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 …
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