BLM – What To Do Now?

This Guest Piece is from @NorwichSoS.

For schools wanting to know how they can ‘channel the justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action’ @NorwichSoS invite you to join #ADayOfWelcome #BlackLivesMatter.

Make this moment a turning point for antiracist action in your school

Where we are…

“I recognise that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting — that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life. But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful. If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals. Let’s get to work.”

Barack Obama, June 2020, ‘How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real ChangeThe young people we work with are likely to have seen images of the US protests over the death of George Floyd and maybe even videos of others’ violence. Some pupils may cope with this in the belief that police brutality and guns are in the US; somewhere other than where we are. Lots will not, because of their experiences and the experiences passed down to them from family members or what they can read about from recent and distant history. Combined with the fact we are still in a pandemic in which BAME people are disproportionately dying of a virus that apparently doesn’t discriminate; it is highly likely we will be working with children and young people who are living in a heightened state of anxiety and fear; for some, trauma. Not only can this impact mental health now and in the future, but it can worsen health outcomes and reduce academic achievement. It is also likely we will have staff members and families who are feeling the same right now.

“There is a large and growing body of robust evidence demonstrating that racism leads to mental illnesses.” 

Alison Faulkner, April 2019, ‘The impact of racism on mental health’

We are upset, we are angry; what we can do?

It is perfectly normal to feel such emotions; it is okay to feel uncomfortable. It is a natural response to what we are seeing. To manage those feelings, self-regulate, and for some, heal, we need to be agents for positive change. As educators, there are several things we can do to reduce inequality in our settings and create a safe space with positive role models. There is excellent support available, including:

As with any school improvement plan, we need a whole-school approach to reducing equality and creating a safe space where learning takes place for everyone, and we need to remember there are no quick fixes with this; it will take time to be truly embedded.

A school will only deliver an inclusive education where all pupils can succeed if you:

Have a shared vision which promotes equality.

  1. Provide clear leadership to create and manage a positive environment which enhances equality and inclusion and supports and champion efforts to promote equality and inclusion; be antiracist.

Have a whole organisational culture which supports and promotes mutual care and concern and trusting relationships

  1. Have an ethos and environment where all members of the school feel happy and safe to learn.
  2. Have a supportive school and classroom climate and ethos which builds a sense of connectedness, focus and purpose, the acceptance of emotion, respect, warm relationships and communication and the celebration of difference and values diversity; be antiracist·

Have clear, planned curriculum opportunities to support the development of equality and inclusion to help pupils explain understand and find ways to challenge inequality using appropriate learning and teaching styles.

Provide opportunities for children to participate in activities to build their confidence and self-esteem; be antiracist·

  • Identify pupils’ specific equality needs.
  • Provide equality support for pupils where needed
  • Refer to and/or deliver specialist provision
  • Can evidence vulnerable children and their carers reporting feeling valued and supported; be antiracist ·

Have mechanisms are in place to ensure all children can understand and easily access the pastoral support system  

Have identified routes for referral for all children and young people and staff can evidence children, young people and staff know how to seek help if they are upset or troubled Can evidence families feel empowered to improve their understanding of equal rights within education and wider; be antiracist 

Plan CPD programme for all staff to support the teaching of equality

  • Ensure staff are aware of their role in responding to equality issues
  • Can evidence staff reporting that the school supports and enhances their equal rights; be antiracist 
  • Are engaging children through an equitable pupil voice to share responsibility in decision making within the school, and all can identify their contribution to school improvement; be antiracist.
  • Have mechanisms in place to ensure parents/carers and local communities enjoy and get actively involved within the school. This involvement is varied and in response to consultation; be antiracist.

 

How to start the work…

You need to ensure you are educated; understand what actions and feelings have caused recent events, understand the difference between not being racist and being antiracist. Then you need to find materials and resources to help foster productive conversations in your school about race and civil disobedience.

This padlet is a good start. 

For any school leaders wanting to know how they can ‘channel … justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action’ I have included links to the Schools of Sanctuary initiative which teaches about equality with a focus on refugees and asylum seekers.  

It also contains all you need, and more, to prepare, plan and run ‘A Day of Welcome’ on June 12th. 

‘A Day of Welcome’ created and led by Jake Rose-Brown from Norfolk Schools of Sanctuary is a call to action, with ideas and resources, tried and tested in Norfolk but now ready to go wider. 

There is an inextricable link between racism and xenophobia, and the prejudice and injustice faced by refugees and asylum seekers seeking sanctuary in the UK. Taking part in A Day of Welcome is one just way to spark antiracist dialogue and action in your school. It will also help to combat stereotypes and misconceptions about refugee migration and to help build a culture of welcome for all in your setting.

The Aims of A Day of Welcome.

  1. To build an understanding of the experiences and contributions of refugees and asylum seekers.

  2. To uncover and celebrate little-known stories of refugee migration.

  3. To signpost Refugee week events which pupils, families and staff may wish to participate in. 

We hope your community, including those currently at home, join Norfolk schools on June 12th. If you do, please share your action via Facebook or Twitter #ADayOfWelcome or email.  If you are in any doubt of the need to ensure your school is antiracist, put simply; racism is killing our young people.   If you really believe #Black Lives matter; do the work!

A Headteacher’s letter to parents: Black Lives Matter

This is a letter from a Headteacher to parents. It’s anonymised but if you have any queries please do get in touch.

Dear Parents / Carers,

It has been a deeply upsetting few days seeing the shocking scenes unfold in the USA following the tragic murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests. There are clearly many factors in place in America that have led to the ferocity of the protests. A pandemic that disproportionately impacts on the BAME community, the economic difficulties the pandemic brings which disproportionately impact on the BAME community and finally, but most significantly, a political structure and systems that disadvantage people of colour.

It is too easy to look at the situation in America and dismiss the issues because our police officers do not carry guns. Whilst the right to bear arms clearly add to the problems in the USA, it is not the root cause of the issue. The root cause is the same both in the USA and UK. Our society is built upon white supremacy. On hearing this term our minds immediately jump to the Klu Klux Klan and Nazis. However, white supremacy is much subtler than this. In many instances it is the unidentified bias that sits within the majority of us that white people are superior to people of colour. The world’s systems and structures are built on this bias and this therefore creates White Privilege.

As a school, in a predominantly white area, we have a huge responsibility to ensure that children of all races recognise the existence of white privilege and white supremacy. The curriculum we deliver and class discussions we have, carefully attempt to do this at an age appropriate level. We are constantly evolving our curriculum as we better understand how to celebrate diversity. We aim to educate children so that they are able to make the small adjustments to their own actions which will erode, and ultimately remove, both white privilege and white supremacy.

However, we cannot do this alone. All teachers know that before you can support a child to understand something you must ensure you understand it yourself. We need parents and carers to talk about diversity with their children. Below are a series of links, these will be added to the school website and be updated regularly. They are an excellent starting point to recognise the unidentified biases we all have. During this unusual time the majority of you will have more opportunity than ever to talk to your children. The terrible situation in America can be turned into a positive if it becomes the catalyst for an honest and open conversation with your children. It may be uncomfortable and they will have questions. You don’t need to have all the answers, but opening the dialogue is something we can all do. It will be much more impactful than retweeting a Black Lives Matter poster on Instagram or sharing the latest Nike Video advert on Facebook.

It is not ok to just say you don’t see colour, it is not ok to aim to just not be racist. You must be, and our children must be, anti-racist.

Warm Wishes,

Anon

The following links and articles are for adults and are not appropriate to share with children. They are intended to support adult learning:

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/racist-adviser-downing-street-surprise-200219073656737.html

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-52877803

Representation is not Decolonisation

I get asked a lot about representation, and a lot of my work starts with a call to represent the global curriculum more authentically. Yes, include lots of people from around the world in your work. No, we haven’t finished. We risk falling into a trap here. 

Decolonisation is not just the inclusion of black and brown faces in our textbooks and posters. Imperialism and its legacy lie in all of our minds. This process may feel like a slap in the face, but it’s most likely correct that if you were raised in the west (global north), you have undergone a process where you have been told and shown repeatedly that particular groups are more successful than others.

While I applaud the inclusion of actors of colour in the media, we have to dig deeper. Growing up the few melanated people on our TV screens were the ‘savages’ in Tarzan, but Pran, that’s changed now? Has it? Let’s think about the way black males are portrayed in the media? 

Think of 5 black (main) male characters and list their common traits:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

What do you notice? If you still don’t see a trend, do the same with white characters and reflect why these are not seen in black characters. If you want to challenge yourself do the same with women of colour (I’ll come back to this another day).

I read to kill a mockingbird at school, and it was nice to see people of colour in a book. However, the story is based on the white saviour trope. Primarily a white man fights to save a Black man, the black man doesn’t talk an awful lot through the book either, he dies anyway, but it’s okay because the white man has won the support of the community.

What does that insidiously say about the black men? And white men?

‘Of Mice and Men’ after talking to Remi Ryans (English specialist, friend and comrade)– Crooks in the story is the only black character, and he is subjected to barrages of racism, but he is also the only person in the story who owns books. I see a man of intelligence and courage. When do we teach or are taught through that lens?

Dahl is problematic (overt racism) is much of his work; there are other articles on this website which tackle that. Let us just concentrate on ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, Willy Wonka travels to a far land, steals resources from a ‘simple’ people (Oompa Loompas) from a savage land (with beasts, etc.) and they revere him for it?

Charles Dickens is seen as a social reformer and his work on Christmas carol is undoubtedly spurred the impetus for change, but he omits slavery from all his writing. At the same time of his book, the British were cashing in on the lives of black people in chattel slavery. What does omission say about who is of value in social justice?

My specialism is science, wherein my subject people of colour being taught? The omission says a lot. Notably, due to the mathematics being an Indian invention, the centre of Physics, Astronomy and mathematical science for centuries was centred within Islamic cultures. Architecture and medicine being at the pinnacle of the African continent, using vaccination type methods that pre-date Edward Jenner in smallpox. This process is not just about being exposed to a more authentic truth? And what do these omissions lead?

Empire is taught through a benevolent visitor lens. When the British arrived in the Indian subcontinent the share of the wold economy 24.4% was 4.2% when they left. This includes an exploitation of $45 trillion ($450000000000000000000 – that’s 19 zeros if you are counting). Did the Mau Mau revolution, the assignation of Dedan Kimathi and Jallianwala Bagh not happen? Do you even know what those events are? I was not taught in school. Yes, If you are even thinking about mentioning railways. I’m coming for you.

Democracy is taught as a European invention, erm, maybe look at north Africa and the Malian Mansa and the electing Gerbratta (apologies for the spelling, someone correct me please). That brings me to slavery; Britain ended slavery? Erm, Britain wasn’t even the first country in Europe to do so, or the second. The ending of slavery is often seen as a benevolent act by William Wilberforce, leading parliament to the emancipation? Erm, the slave revolutions and violent insurrections didn’t play a part at all? I could go on all day.

What impact do all of these omissions and reframing of history have? Think about the associations that come to mind when you think about oppressed groups and those when you do the same for the privileged.

There is always work to be done on ourselves because if we don’t, we propagate the same damaging rhetoric we always have.

Race: Assimilate to Survive?

This piece from Remi Ryans.

I was restrained by a police officer at five years old because I walked out of a shop with a toy fireman's hat on by accident.  Click To Tweet
  1. I was restrained by a police officer at five years old because I walked out of a shop with a toy fireman’s hat on by accident. 
  2. At 6, be forced by my year teacher to stay behind for a same day detention because she didn’t believe my art homework (I was so proud) of had been drawn by me. I had to do it again in front of her. After 20 minutes she conceded she could see I had done it, but I had to stay anyway 
  3. The same teacher showed my work for a different project to another student’s family; they copied it verbatim, guess which child ended up in detention. 
  4. Being told my name and face didn’t match by a former Prime Minister.
  5. Being called a slave by my history teacher.
  6. Another teacher told me (in front of the whole class) that my mother was illiterate because my name was ‘misspelt’. Then be punished because of my subsequent reaction. 
  7. Being the only one in a group of friends (only black person in the group) to be questioned by police about why I was playing in a small park outside my friend’s house on his birthday. His parents had to resolve the matter.
  8. Carrying my violin in school uniform on the way home from and being stopped, searched and questioned over the ownership of the item because frankly, ‘we don’t see boys like you doing things like that.’ 
  9. Less than 3 miles from where Stephen Lawrence was murdered have a group of white men pull up to my bus stop and threaten me with weapons if they saw me in the area again. 
  10. Be the only one in a group of teenage boys (I was the only black one), to be stopped, questioned, and had details taken when playing tag on the heath in Blackheath. 
  11. Be stopped and further questioned at Heathrow when returning from a school trip to the Gambia, again; I was the only black persons in the group. 
Less than 3 miles from where Stephen Lawrence was murdered have a group of white men pull up to my bus stop and threaten me with weapons if they saw me in the area again.  Click To Tweet

All of this by the age of 18 years old, while very much entrenched in systemic whiteness my mother sought to create to protect me. There is a notion that respectability, the delusion that appealing to tropes of British civility (private education, classical languages, classical instruments, dining etiquette, etc.) will elevate you to a place where your humanity somehow becomes immune.

Firstly, don’t get it twisted, you can do any of this stuff and love it for the sake of your enjoyment. Assimilation is survival, white readers will know of times they have changed their accent or sat up straighter at the table. For PoC assimilation is survival, it’s not just a perception but having to comply or risk physical violence. As undertaking as a form of appeasement, like a going belly up to illustrate harmlessness and submissiveness is dangerous. 

Secondly, this mindset does nothing to help your community as you become a pawn, an example to be held up while being used to beat your community further down. 

Thirdly, and most importantly ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’ Audre Lorde (#citeblackwomen). The delusion that respectability and politicking your way through life can make you some double agent is pure fantasy. 

You don’t overcome fascism with closer proximity to that evil, you don’t overcome gender inequality by getting closer to those who create the misogyny. Confrontation (non-violent or violent is a conversation for another time) is how change is earned.

8 Ways to Remove Bias from your Classroom

 

The title is a bit of a misnomer as bias is a habit of the mind. Your brain is designed to take cognitive shortcuts. When I was a child, my parents made me go to cubs and then scouts. Yes, I hope you’re imagining a beautiful small chocolate coloured version of me with a cute neckerchief. In case you were wondering, yes, butter wouldn’t melt.

Bias is a habit of the mind.How are you breaking that habit? Click To Tweet

You must visualise the above, because either this confirms your biases about me or poses something new into the mix, importantly both associations are damaging. We should be aiming to make judgements and assertions after getting to know people in the present and exclude actions that happened years ago, but this isn’t easy. Yes, the above and below are true stories.

While in the cubs (younger version of scouts) I remember reading a book about snake before my first camping trip at the time, I learned a rhyme about as snake red before black… is safe and black before … or something like that is not. This rhyme was supposed to differentiate from safe and dangerous snakes.

Eastern Coral Snake on sandy surface

Now, thankfully I never encountered a snake at the jamboree (scout festival). I am not sure how my friends would have thought of me trying to show off my new knowledge proudly, and this is the most likely scenario since, and before, me running a mile. Our brains are not designed to reason and access the knowledge needed to assess the danger they are primarily designed for survival. These associations are natural, and sometimes these associations become distorted; these habits do not make you a morally evil person, but we must endeavour to try and stop them in the classroom.

Recognise and accept you have an array of biases, as societal privilege is geared toward white, cis, male, middle class, native english speaking you probably have a propensity towards these groups. Click To Tweet
  1. Recognise and accept you have an array of biases, as societal privilege is geared toward white, cis, male, middle class, native english speaking you probably have a propensity towards these groups.
  2. Anonymous marking, by this I mean swopping a set of assessments with a colleague and labelling the front only with a number. This process is not a perfect solution, although it will help remove some of the bias.
  3. Try and learn some of your smaller preferences, by that I mean I worked with exam boards for years, and I can tell you that handwriting bias seriously exists.
  4. Negative behaviours are linked to teachers making worse assessments of academic progress, be aware of this in all of your assessments.
  5. Avoid setting, apart from the data that states this is fraught with bias, as soon as you assert that ability based on an arbitrary number/ranking top set, second set, etc. you are leaving yourself prone to bias.
  6. Check your positive biases; these can be as damaging as the negative ones.
  7. Words not tone, when working with pupils of colour this often arises in the behaviour statistics. Check your behaviour logs are Black pupils receiving disproportionate numbers of defiance, talking back, etc. Why is this? When you enter your behaviour logs, try and hold yourself to account by only including the words that were used, not the tone. You’ll be surprised at the difference of what and how you remember.
  8. Start again, we should start lessons with a clean slate and leave discretions that happened in the past in the past. The drawing of a line under experiences is tough, we are prone to leaning back on memories even if this is not conscious. I would advocate a process of accepting and ameliorating. That means understanding that if a pupil has a legacy of annoying you and then asking yourself in each and every interaction, how much of the past annoyance is impacting on your perception today?
Start again, we should start lessons with a clean slate and leave discretions that happened in the past in the past. The drawing of a line under experiences is tough, we are prone Click To Tweet

There are lots and lots more. Bias, racism and misogyny are part and parcel of our minds. We have the choice to be better to counter the ingrained schema; we have that choice. Over to you.

Bias, racism and misogyny are part and parcel of our minds. We have the choice to be better to counter the ingrained schema; we have that choice. Over to you. Click To Tweet

Photo: Patrick K. Campbell/Shutterstock)

Say Their Name UK.

TW: Police Violence and Death – Specifically Black deaths.

Educators, how are you framing your thoughts around the events in America? Which discussions will you be having around justice?

Anti Blackness is as much as a British problem as it is a world wide. We as a culture forget about the atrocities that we committed and continue to commit. Remember that concentration camps, genocide, firing on peaceful protests are primarily a British invention.

Below is a collection of unjust Black deaths, many are in police custody (shared with permission from an activist who does not care to be named.) No, I am not here to discuss the ins and outs of each case and I am certainly not here to engage in victim blaming. This whole piece is about looking at oneself when casting stones.

As you read down the list and say their names. I want us all to contemplate the question: How many charges do you think have been brought against police officers? and do you think there are systemic issues here? If you want to know how inherent bias works, try and listen to your brain as you read the list of names and descriptions of the circumstances of their deaths.

Yes, All of these human being are from and they deaths happened in the UK.

Rashan Charles
Rashan was followed into a convenience store, here police claimed he was trying to swallow an object, he died after being chased and restrained by a police officer.

 

Mark Duggan
Mark was shot and killed by police, police attempted to arrest Duggan on suspicion of planning an attack and claimed he was in possession of a handgun, he died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

 

Darren Cumberbatch
Police were called to his property in regards to concerns around his behaviour, he was punched 15 times, police also used a baton and a taser

 

Edson Da Costa
Edson was randomly stopped in a car and was restrained by police who used “distraction blows” and extreme force, he later died in hospital from a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by a blocked airway

 

Adrian McDonald
Adrian as bitten by a police dog and tasered after reports of an intruder, whilst in the police van, Adrian complained of breathing difficulties and shouting “I can’t breathe”, he later died in hospital.

 

Nunu Cardoso
Nunu aas a law student who died in custody after being struck by a police baton while being arrested on suspicion of possession with a knife

Olaseni Lewis

Olaseni voluntarily admitted himself to hospital for mental health treatment, medical staff called police when he became agitated. 11 police officers restrained him using excessive force, he later died from his brain being starved of oxygen

Sean Rigg
Sean lived in a hostel and staff called the police after reports of him becoming aggressive, he was restrained by three officers for more than seven minutes and he later died after suffering a cardiac arrest

Daniel Adewole
Daniel was found unresponsive in his cell following an epileptic fit, officers waited 38 minutes after they first received no response at Daniel’s cell door, before opening his door. They even went for a cigarette before checking his safety.

Trevor Smith
Trevor was shot dead by police in a bedroom in his flat during an “intelligence led operation”, he died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

Julian Cole
Julian was left paralysed and brain damaged after being tackled outside a nightclub by police officers, he suffers severe brain damage and a broken neck

Sarah Reed
Sarah was attacked and assaulted when taken into custody, she was later found unresponsive in her cell and shortly died. A police officer was caught on CCTV grabbing Sarah by the hair and then punching her as she laid on the floor

Jermaine Baker
Jermaine was shot dead by police, an officer claimed he had acted in self-defence, fearing Baker was reaching for a gun, no firearm was later found, he died from a single gunshot wound

Sheku Bayoh
Sheku was tackled by police using batons and excessive force after reports of him carrying a knife, he lost consciousness and was later pronounced dead in hospital, a postmortem concluded that he had sustained facial injuries, a fractured rib and bruises

Kevin Clarke
Kevin was restrained by up to 9 police officers while having a mental health crisis, while at the scene his condition deteriorated and he later died in hospital

Leon Briggs
Leon was restrained and detained at a local police station by police using excessive force, he became unconscious and later died in hospital

Anthony Grainger
Anthony was shot through the chest as he sat in a car by an armed police officer, detectives believed he and two others had access to firearms, however, no weapons were found in his car, he later died in hospital.

Kingsley Burrell
Kingsley was restrained by police days after being detained under the mental health act, he had been handcuffed for hours in hospital while awaiting assessment and was left face-down in a secure room with a blanket over his head, he later died from cardiac arrest.

 

Jacob Michael
Jacob was arrested for alleged affray and died in police custody, CCTV shows he was pleading for mercy after being pepper sprayed and restrained by officers

Mzee Mohammed Daley
Mzee was restrained with excessive force and arrested by police after “behaving erratically”, he later died of cardiac arrest.

Derek Bennett
Derek was shot six times by police afterwards they realised that the handgun they believed he was brandishing was in fact a cigarette lighter, he later died in hospital

Azelle Rodney
Azelle was shot at eight times by armed officers after his car was stopped, the officer stated he shot eight times because he thought Azelle was reaching for a gun.

Black Lives Matter – a Reflection

This guest piece come from Matthew Wyman.

I am currently sitting in bed, questioning the world we live in and highlighting in my own head the importance of a simple phrase, ‘Black Lives Matter’. 

I am a privileged white male, I am someone that does not have to encounter people avoiding me in the street based upon the colour of my skin, I am not someone who has to fight daily battles against a system and a society that is institutionally racist. As a white person I can sit here and tell you that we don’t do anywhere near enough to combat the oppression that black people have faced for hundreds of years, and whilst we no longer enslave them as if they were aliens, it is clear that racism is still here, it has always been here and unless we start to have honest conversations about how we need to change, it will always be here. 

Here is a question, how many more times will the same thing need to happen before changes are made? How many times are people like Goerge Floyd going to have to die before something is actually done? Black Lives Matter but right now this world we live in does not support that, so let’s change it.

Speaking as a white person, I will sit here and say that we as a race have failed black people for generations upon generations, and if you do not conform to this ideology then you are the problem, you are the reason why black people are still being oppressed all over the world. Furthermore, the ‘All Lives Matter’ argument falls null and void, yes all lives matter but as white people our lives have always mattered in the eyes of the law and society. The way we are treated does not need to be fixed but the way black people are treated does, in the eyes of certain parts of society it is obvious that their lives do not seem to matter. 

To even start trying to change this we need to be honest with ourselves, we need to see that we are not doing enough, we have never done enough and that we owe it to them to change. We need to stop calling it ‘racist’ when a black person stereotypes a white person and we need to stop saying ‘if the shoe was on the other foot then that would be racist’. Black people have been racially discriminated against for hundreds of years and we caused it, so stop labelling it ‘racist’ when they make a joke about white people eating ‘unseasoned chicken’, you have no idea. 

I know that as a white person I can never begin to imagine the hardship black people go through everyday as a result of racism, but I do think it is our job to try and understand and to make sure we do everything we possibly can to change things because when it comes down to it, Black Lives Matter. 


Matthew Wyman, 19 studying sports journalism at Derby University. Live at home with my mum, dad and little sister. Write mainly on sport but also on topics I feel passionate about. Learning as I go, curious and write from the heart.

Image from the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Centre.

Police Violence, Racism and Schools

TW: Police Violence.

This week has been trying, with videos of racism, discrimination and propaganda being circulated widely by the mainstream and social media. Let me say this before I continue; I do not for one second believe that this a new wave, as a man of colour I have been inundated with communications and experiences for pretty much as long as I can remember.

The narrative is now being shifted and centred to the response to racism, the violence and the deaths:

Distraction.

Riots.

Violence. 

Aggression. 

Tone.

That’s somewhere else.

This shifting is a deliberate societal reaction. When you move the subject from moral injustice, this is a distraction and distraction is a function of white supremacy (Toni Morrison). In other words, if we are challenged personally or as a society, the last thing we should be doing is questioning the means of that effort.

There is also a frequent movement from the content of the challenge to an assertion about the person challenging. We end up palming off our responsibility by concentrating on tone, manner and personality of the person. In the effort of making the dealing of the content easier because you are no longer reflecting on those uncomfortable truths.

Let us begin with the narratives.

Rioting 

Let’s start with the concept of rioting; the challenge is reframed if you have an oppressed group who are fighting for their lives at the hands of the state. When do you say enough is enough? Famously, Dr Martin Luther King Junior famous said that riots are the voices of the unheard, so I ask what are we not hearing? 

 Courtesy of the Martin Luther King Jr Centre.

Famously, Dr Martin Luther King Junior famous said that riots are the voices of the unheard, so I ask what are we not hearing? Click To Tweet

We would do well in remembering that people have tried for millennia through articulate and respectful civility to fight this injustice. When they take to the streets through fear of losing their lives, they are branded the bad guys. Why is that? Why have we been trained to think this way? And ultimately, who does it protect? And do we teach this type of criticality in schools?

Looting. 

Let’s look at the parallels our British Empire ‘looted’ in excess of $45’000000000000000000 ($45 trillion) that’s 19 zeros if you’re counting and continued to loot priceless historical artefacts worldwide and remember none of this has been returned. Today, the descendants of those people (who were the victims) are subjected to the worst society has to offer as a consequence of the British Empire and colonialism. Those are the people we are so quick to condemn. The hypocrisy is rich.

Our British Empire ‘looted’ in excess of $45’000000000000000000 ($45 trillion) that’s 19 zeros if you’re counting and continued to loot priceless historical artefacts worldwide and remember none of this has been returned. Click To Tweet

That $45 trillion figure doesn’t include chattel slavery either. Although, I will point out that our taxes until 2015 were used to pay reparations for slavery. Oh wait, let me be clear, those reparations were not to the enslaved people but the slave owners for their loss of stock. Yes, you read that correctly. During ‘abolition’ our country borrowed against the state to make these payments and our taxes finally repaid this debt in 2015. It is entirely possible that the lineage of people who suffered paid for their liberation. Not taught that in schools.

our taxes until 2015 were used to pay reparations for slavery. Oh wait, let me be clear, those reparations were not to the slaves but the slave owners for their loss of stock. Yes, you read that correctly. During ‘abolition’ our… Click To Tweet

Distraction and Finger-Pointing. 

Isn’t America a terrible place, it’s racist, the devil lives there, etc. I am not disputing the institutionalise racism and inequity in the United States of America. Why is the narrative rarely about the UK? About our own society because it’s easier to point fingers and say we are better than them, well least racist is *shockingly* still racist. As the US narrative is about Police brutality and the state response. Let’s look at us closer to home. A Black person is ‘four times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act’. It’s not that simple there may be factors are in play; however, when coupled with the deaths of members of people of colour in police custody (6 out of 11 from 4/17-12/17) this isn’t looking great. With the chair of the IOPC saying  ‘We need to look closely between the relationship between ethnicity and the use of force.’  Black people are proportionately four times more likely to experience force from the police five times more likely to have AEP or taser used against them and nine times more likely for officers to have used firearms. Stop and search also disproportionately targets Black people, to the tune of 40 times more likely to stopped and searched compared to white counterparts.

our taxes until 2015 were used to pay reparations for slavery. Oh wait, let me be clear, those reparations were not to the slaves but the slave owners for their loss of stock. Yes, you read that correctly. During ‘abolition’ our… Click To Tweet

That was pre COVID-19 and Black and Brown people are 54% more likely to be punished under coronavirus rules many of these were charged on corona laws which do not exist.   Today, The Guardian reports that the IPOC are investigating CCTV footage of a 15 years old being beaten by a police officer in the West Midlands. The same officer was caught on camera beating a Black cyclist and ripping his face mask off just the day before (he was held down by a female officer), Black men wrongly being shot, a Black man was tasered for witnessing a car accident, and it gets worse. Check the article in the references below.  

Black and Brown people are 54% more likely to be punished under coronavirus rules many of these were charged on corona laws which do not exist. Click To Tweet

 

“There is a sense in these communities that no one is ever held accountable after deaths and serious incidents. The test for the credibility of this IOPC investigation will be if something happens as a result,” Deborah Coles, the director of Inquest. 

That quote is from the same article. This concept is prevalent as far as I know in the last 36 years, not one police officer has been charged for a death in police custody (happy to be corrected). Where is the justice?

As Educators, What Can we do? 

Step one is to acknowledge that this exists in our system, in our country and that we are a part of it. There is nothing wrong with teaching an authentic truth which highlights the atrocities of our past and present I would say that this is a significant pivot point in the upholding of institutionalised white supremacy in the UK. Alas, I have found as educators through fear, guilt and uncomfortableness we either refuse to act or recoil and double down on more of the same. 

Recognising our biases against pupils of colour are also critical with regards to behaviour as we know Black boys with SEND are 168 times more likely to be excluded when compare to a white girl without SEND. Teacher underassessment is also a pertinent point if you have a lower expectation for a pupil (at the longitudinal study say systemically we do) throughout their school life this impacts their outcomes.

I have written extensively on decolonise the curriculum, and you can find those resources on this website. I will write something for leaders too, at some point. Right now, I am exhausted, it is 2020 and people of colour have been asking for change, justice and fairness forever it feels. 

I have written extensively on decolonise the curriculum, and you can find those resources on this website. I will write something for leaders too, at some point. Right now, I am exhausted, it is 2020 and people of colour have been… Click To Tweet

The choice is ultimately yours, advocate change, take action or understand and accept you are part of the problem.

References

  1. The whole world and the lived-in experience of the oppressed.
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40495539https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/may/04/stop-and-search-new-row-racial-bias
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/26/bame-people-fined-more-than-white-population-under-coronavirus-law
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/07/ipcc-concerned-about-rise-in-ethnic-minority-deaths-following-police-restraint
  5. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/dozens-of-brits-wrongly-charged-by-police-under-new-coronavirus-laws_uk_5eb6c529c5b6c3bd87000d9f
  6. Ministry of Justice. Exploratory analysis of 10-17 year olds in the youth secure estate by black and other minority ethnic groups, 2017
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/29/iopc-launches-investigation-into-alleged-police-brutality-in-birmingham
  8. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/764059/police-use-of-force-apr2017-mar2018-hosb3018.pdf

Immunity to White Supremacy

Things that don’t make you immune to whiteness and white supremacy,

  1. Dating a person of colour.
  2. Engaging with friends of colour.
  3. Loving ethnic cuisine.
  4. Ascribing to another protected characteristic.
  5. Learning and speaking another language. 
  6. Having PoC in your family  
  7. Being a good person. 
  8. Having good intentions.
  9. Working with PoC for a charity. 
  10. Saying I’m not racist but … 
  11. Being a person of faith.
  12. Loving world music.
  13. Teaching in a school which is majority GM.
  14. Being a feminist.
  15. Having children of colour / having bi-racial children.
  16. Believing that you are beyond denial.
  17. Retweeting Black activists and theorists.
  18. Announcing your white privilege.
  19. Taking the lead on ‘decolonise the curriculum’ initiatives
  20. ‘Tolerating’ diversity
  21. Being in an academic field i.e. African Studies, etc.
  22. Putting up signs in different languages along the corridor in your establishments.
  23. Holding stand-alone themed weeks (Chinese New year, black history (for one) month (only))
  24. Forming committees to tackle racism or raise issues faced by BAME communities.
  25. Being a person of colour.
  26. Raising money for a specific charity Being a member of a specific organisation
  27. Having siblings or family of colour.
  28. My best mate is…
  29. I once went to that country.
  30. I work with/I went on a course once…I
  31. hear what you are saying, but I have never been racist
  32. I watched Roots, as a kid.
  33. Holding a particular political viewpoint.
  34. Being white and moving to a country where you are then a minority. Eg White people who have a gap year in SE Asia and claim to understand what it’s like to be a minority.
  35. Travelling, growing up in different countries.
  36. Enjoying and using fashions/textiles
  37. Receiving approval for a single/few acts of solidarity/ally-ship
  38. Wearing your hair a certain way.

All of the above attributes or actions do not provide us with a get out of jail card.

Please do add some more below.