(Image Credit: Quentin Monge)
Although Black Lives Matter has gained mass public/media attention this year after the death of George Floyd (25th May, 2020), it is not something that should be forgotten about after a few weeks of posting BLM content on social media. This is an on-going movement which requires endless attention, education and revision of the way society functions. It is going to require time and continuous effort to dismantle and challenge the systems that have been put in place from the beginning of time that put black people and people of colour at a disadvantage.
If you are stuck or confused on what you can do, here are some useful links on where to donate, sign petitions, recommended reading etc. It goes without saying that there is an exhaustive list of resources out there, so by no means does this blog cover everything. We will try to continue to update this list however we encourage you to do your own research too.
“If I could solve something as complicated as conflict in the world, I would change the education system. Full stop. Not just along the lines of race, but along the lines of how people are taught to view the whole of human history, and on what education provides.” Akala
Growing up as British-Indian, I found that the school curriculum and texts we studied never allowed me to truly explore my identity – an identity that was not based off of the stereotypes that I was ashamed of being attached to. I remember being conscious of not wanting to bring my mum’s Indian food to school as packed lunch, worried that I would end up ‘smelling like curry’ and consequently be made fun of. During my early years of secondary school I was reluctant to introduce my mum to my friends, worried that her Indian accent would be made a mockery of, as Indian accents casually became a synonym for a joke. By not celebrating diversity in schools, we are in danger of making students of colour (especially Black students) finding their race, culture and everything that comes with it as: something to be ashamed by, a subject of mockery, or them desperately wishing they could be ‘normal’ (white).
I have experienced what it feels like to be deprived of part of my culture, history and background due to the education system dismissing the inclusion of a diverse curriculum. With no Indian protagonists in literary texts and positive influences from India for me to look up to or relate to, despite the proportion of British citizens with an Indian background, I felt lost. Thus, having experienced this phenomenon on a small scale, I can only dare to imagine (I cannot and will never understand) what it must feel like growing up as a Black person in a racist society. By no means am I comparing my experiences to a Black person – I am aware of my privileges and the model minority myth which was designed to further dehumanise Black people whilst using non-Black people of colour (like myself) as examples of “good citizens” based on stereotypes. But what I do know is that a diverse curriuculum (or a lack of) has a significant impact on identity, discrimination and racial stereotypes.
In hiding Britain’s role in the slave trade and its creation of systems that puts Black people at a disadvantage – Britain’s education system is creating a false illusion and brainwashing society to believe that Britain does not have a racism problem.
Only recently, when Black Lives Matter gained momentum and Britain’s racist past (and present) was exposed on a mass scale, were people able to articulate their feelings of the education system having failed them and causing them to be students who felt lost, shameful and confused. People of colour have started speaking out and sharing their experiences of a Westernised biased education system, that has hidden how the Britain Empire was founded on slavery and exploited its colonies. The irony lies in how Britain’s rich colonial history, which robbed its colonies of its history, culture and artifacts (you only need to take a trip to The British Museum to see this) to empower itself, disempowers people of colour – especially Black people – and makes them feel like the ‘other’.
Now, as an educator, I would like to use my position to help empower young children and encourage positive discussions around race and identity. There are already discussions taking place within schools on how diversity can be integrated into the curriculum. Within my own English department we are looking at positive representations of people of colour, particularly Black people, in literature. I learnt a lot about institutional racism (especially in Britain) after reading Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I strongly believe it should be made mandatory to read and study in Secondary School to highlight the current race problems in society and bring opportunities for change.
During lockdown and after the death of George Floyd, a colleague created online resources and tasks for students to help raise awareness on Black Lives Matter and to allow them to take action. I used these resources as inspiration and set activities for my own tutor group. Below are some posters they created:
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness By Michelle Alexander
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
- Natives by Akala
- Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
- Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
- Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabir
- Afropean: Notes from Black Europe by Johny Pitts
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
- So You Want to Talk about Race? by Ijeoma Oluo
- Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible Book by Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke
- Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
- The Good Immigrant ed. Nikesh Shukla
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
‘When They See Us’ (2019)
Films and books are filled with negative, stereotypical portrayals of African Americans and the Black American experience. The link below recommends films that open the door for people to see a more diverse look at those experiences.
About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge
Have You Heard George’s Podcast by George the Poet
Slay In Your Land
Sooo Many White Guys
Dope Black Dads
Why Aren’t You A Doctor Yet?
Good Ancestor with host Layla F. Saad (author of Me and White Supremacy)
- Recognise your own privilege.
- Advocate for radically changing systems of inequality.
- Don’t take it personally, recognise your position.
- Listen to the experiences of black and brown people. They matter. I know a lot of work places are now giving opportunities to people of colour and black people to speak out and share their experiences – both within the office and in general.
- Practice reflective thinking and act to make changes.
- Challenge racism – even if it is ‘banter’ made by a colleague/friend/family.
- Educate yourself (read/watch/listen) but DON’T expect black and people of colour to educate you.
A good place to begin would be to start having conversations with your colleagues, family, friends, teachers, basically everyone and anyone. Discuss ways in which you can create diversity, support people of colour and hold yourselves accountable.