This is an excerpt from the antiracist educator – The book covers everything from bias and curriculum to racialised trauma. Click here to buy the book.
Introduction to Antiracism for Teachers
“At a time like this, scorching Irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.” (Frederick Douglass, in Foner, 1999, p. x)
Welcome, folx. You’ve picked up a book designed to make you feel uncomfortable, to challenge your thinking and to make your practice and environment a fairer place. Common responses to this type of work include anger, tears, wanting to walk away and sometimes, threats of violence. It’s okay if you experience those feelings. I want you to remember that these feelings are defence mechanisms which stem from the systems and structures of our society. This book is not about you, but that society. The structures that our society are built upon means that there are people who are oppressed, and others who actively benefit from that as a direct result. For this to end, we must face up to the fact that we all have a role in racial equity and must take an active part in fighting injustice in our society.
Racism is often defined solely as acts of physical violence and the use of derogatory terms towards People of Colour. Although violence and words are used within racism, these actions should be seen as symptoms of a greater issue. Racism comes in four forms: Individual, Institutional, Systemic, Internalised.
In this book, we will mainly concentrate on systemic and institutionalised racism. Within school systems, these two forms of racism are the most active and pervasive. Together, we will look at how our actions, ideologies, and thoughts uphold a society in which the journeys of People of Colour are fundamentally different from those of white people.
Systematic and Institutional Racism
In describing society, let us use the analogy of a house. Individual racism is analogous to the violence (whether verbal or physical) that takes place in a room in the house. The impacts of individualised acts of hate are abhorrent. As a Man of Colour, I have experienced these frequently, and as a result, I am well-versed in the damage they can inflict. These acts stem from more ubiquitous structures that provide the impetus for that hate. The allegory stretches to having a hole in the ceiling, which damages the contents of the room. The leak is not produced or caused by the room’s contents but is a symptom of structural issues in the roof.
In our analogy, institutionalised or organisational racism are the rules of the house, which include who can enter which rooms, who can sit at the table, eat at the table, speak at the table, how decisions are made in the house, and so on. I am assuming many of you are asking, ‘How do our organisations propagate racism?’ This is because each school in the UK is part of a wider societal structure that upholds this propagation. By the end of this book you may be better versed to recognise this.
Systemic racism is pernicious in its very nature, but it is the proverbial foundations of society and the foundation of our house; taking it even further, it is the fact that our ‘house’ exists at all. It is essential for us to recognise that racism is not just who we are; instead, in understanding systemic racism, we must realise the structures and walls within which we reside dictate the outcomes for millions of people.
First, let us accept that systemic racism impacts People of Colour and simultaneously does not and cannot have the same effect on white people.
Yes, I am saying that white people cannot be victims of systemic racism.
On the face of it, this may sound unfair.
Come with me here.
Imagine that I, Pran Patel, hate white people (I do not), and in my relative position of power in schools, I refuse to employ white applicants. Think about the consequences. Would this be unfair? Yes, absolutely. Are the white applicants facing an instance of discrimination? Yes. But what happens tomorrow? Those very same individuals apply to any other organisation and are faced with a fair opportunity and an advantage. Nothing, in essence, changes for those racialised as white; the architecture of the system itself is designed by and for them. However, there are obvious stark barriers and differences when considering Teachers of Colour.
[BAME] teachers are, on average, paid less than their peers, commonly face
discrimination and prejudice when applying for jobs or promotion and
typically face both overt and covert racism in the workplace. (Keates, 2021)
Racial prejudice and discrimination are different entities although they are often conflated. An easy way of defining them is that racial prejudice is based around prejudged attitudes towards a group and discrimination is rooted in the actions that stem from those attitudes. Racism, whether individual, institutionalised or systemic, should be seen as a consequence
of the earth on which we built our house. The roots of oppression start with the fact we have inherited this land after a legacy of exploitation and theft. For centuries Brown and Black bodies, lands and resources have been fair game in the hunt for power.
The esteemed Jamaican philosopher Charles W Mills …
Critical Race Theory or CRT is a section of scholastic analysis of race within society—it is an academic branch of sociology that analyses the world around us. I would argue that the tranche of study is not based on the melanin of individuals but the power that is afforded to those who are racialised as white (or those who have a proximity to whiteness). Many scholars have echoed that the power structures are primary and are crucial to the promulgation of racism. I have been repeating this point like a mantra for the best part of two decades; we don’tdon’t have to hate or kill folx to uphold white supremacy.
The following statement should not be controversial:
“”Every school in the UK/US is institutionally racist.””
As in our role as educators, who can deny that we uphold systems that denigrate the lives of People of Colour? Through teaching an ethnocentric curriculum, implementing disproportionate sanctions, under assessing pupils of Colour, disproportionate HR and the treatment of teachers of Colour, etc. Racism is the norm, it is every day, and we all contribute to it daily.
CRT evolved from the need for an alternative to the tired narrative of reformation, which stems from the civil rights movement and its academic analysis and critical legal studies (CLS). In CLS, scholars aimed to identify and deconstruct the inequalities within society in the United States during the 1970s. With race being the defining factor in oppression in our communities, the approach taken by CLS scholars was to relegate race’s significance to be analogous to class-based oppression. Thus CRT arose as the alternative.
Opponents of critical race theory often question its validity and often require ‘proof’; I have written elsewhere about the pitfalls of positivism (seeing truth as having an absolute value). When talking about people, society and their analysis, we cannot quantify proof in the same way we do the natural sciences. This same process is also evident in education but isn’t it interesting that we rarely see challenges to those academic departments.
All scholars in these sociological departments are tied to a constructivist ontology; I don’t believe you can take another stance when talking about race.
Racism is typified in society, entrenched into the culture and everyday life. So it exists without the need is not necessarily overt or with intention.
White supremacy is the culmination of political, economic, and cultural systems that allow white people to control commodities and other resources. These privileges are present regardless of intention or conscious observance.
The narratives from People of Colour are diverse and numerous. Thus, the power analysis is taken from the overall trends and a culmination of experiences.
Racial equity has rarely come from the sympathies or benevolence of white folx. Rather, moves that are conterminous with a mutual benefit, such as in times of labour shortages, may mean that the rights afforded to white workers are afforded those of Colour (through the bypassing through racist immigration policies).
Intersectionality is the concept that states that all characteristics may contribute to the power imbalance, including but not limited to race with gender, sexuality, colour, etc. As I am racialised as a Brown man my experience of the world is different to those of a Black woman.
Denying this scholarship is the same as refusing to engage in the knowledge that doesn’t fit your narrative. Sorry if you feel this is contentious, but that’s not knowledge. What you are engaging in is propaganda.
“Now if we are concerned with our awakening, it is because we’ve been asleep. Now we were put to sleep by historical catastrophes. And you know when people get into an accident; they need to go to sleep in order to survive the accident. If you are totally conscious when it happens, you won’t survive. So sleep is sometimes useful. But after sleep we have to wake”
Ayi Kwei Armah
I have written and spoken about the four types of racism – individualised, structural, institutional and internal. I have rarely talked about the latter for many reasons, mainly because the majority can interpret it as attacking People of Colour. I do not pen this piece of writing for the gaze of white folx; thus, if you are racialised as white, please read with caution; Hold your privilege in mind, and I humbly ask you to stay in your lane face your front. These words are not about or for you.
Growing up as a man of colour in the UK is a dichotomous process. As a Brown child, you are raised through a schizoid process with one part of you having to water the garden of your ancestors (in my case, mangos and pomegranates), and simultaneously we are forced to tend the garden of whiteness (apple and apple pears). If you are not au fait with whiteness, of you pop and go and do your homework.
While we tend our gardens, we find ourselves having to deny the existence of the mango because we taught through an ethnocentric curriculum that the pomegranates are ‘exotic’ and not part of the normal.
The normalisation is not a passive or secondary process from the education system, but this is a deliberate act. Education is the root of a system designed to uphold white supremacy; it always has and always will. This system is working at peak efficiency; let’s not fool ourselves by giving it the grace of morality.
“In the colonial context the settler only ends his work of breaking in the [N]ative when the latter admits loudly and intelligibly the supremacy of the white man’s values” (Fanon, 1961. p42)
Read that quote again. Does it make you feel uncomfortable? As a Person of Colour, how often have you refused to talk in your mother tongue or swapped your traditional garments for a suit and tie? Changed the accent of your parents? Have you anglicised your name? felt imposter syndrome (through your existence)?
Even as an experienced school leader and educator, I have been taught to espouse these very values. It has been usualised into my daily practice; Even now, the thought of not wearing a three-piece suit to a professional sphere starts to fill me with anxiety. Yes, my mind is also colonised; our resistance is natural; the following line in the quote:
“In the period of decolonisation, the colonised masses mock at these very values, insult them, and vomit them up.”
We should look back at the opening quote. We need to think about the idea of trauma. Some traumas are incredibly powerful, so ingrained that it embeds in the dispositional of unborn foetuses (Williams, 2020); they span centuries and through a diasporic spread both through ‘voluntary’ and forced migration encompasses the globe. These traumas lead to the environmental factors that lead to the same cycles that destroy the meritocracy premise.
Yes, I am saying that chattel slavery, colonisation and every act of racism between then and now impact People of Colour today.
Sleep. Sleep is important. The unconscious state is not necessarily a place of healing but one of survival. Without a level of denial of the hurt, how would one exist in this world? Imagine for a minute. a Black person in the UK being subjected to the daily glorification of those who thought of their ancestors as animals, commodities. Stack that with the fact they were compensated by the government (for their loss of stock). At the same time, the descendants of those very same people use their privilege to run the country (two whole prime ministers).
Sleep is important. I have often seen the media point to those embued and enamoured by whiteness. Look, here are a few Brown and Black folx who agree with our ideology. While this is fundamentally and systemically damaging, we still have to consider all our Brown and Black brethren as victims of the same racism.
Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s easier to pretend that the violence inflicted on melanated bodies is not based on racism but anything else. It’s easier to blame other folx for not working harder enough, centre on class, the wrong place and time or my favourite ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’.
I am not asleep, and I refuse to keep my morning calls on silent mode. It’s time to wake and awaken those around you.
I trained to become a teacher in a school close to where I grew up in the West Midlands between the two cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Like many 21 years olds, I had an attitude, charisma and certain arrogance. Walking into that secondary school, I remember the excitement, the deep feeling in my stomach, which may be interpreted as anxiety now. Still, at the time, I somehow used all that nervous energy to dream about my future.
My route into teaching was a baptism of fire—the GTP, the graduate teaching program. I walked in on my first day, and I was expected to observe, yes, but also to teach. Yes, deliver a lesson on my own on the first day. No problems here, a certain arrogance, remember.
I spent the morning planning the lesson in the prep room (I taught science for another two decades), and an older white colleague sat across the desk from me, playing with an inoculating loop. He spies over the Bunsen burners between us and says:
“You’ve got 10 S”
The S is elongated into an essssss. My heart started to jump into beat! my first lesson.
“Yes, I’m really excited”
“That whole class is a mess, and that’s the one with Nathaniel, that black boy, unteachable.”
I spent the next ten minutes in my head. Un – bloody – teachable, right? I’m five years older than these youths, nightmare? Today will be a breeze.
I met the year 10 S; I’m walking around like I’m bigger than ‘Prince’, and predictably 10s were not a nightmare…
They were worse.
In that first lesson, Nathaniel, a young Pupil of Colour, taught me more about life than the previous 20 years on this spinning rock could ever have. He and I didn’t get off to a great start. As teaching debuts go, halfway through the lesson, he jumps out of the window. Oh, I taught in 1.2; yeah, the 1 meant a first-floor, which means there was some height to that window.
“Someone died. I’m teaching my first lesson; I’m someone died.”
Said the voice in my head.
Unbeknownst to me – our Nathaniel had been a parkour practitioner. I clicked that as I saw him making his getaway across the field adjacent to my lab.
The lesson ends. I survive, barely. That voice gnaws inside my forehead.
“I’m not having it”.
Anyone who’s has ever met me will know this is a massive part of my personality, a persistent tenacity. These children are in the place that I was a meer set of months ago; that level of disrespect –
Like a dog with a bone, I spent the rest of the day pounding the corridors. Eventually, I collared our escape artist, and we marched back to the classroom where I’d previously slammed every window shut! As we walked in, I led us both, veering to the left to pick up a notebook from my desk and return to Nathaniel’s intended seat. I notice as I turn, Nathaniel is crying, tears but not blubs or sobs but continuous unabating streams.
Approaching with my notebook in hand back toward the desk and as I pull the stool out. Nathaniel says without his voice cracking and in one breath,
“you can’t punish me.”
Impossibly quickly. The words of response begin the form in my brain; slowly, the ideas mingle, rise and collapse into the solid form ready to drop.
“I, me, I can’t punish you. Me, the adult, can’t punish you, the child. Me teacher, you pupil – what part of this power dynamic don’t you understand?”
Before the words left my psyche, never let alone my lips Nathaniel again without the need for pauses between words said in one breath:
“You can’t punish me, sir. You can’t punish me. If you don’t love me.”
Both of us locked in eye contact, processing his little litany, and there is fell.
You can’t change, influence or support anyone’s behaviour if they don’t believe you have their best interests at heart. The conversation continued; the world for this Black boy taught him that he was not enough. He knew this was his lot; That no one cared about him, and he had ‘proof’ – this was the first time anyone had ever taken the time to hear him.
Nathaniel and I talked for some time about our world as People of Colour in the West Midlands. This interaction was a turning point for Nathaniel, but this was a 180 pirouette for both of us. I have spent the whole of my career with this at the forefront of my practice. All teaching is a relational act, and this is even more pertinent for Brown and Black pupils. The shocking thing is I knew this already; I had just learned to ignore it in the five years between my student and me.
I found myself remembering my youth and the lack of voice, no, the lack of people who were willing to hear, to the pleas of young boys, whose primary need is for those in charge to care enough to listen.
Caring (and showing that overtly) has always been at the root of my practice. It’s been at the core of my whole life. If you are in the privileged position of serving Pupils of Colour, then remember, in a society that denies their voices, you could be the one person who changes their world.
Buying printer cartridges for many folx is a mundane task. In this recent experience, I also found that it’s also incredibly costly. This is a letter to the dear old man who stopped me on the way out of the shop to ‘ask’ about the decolonise the curriculum hoodie I was wearing.
Him: “What do you mean by decolonise the curriculum?”
Me: “To teach a fairer representation and a more authentic truth, to create a more egalitarian world.”
Him: “But the curriculum is what it is?”
Me: “At the moment, white folx are overrepresented and disproportionately in our curriculum, and the overarching narratives are for want of another word ‘disingenuous’ and damaging.”
Him: “The English went to colonies and tried stop people eating each other.”
My heart starts to race. There is a pain in that monotonous drumming in the space in my chest. It’s not a physical pain; it’s not anger; it’s a feeling of deep and familiar sorrow. My soul and I are here (again) defending my brownness (all of the other perceived ‘…nesses’) because we as a collective have adopted a state of national amnesia.
We, and I mean, we, as educators, have genuinely failed.
We engage in discourse; the gentleman states his age, I inhale deeply, count to 5 and bring myself down at this point. Sir is my father’s age, and the way I was raised means almost always ‘that respect comes with experience’. My adulthood has taught me that toxic is toxic, but you know, I give this white-skinned uncle some grace.
We talk about the colonies the world wars with all the decorum of the British norms and conviviality. He stops at one point, looks at me up and down, stopping at the length of my beard and spits out, “The English were great for the Indians”. I’m now perplexed; I have just spent 3-4 minutes skilfully introducing and accessible unknown concepts around the ideological epistemic underpinnings of exploitation and commodification.
I stop and wait.
In silence, I wonder if I have lost my mind. Did I say anything about Indians hating the empire? or the ills that we committed in South Asia? That arrow was in the quiver for a shot later in the gambit.
At this point, my driver walks up behind me (a Muslim man with a glorious beard, he follows the sunnah of the prophet (PBUH)).
It starts to make sense with his next comment.
“Well, your lot may not, but the Hindooos loved the British”.
The most straightforward reply is to calmly state that I’m a practising Hin*du* and possibly deconstruct the attack based on a perceived Muslimness; this is a shocking example of false islamophobia.
However, as a people committed to fighting oppression, we don’t get to pick our battles. Serving the equilibrium is easy when you have nothing to lose. The mark of integrity is shown when we sacrifice power to redress the balance. That get of jail free card is stamped with the same hate that my kith and kin who follow the words of Allah face daily.
I find myself in a place of dissonance, incongruence, there is respect, and there is harm. This is a novel feeling, the maintenance of day to day harm and civil discourse is my bread and butter. There is a recognition that struggles with the choice of solidarity, now attack me directly all you want, come for my people, and I’ll tell you about yourself. Yes, that’s in the notebook for my therapist at supervision.
I look over at my driver. We speak in non-verbal broken dialect of nods, facial movements and postures of the eye. As a non-Muslim, I don’t know what this is like; I do know, however, what it is like to watch good people stand silent in the face of oppression. A nod and tiny curl of the lips signifies of connection ends our secret conversation and transaction ‘I’ve got you’.
Couple this with the fact that clapping back at this white man will help neither myself, him or the equilibrium. We trudge on through the swampy quagmire, walking him home through this disorientating dilemma.
I then talk through the ideology of agnotology, complicit duplicity and epistemology of ignorance. As simple as possible through some expert pedagogy as articulate and calmly as when I was at the grindstone in the classroom.
“Well, all this makes you a racist.”
At this point, this is labour and not one of love. Now I have to explain that as a PoC, I cannot the racist in the way legal, academic and sociological frameworks utilise that word. That racism is systemic, and as a brown man, I cannot systemically disadvantage white folx.
It continues; he challenges our credentials and quesions.
“What have browns and Blacks done for mathematics? Physics ? Chemistry?”
my driver, obviously annoyed because he knows between us we hold four postgraduate qualifications, scoffs and says
” Erm, 1. You know Pran teaches physics and 2. His Tedx talk is on the website.”
there is a pause, and then
“It’s time to go the engines running.”
We dance again to the rhythm of undoing the harm of the education system. The idea of hurt and violence is not penetrating the hard shell. We talked about the variety of experiences that my driver and I had faced in the last three months, police violence, overt racism, and surprisingly we made progress. There is a flicker of empathy and possible self-reflection.
Then it comes crashing down; part two of a critical reflection is often accompanied by guilt and shame. It is always easier to run from those emotions than to reckon with and feel them wholly.
Then comes metaphorically another slap to our faces.
“Why do you hate Britain?”
My driver jumps in, giving me time to compose myself.
“Who hates Britain? This my, sorry, our home! Born and raised in London. Well I am. Pran is from the Midlands…”
As the sting of the slap embeds, the five fingers leave an instant tenderness of the skin; I am moved by the grace of God or the universe to heal my oppressors hate rather than soothe myself.
“Let’s us think about this; many of us are trying to make the place we live and love better in the UK. I would say that’s not a burden that’s given but the responsibility of all. Every politician, teacher, activist, campaigner, and lawyer I could go on take this on. Would we ever accuse Boris or Keir of hating our country? Or is that solely reserved for brown and black folx.
“Yes, yes, You need to forget all this and integrate, work hard and make the most of it.”
Forlorn and tired from this unpaid exertion. I flip the narrative.
“Do you understand how easy it is for you to exist in this world as a man racialised as white? To not worry about your safety and about those you love? “
Through clenched teeth and watering eyes, we relayed a incident of individualised and systemic racism we experienced together that week.
“Those things will and can never happen to you, and so could you spend 10 seconds, sir, and reflect on the impact of you asking us to forget and continue to carry on has.”
This request falls on deaf ears.
“No. My mother was attacked because of antisemitism whilst pregnant – I know hate.”
This is not a war, well, not from our side of the shop floor. This is about sharing experiences. We reply in unison. “In solidarity”
I go on.
“That’s a terrible thing to have experienced. Let make sure that this doesn’t ever happen again to anyone. We stand with you.”
The instinct to run is now in full flow. The flight button is pressed.
“I can’t talk about this anymore – it’s too upsetting.”
He says, turning on his heels and walking away.
My driver and I – look at each other, again no words leave our lips. Although we are silent, the message is clear. We don’t get to walk away from our oppression. It is our burden, and today also it is our responsibility to eradicate it. ‘This is the price we pay’ we are left both wondering what the transaction is for and what we get in return.
The white flight, the distraction, the near tears are exhausting. We leave that shop through open automatic doors, both whispering silent and silent prayers.
Here I aim to create a list of terms and definitions around racial literacy.
When we think too little our judgments can be skewed by irrelevant information that we happened to see, hear, or think about a moment ago. This phenomenon is known as anchoring. Anchoring is one of the cognitive biases discovered by Tversky and Kahneman (1974)
The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that People of Color, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people.
Source: Derald W. Sue
A token status invokes the feeling of being responsible for representing one’s minority group favorably in any given domain. This feeling of responsibility or self-consciousness diverts the token’s attention from the cognitive task at hand and therefore can result in deficits in problem solving and memory.
Source: Saenz, 1994
Exaggerated belief[s] associated with a [social] category
Source: Allport, 1979
When students belong to a known group for which negative assumptions to intelligence exists a process called a stereotype threat can provoke responses which impair academic performance as well as academic engagement (Steele and Aronson, 1995, Aronson et al, 2001). Beasley and Fischer (2011) collate research in which the stereotype threat has been shown to reduces academic attainment through physiological increases in blood pressure (Blascovich et al. 2001), a reduction in working memory (Schmader and Johns 2003) as well as protective disengagement from the task to save their self esteem (Aronson et al. 1998).
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic – A UK specific term used to describe all would do not ascribe to the white label. Recently this label and the nature of the label have been described as problematic as it conflates the journeys and the lives of 80% of the world population into one category.
Pran Patel 2020
Global Majority (GM)
The BAME acronym but acknowledge the majority aspect of the world’s population and moves away from the minority word.
Pran Patel 2020
Interpersonal racism occurs between individuals. Once we bring our private beliefs into our interaction with others, racism is now in the interpersonal realm.
Tools and Concepts for Strengthening Racial Equity, Presentation to School District U- 46, Terry Keleher, Applied Research Center, 2011
Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.
Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building. Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens and Barbara Major. 2005
The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of White domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism.
Racial Justice Action Education Manual. Applied Research Center, 2003.
The lack of racial discrimination and disadvantage. Privilege can be split into the opposing definitions of institutionalised, structural and individual racism.
In this piece, we will challenge the often-repeated ideology that the panacea for inequity is in the hands of that individual, the choices we have and the choices we give to our students.
We often tell our young people, “Behave correctly, make better choices and work hard you’ll go further in life”. Now I have often written how the idea of the meritocracy is racist, classist, sexist, etc. Today let’s concentrate on the “correct” and “better choices”.
All students can change their life chances through their choices; this narrative is: “You can be anything you want, you just have to choose to work harder seize the opportunity”.
Working hard is the apparent solution to everything.
The idea of the ‘meritocracy’ is racist, classist, sexist, etc. I can see the eye-rolling from sceptics through the page; working hard means earning more outstanding merit, which means you will achieve more. As we have a disproportionate number of white, male, straight people at the top of society’s tree, this must mean that they work harder. Everyone who doesn’t is lazy, or that those characteristics inhibit their ability to do so.
What are the Choices that Exist?
Black and Brown folx have the choice to not talk with an accent, to not wear traditional garments, to not celebrate their own culture, to embrace ‘our’ culture which looks like coming to the pub, eat out food in the staff room, have a stiff upper lip, to keep their mouth shut, to shut up and put up and it goes on and on.
Would you say there is a choice? Do they or you have options? Would I get booked as many talks if I talk with a broad South Asian influenced Black Country accent and dialect? If you didn’t go to the pub because your faith and culture forbid the promotion of or the consumption of alcohol, would you not miss out on those relationship-building opportunities with the powers that be? Can you eat your traditional foods and be chastised for eating with your hands?
What we teach our children is that the only path is to acquiesce because resistance means sacrifice.
Being your authentic self* is often banded around leadership spaces. Integrity and authenticity are essential for even my measure of a good leader.
However, that caveat is important: *within the realms of ‘our’ acceptability (whiteness, maleness, heteroness, etc.). Be authentic and celebrate the parts of yourself that fit? If you don’t, then keep working on taking on those traits till you can.
There maybe be people out there plying the argument that maleness is the best or that the whiteness in our society produces the more significant results. Shockingly, I, yes, me, Pran Patel, I may even agree with you. However, we must recognise that society does not exist in an objective reality; what if I told you that we’d been brainwashed into the correct, the good and the best?
I sat in a car with three men after an international cricket match at Trent Bridge last week, and it was a good day, a day out with family. Our conversation slopes from the test match we’d just left because of the rain to the Hundred. The fantastic new format of the game was introduced in the summer of 2021, and through a masterstroke of marketing, the women’s match is offered for free and before the traditional evening men’s version.
A brother of mine says:
“You don’t see the same power in the women game.”
Another pipes up from the driver’s seat:
“And they think it should have the same commercial value, pay them the same as the men, pah”
“Come on, Pran, hit us with your response *eye roll*.”
I sat quietly, thinking about the thread of the discussion. My mind first interrogated the women’s game, the speed that bowlers bowl and the distances people hit the ball; it must be comparable, surely. Then to the question: Are we trained to see the ball travel further and faster when in the hand of a man, the way stereotype association, salience and perception work, probably? But, there is something wrong with this line of thinking.
Now I could argue about the virtues of the women’s game, the skills, the timing, anything really, there are many measures we could use for entertainment, but that misses the target. We need to swap the bow and arrow for something else. There is something wrong with the very idea of what is and is not entertaining.
Even once we have incorporated the perception and stereotype factor, it’s still likely true that the women’s game doesn’t see fast bowling at the same speeds or batting with the power-hitting. The real question is, why did these become the metric for better cricket? Who decided that power, blistering pace are the sole measure of value and entertainment? Where did that idea come? Who decided that this is entertainment? And who brainwashed us?
The Issues within the Mark.
Why is strength (as a consequence leadership, power and action) seen as masculine primarily? Suppose our measuring instrument is designed to observe a trait that tends towards maleness. In that case, there is a logical consequence that women are placed into a position of inferiority by default. If your ruler quantifies whiteness as the epitome of success, i.e. How articulate you are? How correct your language is? The vernacular and lexical choices you use, the cultural capital, economic capital, credentialed, etc., white people are then seen as superior sequentially.
Then a transformation happens; success is not only measured by whiteness, but whiteness becomes success.
Case study: Classism
Recently Lord Digby Jones criticised Alex Scott’s exposition of sports.
“Enough! I can’t stand it anymore! Alex Scott spoils a good presentational job on the BBC Olympics Team with her very noticeable inability to pronounce her ‘g’s at the end of a word.Competitors are NOT taking part, Alex, in the fencin, rowin, boxin, kayakin, weightliftin & swimming”
She responded with:
“I’m from a working class family in East London, Poplar, Tower Hamlets & I am PROUD 🙌🏾
Proud of the young girl who overcame obstacles, and proud of my accent!
It’s me, it’s my journey, my grit.”
Finally the Lord
“Alex Scott, please don’t play the working class card. You are worthy of much better than that! I admire & often publicly praise the adversity you faced & defeated to achieve all the success you deserve. Not sounding a g at the end of a word is wrong; period. It’s not a question”
Lord Digby seems to value the elocution of the ‘g’, which is his measure of success or correctness.
There is a lot to say here:
English is not French with the Académie Française; the language is free to live, evolve, and change, the colloquial vocabulary, elocution and pronunciation of the language changes daily and is even recognised annually. So, what is ‘wrong’? If we measure the correctness by standards that are trained into the middle classes, then the middle classes will always be more ‘correct’ than the working classes.
This idea of the working-class card is classist (and arguable racist by default), recognising that these power structures exist and that you are being denigrated because it is a nefarious act upholds those same structures. The following sentence plays to the value of defeating adversity to achieve success. ‘Adversity’ exists because the system that Lord Digby benefits from, whether she has overcome and defeated barriers, could be used as a measure of her success. This does not mean that the scores of working-class people are not to be admired for not defeating those hurdles.
Decolonisation seeks to challenge the correctness of the exam papers, the content, and the choices that lead to both. While we look at the curricula contents, we must primarily keep these two questions in mind: What is correct? Why is it right? And then feed the answers into actions which seek to change those ideas going forward.
There is a level of correctness to be challenged throughout, which is often dictated by exam boards and pre existing content. As teaching in the UK is measured on exam results, teachers end up teaching to the test. I don’t think this is controversial as ‘what gets measured get done’, but I don’t believe an educator in the country came into the profession to imbue their students with the ability to predict mark schemes and pass exams. As a profession, we should be centring on learning and adapting the assessment to suit. There is a need to flip the narrative.
Yes, we have little choice as educators to teach the material. However, we have the power to deliver through a critical lens and with the skills to empower the next generation to challenge the status quo of ‘correctness’.
I was moved to write this after listening to Tupac Amaru Shakur on the radio; the specific lyrics are:
“We gotta make a change
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes
Let’s change the way we eat
Let’s change the way we live
And let’s change the way we treat each other
You see, the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
What we gotta do, to survive”
Tupac Amaru Shakur
Obesity, poor nutrition is not about choice. It’s a coping mechanism to racism, as is the dispositional traits we leave to the next generation and the internalisation of the same hate.
This blog took a long time to write; well, that’s a fib, the reading for this blog and a chapter I recently wrote took a long time. My thinking is detailed in that chapter in the book.
Racism is traumatic. Its insidious fingers reach from the system’s modus operandi, the nervous system and even the expression of the codes in the cells of people of colour.
As educators, I’m sure that you are aware of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences); Felliti’s 1998 study included nearly 14’000 participants and found that folx who had higher scores of the twelve questions below were more likely to follow a path through neurological, sociological, emotional and cognitive development to adopt health risk behaviour which leads to lower quality of life as well as early death.
Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
Was your mother or stepmother:
Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
Did a household member go to prison
Since 1998 there has been adaption to the questions but barely a mention of racism. It’s time we talk about RAces.
Even if we skip the categorization of the harm in traditional ACES, the impact of racism is intergenerational, and this also has a dispositional element. Racism is likely to impact melanated people and children from the point of conception. (Bernard et al. 2020)
How can Racialized Trauma present in People?
First, we need to think about triggers.
I often state that racism is systemic and that although individual acts of racialized violence occur, these should not be our focus. When it comes to mental and physical health, it all matters.
“Racism is considered a fundamental cause of adverse health outcomes for racial/ethnic minorities and racial and ethnic inequities in health.” (Williams, Lawrence and Davis, 2019)
Mental health experiences are different for People of Colour. There are apparent differences in categorization; for example, there are many different cultural perspectives of co-dependency. In some cases is not seen as an illness at all. Why should our anglo eurocentric view supersede those others? (I will write about issues with DSM at some point too)
When Black and Latinx folx experience mental illness, their episodes tend to be more severe, persist for longer periods of time, and are more debilitating than the white majority. (Williams, 2018)
Racism is associated with a broad spectrum of diseases, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular (think COVID 19 and its impact) through an increase in allostatic load (hormonal and neuronal responses), inflammation, obesity, etc (Lewis, Cogburn and Williams 2015, Paradies et al. 2015 in William 2018).
When thinking about your classroom, we need to recognize the positionality between teacher and student. Racism is normally presented from those lines of power, such as watching family members (and yourself as a child) being dressed down by police, being denied a role or promotion based on your skin colour, being moved sets regardless of your ability, etc. As a teacher (especially if you are racialized as white), you are in a pivotal role, where the trust needs to be built from the remanent of broken promises and never demanded.
I detail an introduction to racially informed classrooms and the impact of trauma in that upcoming book, so, need to double up on that work.
This impact of trauma is sometimes void of clarity and nonsequential. People of colour may even expect adverse treatment as a result, and creating these defensive barriers to protect themselves is dangerous in themselves. I can attest to these survival necessities, but James Baldwin says it so much more eloquently in a chapter called Previous Condition in ‘Going to see the man’ (which I would recommend ever teacher read).
“In all this running around I’d learned a few things, like a prizefighter learns to takes a blow or a dancer learns to fall, I’d learned how to get by. I’d learned how to get by. I’d learned never to be belligerent with policemen, for instance. No matter who was right, I was certain to be wrong.
After the first few times, I realised that I had to play smart, to act out the role I was expected to play.”
Lots to think about. Racism is not simple and delves deep into every nook and cranny of our lives.
Williams D. R. (2018). Stress and the Mental Health of Populations of Color: Advancing Our Understanding of Race-related Stressors. Journal of health and social behavior, 59(4), 466–485. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022146518814251
Felitti VJ, Anda RF, Nordenberg D, Williamson DF, Spitz AM, Edwards V, Koss MP, Marks JS. Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Am J Prev Med. 1998 May;14(4):245-58. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(98)00017-8. PMID: 9635069.
I write this after reading that Archbishop of York has attacked London’s metropolitan elite…
I don’t agree at all with the ‘Most reverend’ but that’s by the by. I want to concentrate on the use of the dog whistle.
It is apt that the physical instrument that we now know as a dog whistle, a silent silver tube which dogs hear and react to was designed by Francis Galton. UCL’s father of Eugenics.
A dog whistle is also the use of words and phrases which covertly signals to a more extreme partisan supporter group.
When Nigel Farage said that Labour are more concerned with the people of Islington than the people of Hartlepool. He is pointing at race appealing to a racist voter base while having the deniability that politician often cite. I don’t see this as anything other than straight up racism. If we really want to talk of about differences (apart from melanin) then primarily the majority of people of Islington have more in common with the majority of people of Hartlepool than Mr Farage.
London metropolitan elite is an anti Semitic dog whistle. These words from any member of the clergy would be careless and reckless at best, but from the man who holds second highest position in Anglican Church? I’m not saying that this was deliberate or malicious but you make your own minds up.
The Church of England like every other organisation is institutionally racist and this presents in individual incidents such as:
These comment against thee backdrop of a report commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury which stated that the church should not “unconditionally celebrate or commemorate” slave traders and the man himself saying that the church has routinely “bullied, overlooked, undermined and excluded” black and ethnic minority folx in April of this year.
Mixed messages much?
This is insidious. Awareness is step one and challenging it is the rest of the staircase.
Some examples: when someone refers to inner city crime, we all know they are talking about melanated people.
When I am told again that racial prejudice will end from non-violent means by people who haven’t read any work by Martin Luther King, I may begin my response with … well, you can guess. Before you prepare your Black History month lesson please start questioning what you think you know about the civil rights movement.
Let me start with some of the reading and interpretations of King’s work.
In his early work, specifically “Stride towards freedom”, he details what he calls the courageous use of the power of love. A later paper entitled ‘a pilgrimage to non-violence’, King refers to a Christian doctrine of love operating through a Gandhian method of satyagraha (which translates to the force of truth) and ahimsa (non-violence). This doctrine is based on the following six fundamental principles:
1. Resisting evil with non-violence
2. Non-violence seeks ‘friendship and understanding’ of the oppressor
3. Evil should be opposed, not the people committing the evil acts
4. One must be willing to suffer without retaliation
5. Non-violence means that there’s a refusal to ‘shoot’ your oppressor and to hate him also and be motivated by love (agape).
6. Deep faith in the future and the universe is on the side of justice.
Here we have various tenets that all stand up to the idyllic ‘I have dream’ image, which is good for him. To turn the other cheek is a noble tactic, and I commend his faith in his Lord and religion. It seems that King deserves his place in the pantheon and the hagiographic type scripture written around him; When his family home was attacked in 1956, an unidentified man walked up to the house threw a bomb onto the porch of the building where his wife and newborn daughter slept. By the grace of God, no one was hurt in the explosion. Dr King remarkably responded to the gathering crowd with:
“I want you to love our enemies … “Be good to them, love them, and let them know you love them.”
Now, this is commendable. However, regardless of King’s level of forgiveness and non-violence, I fundamentally believe that progress toward racial equality would have occurred. I do not think that non-violence or even public disruption is the sole key to the liberation of People of Colour in our world.
Do you agree?
Let me ask. Is the only way to ensure people don’t continue to kill us? To allow them to murder us and hope that something will give their souls?
That all being said, in his previous writing, he does recognise that any response to violence as being:
“I am no doctrinaire pacifist. I have tried to embrace a realistic pacifism. Moreover, I see the pacifist position not as sinless but as the lesser evil in the circumstances.” (ibid, Pilgrimage to non-violence)
Personally, after centuries of demonstrating and observing systemic and individual oppression, I would think that the former colonisers and slave masters would have converted to a newfound love for the us’s long ago, and we’d be living in a relative dream, a beloved utopia.
Honestly, you’d think that watching, reading and observing the deaths of hundreds, including a 6-month-old baby at Jallianwala. What about the hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu tortured and killed by our state? Would they not have reached the level of empathy needed? And it today’s world what about the black folx who dies in police custody or the disproportionate number of People of Colour incarcerated by our judicial system.
King’s whole rhetoric and doctrine are about appealing to your oppressor’s moral code, hoping that the majority of people will do the right thing when shown the error of their ways. Some folx may agree. I do not, but you know, you, do you.
The difference between my ‘opinion’ and many people peddling their meme powered inpretations is that it comes from learning. I allowed myself to train critically and assimilate the knowledge through various lenses and read widely, and I still don’t claim to be right (if such a thing exists). As educators, do you give our students the same chances?
How Enamoured are you with Whiteness?
Racism will convince you into propagating its harm by 1. Selling you a sanitised version of the truth and giving you the confidence to defend it without having any rigour 2. Allow you to pick and choose within those versions of resistance that are acceptable and ignore or denounce those which are not 3. Create an environment of distraction which sees the victims as the aggressors and society as a perfect paradise.
Educators, you cannot pick and choose King’s doctrine. You even cannot claim to follow King’s brand of antiracism, the philosophy of non-violence or even to not be a racist and continue to teach and support a colonised curriculum. The ethnocentrism in our curricula fundamentally is a commitment to refuse to engage in the education which seeks to elicit empathy from the masses through the victims’ experiences.
Dr King talks of the Greek concept of agape (love through understanding); I advocate agoge, a vision of training to resistance through unity. Agoge has a two-fold impact on teachers, building unity through awareness and critical thought through direct action, whether physical, economic or epistemic.
Non-violence has been co-opted by the societal status quo and centres People of Colour at the heart of their oppression. Putting the onus of liberty from oppression on the victims and their actions is problematic.
Racism does not exist because of People of Colour. Racism exists because of White people. Anything else is victim-blaming.
When a councillor stated that David Lammy and the way he behaves is the reason for racism, we have to start admitting why this appropriation and the parts of this method are so dangerous.
Even if you believe that a Person of Colour’s actions are detrimental to their pursuit of liberation; As a white person, remember you benefit from that oppression; it is not your place to judge and certainly not to comment.
The Wider Movement
You can’t ever reach a man if you don’t speak his language.
“If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can’t come to him with peace. Why, good night! He’ll break you in two, as he has been doing all along. If a man speaks French, you can’t speak to him in German. If he speaks Swahili, you can’t communicate with him in Chinese. You have to find out what this man speaks. And once you know his language, learn how to speak his language, and he’ll get the point. There’ll be some dialogue.”
I believe violence should be met violence. We forget that all acts of resistance lead to pain for those challenging the societal norm. There is an actual cost for every single activist. We are quick to forget that Dr King was not revered but hated by most Americans during his lifetime and his struggle against his subjugation led to his eventual martyrdom.
Responding in Kind
There is an overwhelming view that antiracists are racists in reverse (this doesn’t exist) or that resisting racism is a violence in the vein are both deliberate malicious falsehoods. I ask you if a criminal enters your house. You remove him, so he cannot hurt you and your family.
Does that make you a robber?
Whiteness and Acceptable voices.
It is funny how we are quick to dismiss the teaching and omit certain voices in the liberation struggle when they do not serve the (that’s the societal status quos’ and whitenesses’) agenda, that lovely, polite little box.
Frederick Douglass stated that power concedes nothing without demand and that a good revolver is the best response to slave catchers. Hartman Turnbow, who fought off the KKK with rifle fire, stated beautifully.
“I wasn’t being non-nonviolent, I was just protectin’ my family”
And Fannie Lou Hamer, who sums up the false dichotomy in its entirety.
“Baby you just got to love ’em. Hating just makes you sick and weak. I’ll tell you why. I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom and the first cracker even look like he wants to throw some dynamite on my porch won’t write his mama again.”
Upholding White Supremacy through co-opting the Resistance.
If you are not wondering why sometimes we only teach the bits that fit. You probably haven’t read enough about the resistance of racism.
King himself wrote:
“Violence exercised in self-defence, which all societies, from the most primitive to the most cultured and civilised, accept as moral and legal. The principle of self-defence, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi.”
Martin Luther King, The Social Organization of Nonviolence 1959
As an educator, have you ever even thought about analysing our society, your organisation or your actions. Whiteness’s ideology will con you to the idea that challenging the norm is race-baiting and causing rifts. This idea of being divisive implies an existing whole, solidarity and unity. This doesn’t exist today, I promise you, and if you are white and were and are clueless, after reading this, I want you to ask yourself why you don’t understand how people are divided along the lines of race from conception.
Tactics of Silence
Be polite, watch you tone, act this way. The words of the oppressors may be in the vein of civility, and they may dismiss ours because our responses don’t flow from their place of power. When told to be polite (the etymology of these words says alot), watching our tone and our actions is ‘distraction’, and as we know, this is yet another function of white supremacy (Toni Morrison).
Remember that violence is the same regardless of the response. Calling someone out for upholding white supremacy is worse than the initial act, it seems (reference: the whole world).
“In my travels in the North I was increasingly becoming disillusioned with the power structures there. I encountered the tragic and stubborn fact that in virtually no major city was there a mayor possessing statesmanship, understanding, or even strong compassion on the civil rights question. Many of them sat on platforms with all the imposing regalia of office to welcome me to their cities, and showered praise on the heroism of Southern Negroes. Yet when the issues were joined concerning local conditions only the language was polite; the rejection was firm and unequivocal.”
Dr Martin Luther King
I am suggesting that we teach students of colour how to navigate the world around them and engage in their resistance in all methods of protest. To do this without making the structure clear takes away from the students right to justice.
Thus, I am not disregarding appealing to the conscience and that using civility and politeness should be unequivocally rejected. When rejecting a scholar or your student’s words because their resistance doesn’t fit your version of ‘nice’ resistance. When our society (which we benefit from) is responsible for their wounds is hypocritical and yet another form and function of white supremacy.
That lovely little box of acceptable resistance has long been used as a bludgeon to action, and the state rarely accepts the hypocrisy of the same rejection of non-violence. In 1967, King tried to apply ahimsa to militarism and specifically the Vietnam war… Unsurprising, this caused King’s popularity to drop and his open rejection by the white masses. It seemed non-violence is only acceptable and applauded when People of Colour are counter-resistance.
The prevailing thought is that Dr King was utterly against violence, well was he? During the last two years of Dr King’s life, there was a definite change in his tone and timbre around non-violence.
King believed that people would find a militant middle between riots and the weak and timid supplication for justice. He states that civil disobedience can be ‘aggressive but non-violent’; ‘it can dislocate but not destroy’. The specific planning will take some study and analysis to avoid past mistakes when employed on too small a scale and sustained too briefly. (King, APA, 1967)
In a Mike Wallace 60 minutes TV interview in 1966:
“A riot is the language of the unheard”
This for me, doesn’t indicate a road to Damascus conversion. It points a movement toward a movement towards a more overt action of the root of the cause of all violence. RACISM.
“My hope is that it will be non-violent. I would hope that we can avoid riots because riots are self-defeating and socially destructive. I would hope that we can avoid riots, but that we would be as militant and as determined next summer and through the winter as we have been this summer.”
Dr King spoke at the APA’s Annual Convention in Washington, among the rise of white violence and the response to violence.
King recognises that the white majority is unwilling to accept structural racial change and cause chaos through their resistance and complain simultaneously that orderly transition would come if there were no chaos in Black opposition.
That very same speech includes a call for social scientists, which in essence, all teachers are; he is talking to us when asks to address the white community and ‘tell it like it is.’ That White people have an appalling lack of knowledge concerning the lives of black folx. When a voice is unheard; What is left?
“Without a more effective tactic for upsetting the status quo, the power structure could maintain its intransigence and hostility. Into the vacuum of inaction, violence and riots flowed, and a new period opened.
“Urban riots must now be recognised as durable social phenomena. They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood. Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community…”
A profound judgment of today’s riots was expressed by Victor Hugo a century ago. He said, ‘If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.”
This speech was made shortly before his assassination, while it was still in galley proofs (final proof of an article). I take his late work to show his movement towards a more pragmatic, effective form and direct resistance.
I am not openly advocating physical violence. Remember, violence does not only exist within ones’ own hands and feet; even the act of reaching out to the authorities hoping that they will act in implementing a sanction, in other words, still enact violence against the perpetrators. (I would also point out in my experience and the disproportionate statistics around policing and the judicial system that the authorities are likely not to support the melanated victims, in favour of amplifying that violence, so I guess that was a bad example).
Resist epistemically or uphold the tiers of white supremacy there really isn’t a middle ground.
I will leave you with the words of Malcolm.
I don’t believe in violence – that why I want to stop it. And you can’t stop it with love.