racial equality and inclusiveness

According to dosomething.org, a global movement of millions of young people making positive change both online and off-line;

‘During the 2015 – 2016 school year, Black students represented only 15% of total US student enrolment, but they made up 35% of students suspended more than once, and 36% of students expelled.

In one US survey, 15.8% of students reported experiencing race based bullying or harassment. Research has found significant association between bullying and negative mental and physical health in students.

One US study found that job resumes with traditionally white sounding names received 50% more call backs than those with traditionally black names.’

These are startling statistics.

Let us look at some facts relating to the UK.

A recent ICM poll showed that, ‘minorities are more than twice as likely to have encountered abuse or rudeness from a stranger in the last week.’

According to Patrick Roach, head of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT);

‘’It has been very instructive to hear from BAME members the extent to which they felt that their schools are just paying lip service to race equality. I know it is not a popular thing to say and that it is often misunderstood, but institutional racism does exist and is an issue that has clearly got to be addressed.’’

According to the INDEPENDENT Newspaper, ‘As revealed some years ago by the Department for Education, black Caribbean children, in particular, are three and a half times more likely to be excluded than all other children at primary, secondary and special schools. These are disparities that exist not because of any underlying propensity to cause trouble, but probably because educators perceive black children as fundamentally disruptive, hopeless, and inferior, regardless of what they do.’

It is the word ‘inferior’ that I want to dwell on for a few minutes. For in many respects, it sums up the way in which black people, including children and teens, are often perceived. Blacks are generally perceived to be less intelligent, less ambitious, and less able to succeed.

Is this a conscious or an subconscious perception?

The reality is that most people’s behaviour towards black people stems from a subconscious perception of who they are and what they represent.

I’ve personally had several experiences of this on public transport, on the street, in parks and yes, even at schools. The tendency is to be perceived as someone that could be trouble, or in the case of my experience at some schools, someone who doesn’t have much to offer. It is something I used to find so upsetting and discouraging, but over time I’ve learned to simply focus on doing my best for the children I coach and teach, regardless of how others perceive or treat me.

The tragic death of George Floyd has brought racial prejudice, inequality, and injustice to the forefront once more. If I’m truly honest, although outraged by what happened, and in full support of peaceful protests, I didn’t expect too much to come from it.

But a few days ago, I noticed something I had never seen before; large numbers of young white people protesting in solidarity with their black brothers and sisters (and yes, that is what we are – we are all connected, and as such are all brothers and sisters – whites, blacks, Asians, Southeast Asians etc). The sight of people of all races, colour, and creed united in wanting an end to racial inequality and injustice gives me cause for hope of a better future.

It is today’s children that is my concern; for them to live in world that is equally fair to people of all races, colour and creed.

In order for this to happen, education systems across the world need to have a rethink about what schools are teaching children. If this is to be a truly inclusive world, then children at schools in every country should be taught subjects like literature and history from a global perspective. In other words, as well as European history, children in the UK should learn about black history (African and Caribbean), Asian history, South East Asian history and so forth. There is a need for a broader understanding of the world as a whole.

By educating children on the history and cultures of other parts of the world, we enable them to develop tolerance, understanding and respect of other races and cultures. This must be the medium to long term objective of all education systems.

However, there are things that can be done immediately. Such as celebrating one important day, be it an Independence Day or a religious holiday for each country that is represented at a school. What this will naturally do is cultivate understanding, knowledge, tolerance, and inclusiveness.

As a result of recent events, my godson, who is about to enter his final year at secondary school, recently wrote to his Headmaster, requesting for a new Diversity and Inclusion monitor position to be set up. So determined is he to play a role in creating a better future for all, that he’s made it his personal mission to foster an environment in which all races, colours and creeds feel at home, happy, and at peace. To say I am proud of him is a gross understatement.

Education should in no way be simply about ticking the right Ofsted boxes and getting children to pass tests and exams. It is far more about ensuring the well-being of children and young people and inspiring them to succeed in life. If we truly value the lives and future of our children then we must help and enable them to understand and embrace people of all races and colour, thereby equipping them with the necessary tools and mindset to forge a far more inclusive, tolerant, and loving society centered on equality and justice for all.    

For there to be real change, education systems across the world must look outwards as against simply looking inwards. So long as the system continues to look inwards, unconscious racism will continue to increase.

It may be too late for our generation, but we can and must begin to lay the foundation for a better world for our children now.

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