“I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means – except by getting off his back” Leo Tolstoy
Imagine a country where particular groups of people are continually and deliberately placed at the bottom of a social hierarchy; in status, in housing, in employment and in education.
Imagine that these minoritised groups are blamed for their own misfortune, because of their apparent laziness and unwillingness to appear the same as the majority. Imagine if the national media and political system encouraged the public to consciously and unwittingly view these groups not merely with disdain but in the cases of some of these groups, with open hostility.
Imagine a democratic, tolerant and so-called multicultural society where racism leaves its imprint on virtually every aspect of modern life, including the police, the government, the media and our schools.
Imagine, as a white educator, if the education system that we worked in played an integral part of this ‘locked in’ inequality. Imagine if the curriculum, resources, materials, assessments, lessons and often our attitudes towards certain students from these groups were part of a ‘White Supremacy’.
Imagine a scenario where certain students of these despised groups, started to pass tests more frequently and successfully than the dominant groups. (And, imagine if these were academic measures and not simply seen as frivolous activities such as entertainment and sport.) Imagine if these tests were redesigned so that these students no longer succeeded.
Imagine if these groups of students were restricted to only enter certain tiers of exams consequently limiting their achievements. Imagine if these students appeared more in ‘lower’ and ‘bottom’ sets. Imagine if these students appeared significantly more in school exclusions. Imagine if these groups appeared less in ‘Gifted and Talented’ cohorts.
Imagine if government departments and think tanks camouflaged these crass and obvious actions in order to maintain a system that appeared open, fair and equal. Imagine if politicians, with the assistance of the media, used fallacious data to represent improvement in these groups and highlighted success stories to infer that the education system is fair, is equal and not in the slightest bit racist.
Imagine not knowing about this conspiracy. Imagine being unconscious puppets in this educational apartheid. Imagine being trained to become a teacher, a teacher of students from these groups, and not experiencing any meaningful training.
Imagine actually being aware of this injustice. Imagine refusing to talk or discuss or think about this obvious inequality with other educators, parents and students. Imagine not only benefitting from this institutionalised racism, but also actively supporting it.
Imagine moving out of denial and into action.
“Racism is inside the schools and outside the schools, but we must struggle where we are.” Stuart Hall
This short passage has been inspired by my reading of CRT (Critical Race Theory) particularly Professor David Gillborn’s “Racism and Education: Coincidence or Conspiracy?” and dialogues with Darren Chetty, Iesha Small, Diane Leedham and Dr. Nasima Hassan.
Title taken from a Richard Delgado quote.