.3% of GDP (McGregor-Smith Review)
  • Black people make up 3% of the population, but
    • 0.2% of journalists (Reuters)
    • <1% of University professors (HESA)
    • 1% of police officers (gov.uk)
    • 1% of court judges (gov.uk)
    • 1.1% of secondary Headteachers = 39 / 3000 schools (TES)
    • 2.3% of all teachers, 1.6% of Deputies, 2% of Heads (gov.uk)
    • 6% of NHS workforce (gov.uk)
  • BAME – 14% pop / 21% NHS staff / 7% of NHS Trusts’ Boards (gov)
  • 8% of TV’s creatives BAME with Black People the least represented (Campaign)
  • Ethnic sounding names 74% less success job hunting (BBC, 2015)
  • 60% more job applications required to get a positive response if BAME. Unchanged in 50 years. (Guardian)
  • 3x less interviews for ‘Mohammed’ vs. ‘Adam’ with identical CV (BBC).
  • 8% Black journalist grads find a job in press vs. 26% (NCTJ)
  • 33% less likely to find work as a BAME medical graduate (Times)
  • 66% employment compared to 87% White British (gov.uk)
  • 48% more likely to be on zero-hour contracts.
  • 1 in 10 unemployment vs. 1 in 25 White British (gov.uk)
  • 26% unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds vs. 11%
  • 3x as likely to be unemployed w. vocational/A-levels if BAME (TUC)
  • 2.5x as likely to be an unemployed graduate if BAME (TUC)
  • BAME teachers are under-represented; paid less than their white counterparts; experience widespread discrimination when applying for jobs or promotion; and often endure racist abuse (NASUWT)
  • 60% BAME workers report racist treatment by their employer (TUC)
  • 15% BAME NHS staff reported manager discrimination in yr (NHE)
  • 29% BAME NHS reported abuse by colleagues in yr (Independent)
  • BAME “more likely to perceive the workplace as hostile, they are less likely to apply for and be given promotions and they are more likely to be disciplined or judged harshly” (McGregor-Smith Review)
  • BP: “an over representation in disciplinaries, grievances and redundancies” (UNISON)
  • 2x as likely to be reported to the GMC if BAME Doctor (GMC)
  • 2x disciplinary proceedings against Black Midwives in LDN (RCOM)
  • Avg. annual income £23k if Black whereas £25k if White British
  • Avg. earnings 9.2% less than White British counterparts (ONS)
  • Receive the lowest average hourly pay (Gov Disparity Audit)
  • When other difference are adjusted for, Black male graduates earn 17% less pay – about £3.90 an hour (Resolution Foundation)
  • Only about 3% of large employers have so far voluntarily reported their ethnic pay gap (median pay):
    • ITN – BAME employees paid 21% less per hour (Guardian)
    • Met Police – BAME 17% less (Sadiq Khan pay audit)
    • TFL – BAME 10% less (Sadiq Khan pay audit)
  • 26% less pay for Black academics at Russell Group unis (BBC News)
  • 16% less pay for Black female doctors (NHS / @amelia)

HEALTHCARE

“People from minority ethnic groups experience poor treatment due to the negative attitudes of others regarding their character or abilities” (Race Equality Foundation, 2007)

There is gender and racial bias in pain assessment and treatment (Guardian/BBC/NCBI)

“There is a belief that Black women feel less pain” (Make Motherhood Diverse)

Incredibly we still do not record ethnicity on death certificates so it is impossible to know the full extent of health inequality in Britain.

  • 5x more likely to die in childbirth as a Black woman, even though there is no evidence they’re more likely to suffer complications (MBRRACE)
  • Highest infant mortality rates (Guardian)
  • Lowest life expectancy – men by 5 years & women by 1.5 years (Guardian / JECH, 2015)
  • “Racism contributes to mental health problems such as psychosis and depression” (Mental Health Foundation)
  • 10x more at risk of psychosis as a Black man (Gov Disparity Audit)
  • 50% less likely to receive treatment as a Black woman, despite being the most likely demographic to experience common mental health disorders like depression and anxiety (Gov Disparity Audit)
  • 4x more likely to die of Covid 19 as a Black man
  • 3x more likely to die of Covid 19 as a Black woman
  • 21% NHS staff BAME, but 63% of all NHS Covid19 deaths (HSJ)
  • 50% of BAME NHS staff said: “systemic discrimination” put us more at risk (ITV)
  • The gov review said BAME communities more at risk because they are more likely to live in urban areas, in overcrowded households, in deprived areas, and have jobs that expose them to higher risk (ITV)
  • Yet it does not include a single recommendation in response.
  • In fact it redacted the recommendations made by the review team inc. a a call for “specific measures to tackle the culture of discrimination and racism” in the NHS.

HOUSING

  • 32% of households homeowners vs 68% White British (2019).
  • Most likely to rent social housing (Gov Disparity Audit)
  • Spend a higher proportion of their incomes on rent (Gov.uk)
  • BAME households more likely to wait longer for a housing offer, to be offered poorer quality homes, and flats rather than houses (Guardian)
  • 6x more likely to live in overcrowded households (gov.uk)
  • Black households more likely to be poor and most likely to be in persistent poverty (IRR)
  • 20% of children living in persistent poverty vs. 10% (Disparity Audit)
  • Most likely to live in deprived neighbourhoods (Disparity Audit)
  • 14% of homeless households, but only 3% of population (gov.uk)
  • Gov’s flagship Right to Rent scheme ruled to be “causing racial discrimination” by High Court in 2017. It is still in place (Guardian)
  • 10 LND letting agents caught in sting agreeing not to let a property to Black people at (undercover) landlord’s request (BBC, 2013)
  • In 2017, Fergus Wilson, owner of 1,000 buy to let properties instructed landlords not to let to ‘coloured people’ because of the ‘curry smell’ (BBC)
  • In 2020 Grenfell Tower survivors were still waiting to be permanently rehomed, 2.5 years later, despite Theresa May’s promise to rehome them in ‘three weeks’ (Guardian)

BRITAIN’S COLONIAL PAST

A TINY SNAPSHOT

“As long as you send all children out into the world to be actively educated into racism, taught a white supremacist version of history, literature and art, then you are setting up a future generation to perpetuate the same violence on which that system of power depends.”

– Afua Hirsch

Did you know…

  • Black History is British History.
  • The UK only abolished slavery in 1833 by agreeing to pay slave owners a sum of £20m (£300bn today)  for “loss of property”.
  • A transferral of wealth from taxpayers to slave owners so huge the debts incurred were only paid off in 2015.
  • Meaning almost all UK taxpayers have contributed to this bill (@MandoParty / UCL Legacies of British Slave Ownership)
  • The slaves were never paid reparations.
  • For 300 years, every British monarch gave direct or indirect support to the transatlantic slave trade until it was abolished in 1833.
  • Of the 12 million slaves abducted from Africa, 40% were transported on British ships.
  • We are told slavery was outlawed on humanitarian grounds in a campaign fought by abolitionists. In reality, an overproduction of sugar crops led to reduced profits. (@MandoParty)
  • In 1944, Eric Williams, the first PM of Trinidad and Tobago, described the idea that slavery was abolished because of an appeal to humanitarian principles as “one of the greatest propaganda movements of all time”. It endures to this day. (New Statesman)
  • If we were all taught about colonial history in school, we’d learn at a young age that many of the people who came here from colonies and former colonies did so as citizens, not as immigrants (Guardian)
  • “An understanding of colonial history would allow us to shift the boundary of ‘British citizen’ to include people from (former) colonies” (Maya Goodfellow, Guardian)
  • Truly learning about empire would mean understanding that colonialists created race and the racial hierarchy to control and govern colonies around the world. Unpicking how and why race was constructed would make for a more sophisticated discussion about racism and what it means to be ‘British’. (Goodfellow, Guardian)
  • The Windrush generation arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries between 1948-73 on invitation from the Queen, taking up jobs in the nascent NHS and helping to rebuild Britain after WWII.
  • As residents of the British commonwealth, they were automatically British subjects and free to permanently live and work in the UK.
  • That is until Theresa May’s ‘hostile immigration’ policy intentionally sought to drive out those without the correct papers, knowing full well that many of the Windrush generation arrived as children on their parents’ passports, AND that the Home Office had destroyed thousands of landing cards and other records – meaning many lacked the documentation to prove their right to remain in the UK.
  • The Home Office demanded at least one official document from every year they had lived here.
  • Falsely deemed as ‘illegal immigrants’ / ‘undocumented migrants’ they began to lose their access to housing, healthcare, bank accounts and driving licenses. Many were placed in immigration detention, prevented from travelling abroad and threatened with forcible removal, while others were deported to countries they hadn’t seen since they were children. (JCWI)
  • A leaked draft of the independent review into the Windrush scandal found the Home Office “reckless” and discriminatory. It recommended that all staff should “learn about the history of the UK and its relationship with the rest of the world, including Britain’s colonial history” (Channel 4)

MICROAGGRESSIONS

A microaggression is a comment or gesture (whether made intentionally or not) that feeds into stereotypes or negative assumptions created around marginalized groups of people. They may be totally harmless in intent, but to the recipient – facing them day in day out – they can very much feel like an attack. They serve as constant reminders of one’s ‘otherness’ and ‘difference’, reinforcing the notion that they are not an individual to be judged on their merits, but nothing more than a ‘stereotype’.

  • Noticing a White woman clutch her handbag as you approach
  • Being tailed by security guards when shopping
  • Being turned away by Bouncers when other non Black groups aren’t
  • Assumptions you’re in the wrong place / a service worker / cleaner
  • Taxis not stopping for you
  • Policing of your natural hair, which is deemed “unprofessional”
  • Heightened surveillance of your tasks and relationships at work
  • When it’s assumed your success is a by-product of affirmative action rather than your own achievement.
  • Being told you are loud/aggressive/ angry – upholding the values and communication styles of the dominant White culture as ideal.
  • Tone policing detracts from the validity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented.
  • Being mistaken for the other Black person at work
  • “Where are you really from?” (you don’t belong here)
  • “Your English is so good” (why wouldn’t it be?)
  • “You don’t look Black” / “You don’t look like you sound” (do all Black people look/sound a certain way?)
  • Can I call you…” (your identity is less important than my comfort)
  • The touching of your hair or skin without permission (fetishising)
  • “You’re so exotic” / “You’re a lovely colour” / Comparisons to chocolate, coffee, cacao…
  • “I love mixed race babies” (reinforcing light-skinned privilege)
  • “You’re so pretty, are you mixed race?”
  • Expectation that you will want to lead internal diversity projects
  • Expectation that you’ll be a role-model / spokesperson for your race
  • Assumptions you’re good at sport / dancing
  • The almost total absence of black-protagonist movies without ‘white saviour’ narratives (The Teacherist)
  • Being subjected to a white-centric curriculum, news agenda and media that erases the contribution of people like you from British history and society
  • The glamorisation of the British Empire in everyday life – e.g. people that abused, enslaved and killed your ancestors enshrined in road names, building names and memorials and statues all over the UK
  • “Flesh” coloured tights, plasters and make-up are not made for you
  • Being told you look like a Black celebrity just because they are Black
  • Hearing jokes like, “what time is your court hearing?” just because you’re wearing a suit
  • The assumption you’re Caribbean or African or that the two are the same thing (7,000 Caribbean islands and 54 African countries; bigger than USA+Canada+China)
  • “Non-white” (women are not non-men)
  • “BAME” (though there are similarities, the experiences are not universal, anti-Black racism is specific)
  • “I don’t see colour” (denies your lived experience of racism)
  • “Why can’t you protest peacefully” – putting property damage above Black lives
  • “All Lives Matter” (not all houses matter equally to the fire brigade, if only one house is on fire. It is your house that is burning)
  • “Don’t protest during a global pandemic, you’re putting lives at risk” (racism is a global pandemic, Black lives *are* already at risk, the beaches are full and VE Day parties/congas were celebrated in news)
  • Subjected to DARVO – Deny, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender
    • An academically studied tactic of psychological manipulation.
    • This is from a recent post by @Rachel.Cargle highlighting DARVO in a White response to being called out for racism:
  • Deny: “we can’t be perfect immediately”
  • Attack: “you used my post of hope in a negative way”
  • Reverse Victim/Oppressors: “I’m heartbroken”, “I’m crying now” and “I was begging for encouragement”

CONCLUSION

We started by discussing these three statements:

  • Britain is racist
  • White, non-Black people of colour and light-skinned people to varying degrees all benefit from White privilege
  • I am racist.

Earlier you % in mind to which you agreed.

Has it changed? Are you able to agree any more?

If so you’ve just demonstrated “doing the work”

As Pran Patel, at The Teacherist explains:

“Like most binary labels the ‘racist bad – non-racist good’ binary is really unhelpful. We would all be better served looking at racism as a spectrum between racist and anti-racist.”

The (racist to anti-racist) spectrum is a dynamic scale where people will move regularly. Remember that the natural tendency is to fall towards the racist end of the spectrum; to move the other way takes work.

You’ve just done such work.

Now, imagine how much the percentage to which you agree might change if you read a best-selling book on this very topic, written by an expert Black voice.

If you’ve made it this far, please buy and read one of the following and see how the % changes.

  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People – Reni Eddo-Lodge
    • Natives – Akala
    • Brit(ish) – Afua Hirsch
    • So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
    • There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack – Paul Gilroy
    • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Race – Robin DiAngelo

White people and non-Black people of colour need to be actively working to dismantle the systems of privilege from which we benefit. That means things that will make us uncomfortable like positive discrimination in education and employment; but what may feel like putting *ourselves* at a ‘disadvantage’ is actually just going a small way towards levelling a systematically unfair playing field.

I have compiled this very rudimentary research with the intention of helping to demonstrate just how unfair this playing field really is, but it is so much more better explained and explored by Black People in their own voices in the many excellent books on the subject.

Please buy (from a Black-owned business) and read one of the above books. Keep ‘doing the work’ and translate that new knowledge into affirmative action in your home/workplace/neighbourhood/schools.

We all need to continually strive to move further along the scale away from the natural tendency to racism.  

#BlackLivesMatter

Should Teachers be held Accountable for Dismantling Oppression in Society?

This is guest post from Claudia McIntosh

‘These standards will apply until further notice’ reads page 3 of England’s National teachers’ standards document. This 15 page long piece of literature was revised in 2012 and was subsequently introduced to replace the core standards. 2012 was also the year that I began teaching. For me, that was the year that marked the beginning of a career, one that could help to shape the young minds of so many positively. I was motivated, confident and enthusiastic that with the knowledge of these 8 standards by my side and the lengthy training sessions focusing on them, us teachers could achieve anything.

Sadly, I was wrong. As my professional skills developed, I began to question the vocation that I had trained so hard to be a part of. The 8 standards were failing all of us – students and teachers alike. There were gaps in attainment that grew larger as the years passed, issues between myself and colleagues that I didn’t have the words or confidence to address. I was ill equipped in so many ways and so were the majority of my colleagues.

I began working with some likeminded teacher friends and eventually we launched equality sessions for staff members. We created spaces for safe conversation and self-reflection. We did this independently and our resources were entirely based on our experiences as either being part of a marginalised group or being an ally.

Was it a step forward? Yes, for the organistation almost certainly, but the responsibility to maintain the dialogue of educational equity and fairness while battling attitudes of indifference and a ‘tolerance’ of difference rather than an embracing acceptance, often left me feeling emotionally bruised. Each staff session was becoming noticeably traumatic. My thoughts travelled to the other schools in the country who are yet to embed staff equality sessions. Teachers from schools who are yet to sit down with each other and safely participate in any form of equality based CPD.

Over the past few weeks, during conversations with fellow teacher friends and parents, it has become clear to me that teachers need more support.  I’ve been asked the question ‘what can I do to help?’ on countless occasions. It’s hard to know exactly how to respond when I am continually searching for answers myself.

‘How can I embed anti- racist narratives within my subject?’ ‘How can I start equality sessions with my work colleagues?’ ‘How do I have difficult but very necessary conversations with staff in a way that helps us become more unified?’ have been just a few of the questions that have found their way to me, and I’ve decided that these questions should no longer go unanswered.

Standard 5 of the 8 teachers’ standards ask teachers to address ‘the needs and strengths of all students. It asks us to consider Special Educational needs and disabilities but fails to refer to the other 8 protected characteristics.

The absence of all 9 protected characteristics in this particular standard, leaves a wide gaping space for teachers to fall into the abyss. With no support in how to address these areas in our training years, with no guidance in how to facilitate meaningful conversations with our working teams, with no continued leadership in how to develop our curricula to meet the needs of our students and explicitly show awareness of anti- racist/homophobic/religious/ageist/genderist narratives, we as a nation will never achieve consistency or equitable learning within our current education system.

I call for an amendment to standard 5 to include all of the protected characteristics. This change will support continued learning opportunities for teachers, and ensure that training organisations and education leaders are held accountable for ensuring that school curricula is reflective of those who it aims to serve and therefore, capable of taking all students needs into consideration.

So to answer the question, yes, teachers should be held accountable for dismantling the oppression that still exists in our societies but in order to do this with seriousness, and to achieve consistency across all education providers, we need the teachers’ standards to be updated so that we have confident teachers who are ready and well equipped to provide the kind of learning experience that all students deserve.

If you are reading this as a fellow teacher, as a parent or just as someone who believes that this is urgent and imperative, please show your support by clicking on the link below and signing this petition.

https://www.change.org/EducationalEquity

References

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/665520/Teachers__Standards.pdf

Claudia McIntosh


Claudia McIntosh is the Well-being and Equality lead in a secondary school in East London. Providing staff with on-going training opportunities to raise awareness of educational equity, and ensuring safe spaces for self reflection and teaching development. 
Step mother to two curious, Lego obsessed human beings aged 7 and 9, and textiles craft enthusiast, Claudia is currently working towards a diploma in Hypnotherapy, with the vision to channel this back into her profession by supporting emotional well-being health in BAME professionals. Exuberant teacher by day, introverted over thinker by night, Claudia was motivated to pursue a life long career in education and helping others to reach their full potential.

A Teacher’s Perspective of Racism

This is a guest post from Gemma Clark who is a white Primary teacher and EIS Rep. Teaches in Inverclyde.

I like most people, have been watching with horror as events unfold in America. The frequent murder of black men and the realisation of the true extent of white supremacy leaves us shocked and wondering how this can still be happening in 2020. How can people be murdered for going for a run, for driving their cars, for existing? Thank goodness it doesn’t happen here in our very tolerant Scotland where refugees are welcome and affectionately termed ‘refuweegies’.

I like most people, have been watching with horror as events unfold in America. The frequent murder of black men and the realisation of the true extent of white supremacy leaves us shocked and wondering how this can still be happening… Click To Tweet


But racism is very much a fact of life here in Scotland, and we as white people are often (if unintentionally) complicit with it. It is our duty, as educators to learn about our white privilege, our biases and work towards being not just ‘not racist’ but actively antiracist.


Confronting our own compliance with and even participation in racism is uncomfortable and takes a real awakening. I was raised by liberal parents. My dad had a photo of Martin Luther King on the Wall and bought my niece black as well as white dolls to play with. I was educated on racism. I knew that racists are terrible people and that I am not like these people. About 15 years ago, I was utterly offended at being sent for the mandatory ‘antiracist training’ by a former employer. I am not a racist. That training is not for by people like me. I have now realised that I was completely wrong about this.

Several years after being offended that my employer had the audacity to send me, an educated and enlightened person, to antiracist training, I completed my teacher training. One evening while scrolling Twitter, I noticed one of our university lecturers was recommending a book, ‘Why I am no Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge. This lecturer had made a big impression on me during my training as she made me realise that teachers can play an essential role in supporting pupils from marginalised groups (and that great responsibility comes with this). Seeing this tweet coincided with a friend of mine telling me about his plans to emigrate to Dubai where he once lived for a couple of years. When I asked him why he wanted to move, he told me he was tired of racism and had enjoyed not having to deal with it in Dubai. I was ignorantly surprised. ‘But Scotland isn’t a racist country’? My friend was patient enough to explain to me that Scotland IS in fact, plagued by racism but that I don’t see it. I can do my shopping without getting dirty looks; I don’t need to hear the nasty comments about ‘these people’ or listen to insinuations that I am probably a terrorist. I can move through an airport without being treated at best with suspicion or at worst like a criminal. At this point, I was finally beginning to realise that there were a lot of things that I do not know or have the slightest understanding of. I downloaded Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book on Audible and vowed to listen with an open mind.


The author discusses the history of violence and racism towards Black people in the UK. She cites many statistics that clearly demonstrate the disadvantage that BME people suffer in the UK. She then goes on to discuss the harder to spot racism that she experiences every day. She ‘stopped talking to white people about race’ because it seems we are totally committed to not listening and discarding people’s lived experiences. She recalls times when she has had common ground and friendship with a white person, but if she ever ventured onto the topic of racism, she was always met with the same answers. ‘But that might not have been racism’. ‘But there might have been another reason why an equally qualified white person got the job’. ‘You can’t just accuse people of racism’.


On reflection, I hear these comments all the time and have probably said a few of them myself in the past. We think that racists are the gun-wielding skinheads with swastika tattoos that we see on the news; The deplorable people who we condemn and don’t want to be associated with. But Eddo-Lodge argues that ‘If all racism was as easy to spot, grasp and denounce as white extremism is, the task of the antiracist would be simple ‘. ‘We tell ourselves that good people can’t be racist’.

On reflection, I hear these comments all the time and have probably said a few of them myself in the past. We think that racists are the gun-wielding skinheads with swastika tattoos that we see on the news; The deplorable people who we… Click To Tweet


It is our understanding (or complete lack) of racism that is the problem. Racism is the societal structure that disadvantages anyone who is not white. This is what the term ‘white privilege’ (first coined by sociologist Robin Diangelo) is referring to. It does not mean that white people can’t have hard lives. It means that our lives have not been made harder because of our race. My being able to walk through an airport without being treated with suspicion or unnecessarily detained for extra ‘security checks’ is a privilege that I receive due to my whiteness


This brings me back to racism in Scotland and its relevance to teaching. Having taught children from a range of ethnicities and cultures, I like to think my teaching is inclusive and certainly ‘not racist’. However, watching a recent Ted Talk by Pran Patel on ‘Decolonising the Curriculum’ made me reflect heavily on this. I have championed the multilingual skills of my Arabic speaking students, but I have not taught them about the contributions that the Arabic world has made, including modern maths as we know it! I know about white scientists and inventors who have contributed to society, but that is all. I have realised there is more to inclusive teaching than merely a few, token, black history lessons. We do not teach the truth about history, especially because so many of us do not know it ourselves. So many of us had no idea that Glasgow was instrumental in the transatlantic slave trade and that streets like Buchanan and Glassford are named after slavers. We don’t correctly understand Malcolm X or see him in context. We gaslight people with Martin Luther King quotes without knowing or understanding that he was more disappointed by ‘white moderates’ than he was troubled by the KKK.
As teachers, it is our duty to go through this process of awakening to do better by our pupils. I became acutely aware that antiracist practice in teaching, has a long way to go when a colleague of mine made a post on a teacher’s page about subconscious racial bias which she had seen on TV. To summarise, the BBC had interviewed two men. One was Finnish; one was Indian. Both were speaking clear English, but only the Indian man was subtitled. I noticed that a white male immediately commented on the post, suggesting it was not the appropriate forum for this discussion. I replied to this comment stating that I disagreed, as teachers, we have to ‘Get It Right For Every Child’ and challenge all racism no matter how benign it might seem.

We don’t correctly understand Malcolm X or see him in context. We gaslight people with Martin Luther King quotes without knowing or understanding that … Click To Tweet


Encouragingly, there was a lot of agreement with the post; however, there were many attempts to silence my colleague with all the usual rhetoric that I am finally beginning to see. ‘You can’t prove that’s racism’. ‘You can’t just cry racism’. ‘You can’t accuse people of being racist’. Again, it all comes back to our lack of education and understanding of what racism is and our desperation to shut down any conversation about it. For sure ‘racism’ is a loaded and emotive word. I seemed to upset a lot of people by suggesting that there was a lot of mansplaining and whitesplaining going on in the discussion. This comment brought me a lot of angry criticism from several white men. I tried to engage them in reasonable debate, after all, we were on a professional forum and should be able to do these things. I was unable to keep up with the comments or fury and quickly became exhausted by it. I am aware of the irony, that I, a white person am complaining of exhaustion after talking about racism. There was no desire to understand the point the post was made, rather, people just wanted to ‘prove’ that it was utterly wrong. We must stop silencing people and start listening.

There were many attempts to silence my colleague with all the usual rhetoric that I am finally beginning to see. ‘You can’t prove that’s racism’. ‘You can’t just cry racism’. ‘You can’t accuse people of being racist’. Click To Tweet


I see an urgent need for antiracist teacher training. I realise now that our well-intentioned ‘colour blindness’ is not serving our BME pupils. Our BME pupils are going to go out into a world where they will have more barriers and obstacles in their way than their white peers. They will be more likely to be unemployed. They may be victims of rising hate crime (if they haven’t already been). They will suffer health and social inequalities. Our pupils deserve a better curriculum, our unwavering allyship and most of all; they deserve teachers committed to antiracist teaching.

What ended the Slave Trade.

This is a piece by Professor Kate Williams, who is a New York Times bestselling author, TV (CNN and BBC) Professor at the University of Reading and historian.

When people say, statues should stay because they are our ‘history’. Britain in 1895 had campaigners for the end of Empire, the legacy of the vast abolitionist movement, many freed slaves who had campaigned. But it was Colston who was commemorated by a committee. 

Whose’ history’ is it?

Let’s look at some questions.

What ended the slave trade in Britain? 

What ended the slave trade in Britain?  Click To Tweet

A lot of people think of Wilberforce and (white) middle-class abolitionists. Actually, it was much more due to the enslaved themselves. It was the men and women who were part of slave rebellions across plantations and their leaders such as Samuel Sharpe in Jamaica and freed slave abolitionists, such as the author Equiano and those who brought lawsuits, the significant cases of slaves demanding freedom James Somersett and Joseph Knight. What also brought the horrors of the slave trade to the British public was the newspaper coverage of the insurance claim after the massacre on slave ship Zong. 

A lot of people think of Wilberforce and (white) middle-class abolitionists. Actually, it was much more due to the enslaved themselves. Click To Tweet

Jamaica, then a British colony, saw many of the enslaved rebels and rise up, in what were often presented as eruptions but were actually carefully planned rebellions, with secret networks co-ordinating A huge rebellion was led by Tacky in 1760, a slave who had been king of his village. The rebellion was brutally put down, Tacky was killed, and the men with him committed suicide rather than be sent back to slavery. Inspired by Tacky, rebellions broke out across the island and rebel escapees set up freed communities in the forests. Slave uprisings occurred across plantations in America, the Caribbean and Brazil. In Haiti, thousands of slaves rose up in August 1791, demanding the freedom that post-revolutionary France had offered, saying all men were free and equal. The slaves got control of much of the island, fighting off first French troops and then the British, who were sent in an attempt to stop slave revolt. The great Toussaint L’Ouverture was one of the military leaders. Finally, the French abolished slavery in their colonies in 1793. In 1831, Samuel Sharpe, a Baptist preacher, led slave rebellions across Jamaica until he and others who had taken part were cruelly executed. Abolitionists in Britain told the public about these rebellions and the shocking reprisals. These rebellions in Jamaica and the failure of British forces in Haiti meant the British public were forced to confront the brutal realities of slaves’ lives on plantations – they were not content or protected, and they would rather kill themselves than be enslaved.

The slaves got control of much of the island, fighting off first French troops and then the British, who were sent in an attempt to stop slave revolt. The great Toussaint L'Ouverture was one of the military leaders. Finally, the French… Click To Tweet

Three major law cases also had a significant impact. 

Charles Steuart in Virginia bought James Somersett. Steuart brought him to London in 1771, where he escaped and was baptised. Steuart captured him back and took him to a ship for transportation in the Thames. In 1772, Somersett’s three godparents brought a case. Backed by abolitionist Granville Sharp that Somersett was no longer Steuart’s possession, could not be sold and was illegally imprisoned on the ship. The case gained substantial public attention and press coverage. Somersett’s lawyers argued that no law recognised slavery.

Steuart’s defence argued the paramount importance of property. The judge, Lord Mansfield, ruled that ‘no master was ever allowed here to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he had deserted his service’ and Somersett went free.

This case did not end the recapturing of slaves or the slave trade, but it had a significant effect on public opinion and influenced successive trials. One such example was that of Joseph Knight in Scotland. Knight demanded wages from John Wedderburn who had bought him in Jamaica. Knight ran away, and when Wedderburn tried through the courts to get him back in 1777, the judge ruled that Wedderburn had no rights of ‘dominion’ over Knight in Scotland and he should go free. Joseph Knight lived free and promptly married Annie Thompson, who had been a servant in Wedderburn’s house – h

The other major case that had a considerable effect on public opinion was the horrific case of the massacre on the slave ship Zong in 1781. En route to Jamaica, the Zong ran low on water, and 130 of the trafficked individuals were thrown into the sea. In Jamaica, the Zong’s owners claimed on insurance for their ‘lost cargo’, as enslaved people were insured as ‘cargo’. The insurers refused, declaring that the captain was at fault. This became a massive lawsuit between the owners and the insurers – and it finally brought the horrific conditions on ships and the barbarous treatment of slaves to public attention. Equiano did much to raise its profile, and Granville Sharp wanted to try the captain for murder. The swell of public opinion, the petitions and middle-class anger pushed forth the abolitionist movement.

Freed slave abolitionists talked widely and gave lectures to the public about the horrors of slavery. Equiano’s book about his life was a bestseller, published abroad. Yes, Wilberforce took abolition through Parliament, but he was building on the work of freed slaves such as Equiano and Knight, the uprising leaders such as Tacky – and the shocking scandal of the Zong massacre.

So when we talk about what should replace statues of slave traders, rather than choosing all white abolitionists, let’s commemorate freed slaves such as Equiano, Somersett and Knight, or the uprising leaders, Tacky or Samuel Sharpe, a Baptist preacher who led slave rebellions in Jamaica in 1831. They fought for their freedom and forced Britain to confront the horror of the slave trade.

So when we talk about what should replace statues of slave traders, rather than choosing all white abolitionists, let's commemorate freed slaves such as Equiano, Somersett and Knight, or the uprising leaders, Tacky or Samuel Sharpe, a… Click To Tweet

Wilberforce built on the public opinion generated against slavery, by men such as Equiano and the enslaved people rising against their owners, in Britain and the plantations. We’ve had a movie about Wilberforce, can we have one about an uprising leader, or Equiano or Knight?

Yes, of course, Wilberforce pushed through abolition. But often it is made to seem as if he is the only one behind the abolition of slavery, erasing the fight of so many enslaved people, in Britain and in plantations, for their own freedom.

The Authorities should take down statues after discussion.

People who say – authorities should take statues down after discussion. Yes. But it isn’t happening. Bristol has been debating Edward Colston for years and wasn’t getting anywhere. In 2018, it was agreed that the statue would bear a plaque noting his involvement in the slave trade.

People who say – authorities should take statues down after discussion. Yes. But it isn't happening. Bristol has been debating Edward Colston for years and wasn't getting anywhere. In 2018, it was agreed that the statue would bear a… Click To Tweet

But then it proved impossible to find a wording that everyone accepted. The first plaque that it carried, added when it was erected in 1895, said ‘Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city’. NO mention of slavery.

Later in 2018, Bristol Council unveiled the wording for the second plaque, “As a high official of the Royal African Company from 1680 to 1692, Edward Colston played an active role in the enslavement of over 84,000 Africans (including 12,000 children) of whom over 19,000 died

en route to the Caribbean and America. Colston also invested in the Spanish slave trade and slave-produced sugar. As Tory MP for Bristol (1710-1713), he defended the city’s ‘right’ to trade in enslaved Africans. Bristolians who did not subscribe to his religious and political beliefs were not allowed to benefit from his charities’. The wording had been discussed by various groups, including children from Colston Primary School (name now changed). But it proved impossible for the Council to get it through.

Some councillors objected. And then the Merchant Venturers got involved and pushed for various changes, including removing the reference to 12,000 children instead focussing on his philanthropy (and not to note it was selective).

The new plaque read, Edward Colston, 1636-1721, MP for Bristol 1710-1713, was one of this city’s greatest benefactors. He supported and endowed schools, almshouses, hospitals and churches in Bristol, London and elsewhere. Many of his charitable foundations continue. This

was erected in 1895 to commemorate his philanthropy.

A significant proportion of Colston’s wealth came from investments in slave trading, sugar and other slave-produced goods. As an official of the Royal African Company from 1680 to 1692, he was also involved in the

transportation of approximately 84,000 enslaved African men, women and young children, of whom 19,000 died on voyages from West Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas.

As you can see, the language on the two plaques is radically different. The second says Colston’s wealth came from sugar, etc. and he was ‘also involved in the transportation’ of slaves – rather as if he sort of built boats but didn’t know what was going on. The use of the word ‘investments’ also works to distance him from slavery. The focus was on his ‘philanthropy’. 

The Council refused this altered plaque and the Office of the Mayor, Marvin Rees, who has been on TV today, rightly said it was ‘unacceptable’, particularly the lack of reference to those enslaved. That was in Spring 2019, and the plaque has been under discussions ever since.

Some Bristolians said to me privately that they were pessimistic about the likelihood of an agreed text and thus that the only plaque forevermore on Colston would be the one calling him ‘virtuous and wise’. 

So everyone saying, why couldn’t Bristol discuss it and bring it down through agreement? It’s not that simple. While statues are being discussed and changes blocked, black people have to pass them daily, seeing the congratulation of slave trading, their horror and pain.

Statues are not mountains or cliffs. They are not natural phenomena. They are put up by groups of the wealthy and powerful to tell us who we should admire. In 1895, Bristolians were told to admire a slave trader. They could have put up an abolitionist such as Equiano. And if the men who put up the statue of Colston simply wanted to celebrate a rich white man who had given to charity – there were plenty of other options who were not slave traders. Richard Reynolds, ironmonger and Quaker, gave more to Bristol in the nineteenth century than Colston and spoke out against slavery. Or c16 John Whitson who owned ships and gave to the poor and endowed the oldest surviving girls’ school in the country. On top of this, Colston’s philanthropy was problematic: you had to agree with him to get it, and the charities were criticised by the nineteenth century for doing little to help the poor, as work by Roger Ball and Spencer Jones has shown. But instead of Reynolds or Whitson or any of the other people who gave to Bristol charities, these Victorians chose to venerate Colston, a man who profited from the evil and horrific slave trade. 

People have been trying to bring down the statue for years. Now, thanks to Black Lives Matter, he is down, rolled into the sea near Pero’s bridge, a bridge named for Pero Jones who was brought to Bristol as enslaved and never freed. It is time we confronted the true nature of our past.

People have been trying to bring down the statue for years. Now, thanks to Black Lives Matter, he is down, rolled into the sea near Pero's bridge, a bridge named for Pero Jones who was brought to Bristol as enslaved and never freed. It… Click To Tweet