Despite all the effort and work around DEI, there are still far too many educators who are still not aware of their privilege and the pain their words can inflict on black students. Over the years I witnessed teachers, white teachers, destroy the confidence of young black and brown children under the disguise of real talk.
I recently witnessed a grown man towering over young children, belting at the top of his voice that these young children, black and brown children, should be grateful for the education they have as if they’re the only ones who received this free education. This really triggered me.
Why are some teachers too quick to remind BAME children that they should be grateful for the education that they are receiving? As if this is not a privilege that is afforded to all children. This remembrance often comes after a black or brown child shows a lack an interest in education or the efforts of their teachers.
I wonder why it is easy for some teachers to forget irrespective of race or creed, children are children and they will always be children. This means they might feel lazy, they might disengage, become rebellious and challenge a system especially when they are not interested in being in a classroom. We know some of the young people we teach are disfranchised and find education boring and pointless.
However, BAME students are subjected to a barrage of belligerence, indifference and harshness simply because they are black and brown. It they were white, they wouldn’t need to be reminded of the value of education in such a way that is so intertwined with their race. Valuing education has nothing to do with race.
I am no longer going to hold my tongue. I am tired of seeing a privileged person, who is in a position of power and authority, belittling a child and using the trauma and injustices they face as a black child to shame their behaviour. You are not going to victim blame and shame black and brown children in front of me. Their disengagement cannot be used to justify the actions of those in our society who other and dehumanise them. Stop deflecting blame, why don’t you shame the institutionally racist systems that you benefit from instead.
What really worries me is that most students will not share their experiences of being victims of racism with their parents. I often wonder why?
Is it because they know that their parents will complain and rock the boat? Or is it because they believe it is not even worth it because the system will not hold one of their own accountable?
So who is responsible for holding racist teachers accountable?
Their peers? Yes….but they are probably like them.
Their colleagues? Yes……but this is halted by the perception of colleagues have of them. I hate it when you share a discriminatory experience with a colleague and they say “awwww not him/her but he/she is such a nice person” and then continue to make excuses for them.
Their line managers? Yes ……but racist teachers probably won’t show that side of themselves to their superiors.
The school? Yes…..but evidence is always needed and that burden often falls on a BAME teacher who might already be dealing with unconscious or conscious bias, glass ceiling or a flawed and unrelenting institutionally racist system that is built to hold them hostage.
The truth is we are all responsible for holding racist teachers accountable.
I am tired of the performance social justice in education.
I am tired of the pointless statement of solidarity with the plight of Black people.
I am tired of the hollow pledges, the reactionary and tick box CPD.
My message to some of our well intended school leaders is… please clean up your house and get things in order! We are way past the time for lip service. DEI is too important, it is not a fad, it is a social responsibility that is essential in creating schools that are truly inclusive and fit for all.