Policies to Combat Racism in Schools

Education policy to combat racism has gone from ignorance, through assimilation, integration, multiculturalism to aggressive majoritarianism in 2022.

Gilborn (2008) divided policy approaches to combatting racism into eight phases:

  1. Ignorance and neglect (1945 to late 1950s)
  2. Assimilation (late 1950s to mid 1960s)
  3. Integration (mid 1960s to late 1970s)
  4. Cultural pluralism and multiculturalism (late 1970s to late 1980s)
  5. Thatcherism: the new racism and colour-blind policy (mid 1980s to 1997)
  6. New Labour: Naive multiculturalism (1997 to 2001)
  7. Cynical multiculturalism: from 9/11 to 7/7 (2001 to 2005)
  8. Aggressive majoritarianism (2005 to present day).

Ignorance, assimilation and integration

The government’s response to immigration from 1945 to the late 1950s was that of ignorance and neglect. The government largely ignored the issue of immigration from mainly the Caribbean, India and Pakistan and put no educational policies in place to do anything about the children of immigrants.

This was in line with the racist colonial mentality that people from Africa and the Indian subcontinent would do primarily menial, unskilled manual jobs which required little in the way of educational input to prepare them for.

Assimilation

From the late 1950s to the mid 1960s the government’s official response to immigration was to expect immigrants to assimilate to the British way of life, meaning that they were expected to adapt and become just like the majority white British population.

This was very much a one-way expectation, with ‘them’ being expected to become ‘like us’. Any racial tensions in schools during this period were interpreted as a migrant problem – some immigrants were just not trying hard enough to assimilate.

Integration and education policy

By the late 1960s policy makers had begun to realise that the assimilationist approach was impractical – Indian and Black-Caribbean cultures were not simply going to disappear after a period of time and there was a move towards policies being more accepting of cultural diversity.

This period saw the introduction of the Race Relations Act in 1976 which made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of ‘race’.

Multicultural education

Education became more multicultural from the late 1970s to the late 1980s.

The late 1970s were a period of large spread social unrest due to the failures of Capitalism leading to mass unemployment and poverty, which were disproportionately felt by black and asian minorities.

This was a period in which ethnic minorities were protesting more about the high levels of marginalisation, poverty, unemployment and racial discrimination they were experiencing which resulted in a number of widely publicised riots such as the Brixton Riots of 1981.

Part of this resistance by young ethnic minorities manifested itself in more disruption in school and higher truancy rates.

The Swann Report was published in 1985 as a response to such unrest and this represented something of a landmark change in thinking about how policy should combat racism:

  • It recognised that cultural diversity was a positive force for social change and that a society with a plurality of cultures was richer than a more homogenous white culture.
  • It recognised that ethnic minorities in the U.K. faced higher levels of unemployment, poverty and racial discrimination.
  • It explicitly identified institutional racism as a problem which it defined as ‘where the official institutions in society, such as the education system… operate in a way that automatically discriminates against and disadvantages certain groups.
  • It also recognised that racism was not just a problem that ethnic minorities had to deal with but that it was also a white problem, and that white people needed to be educated about racism, especially in white-majority areas.

The Swann report caused division in central government and was largely ignored there, but many Local Education Authorities acted on its findings and introduced changes to make education more multicultural.

Multicultural education involved understanding and celebrating difference in education

Two examples of multicultural education included:

  • having classes which specifically educated students about the languages, religions and diets of different minority ethnic groups.
  • Changing text books so that they had broader representation of ethnic minorities.

However early multicultural education has been criticised for being condescending and ignoring institutional racism, seen by many as tokenistic and doing little to really foster a mutual understanding and respect between cultures.

Anti-Racist Education

Anti-Racist education believed that racist attitudes needed to be explicitly opposed within schools and that active measures needed to be taken to ensure equality of opportunity for all ethnic groups. Anti racist policies were primarily adopted by some of the more left-wing Local Education Authorities, to whom the New Right Tory government was opposed in the early 1980s.

Colour Blind Education Policy

The New Right Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher and John Major adopted what David Gilborn (2001) has described as a ‘colour blind’ education policy because it ignored ethnic diversity altogether.

This was convenient for the Tories in the early 1980s against the backdrop of the Falklands’ war and increasing popular concern about the amount of immigration to the U.K. and a rising fervour over (white) national identity.

Two ways in which the New Right’s education policies were colour blind include:

  • Leaving everything to market forces and individual choice which took no account of ethnic diversity.
  • The National Curriculum which was introduced in 1988 was also highly ethnocentric if we examine some of the core subjects such as languages, literature and history. The only languages which were options for students were white European languages and there was almost no recognition of black and Asian minority cultures in history or english during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Naive multiculturalism

Gliborn (2001) characterises New Labour’s education policies as being a form of naive multiculturalism. He suggests that while New Labour acknowledged that significant ethnic inequalities existed and that something had to be done about this, they in fact introduced no significant policies to actually to do so.

Rather, in education, they assumed that issues such as racial discrimination would be tackled adequately through the introduction of Citizenship into the curriculum.

Cynical multiculturalism

The September 11 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York ushered in what Gilborn (2008) refers to as an era of cynical multiculturalism in social policy. This means that while New Labour maintained a rhetoric of commitment to promoting ethnic diversity and equality of opportunity the policies they introduced were more similar to the assimilation/ integration phases of the 1950s and 1960s.

For example New Labour made it harder for the spouses of recently arrived immigrants to join them in the U.K., they sped up the deportation of illegal immigrants and they put more emphasis on the importance for migrants to learn English.

Aggressive majoritarianism

Gilborn (2008) suggests that since the London Bombings of 2005 the New Labour government adopted a stance of aggressive majoritarianism.

The media discourse at this time was one of Islamophobia and of how integration policies have failed, and there was something of a return to assimilationism.

There was also more open criticism of veiling as a problem rather than an aspect of diversity and acceptance of diversity was more likely to be seen as destabilising rather than something to be celebrated.

The Coalition government carried on the majoritarian agenda, with the then Prime Minister David Cameron saying in 2011 that multiculturalism had failed and that we needed a stronger identity in the UK to prevent extremism.

The Coalition government’s introduction of British Values into the curriculum is another example of a more assimilationist majoritarianism.

British Values are today taught as something passive and peaceful and the policy discourse suggests that greater social harmony can be achieved if everyone accepts ‘Britishness’ as a core identity rather than us celebrating multiculturalism in schools.

British Values – A form of cynical multiculturalism?

We might also interpret the ‘PREVENT’ agenda, introduced in 2011 as an example of this – which highlights the fact that some elements of Islamic culture have failed to integrate and it is the job of schools to identify these failures and intervene to prevent these aspects of Islamic culture from harming the majority.

It also seems to be the case that the government thinks that we are now in a post-racial Britain – that there is no real problem with racial discrimination anymore so education policy need not address this.

Signposting

Education policy and its relationship to ethnicity and racism is a topic within the AQA’s A-level sociology specification.

To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com

Sources

Barlett and Burton (2021): Introduction to Education Studies, fifth edition

Gilborn (2008) Racism and Education: Coincidence or Conspiracy?

Is the Environmental Crisis Built on Systemic Racism..?

You’re more likely to live next to a waste incinerator in the UK if you’re black compared to if you’re white, and thus more likely to be breathing in toxic fumes.

The same trend is also true globally: ‘people of colour’ living in the global south are more likely to suffer environmental harms associated with climate changed compared to the majority white populations of the global north.

This is according to a recent report: Confronting Injustice: Racism and the Environmental Emergency jointly published in 2022 by Greenpeace and The RunnyMede Trust.

This report makes the very dramatic claim the current environmental crisis is based on a history of systemic racism rooted in Colonialism and in this post I summarise this report and suggest some limitations of it.

The Environmental Crisis is Built on Systemic Racism…

(Quite a claim!)

The report notes that it is mainly countries in the global south – mainly Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Africa – which have to bear the costs of global warming. It is these poorer countries which suffer economic setbacks because of increased sea level rises flooding land and destructive ‘extreme weather events’ such as cyclones. The report estimates that Mozambique, in Southern Africa suffered more than $3 Billion of environmental damages in 2019, for example.

Another dimension of ‘environmental racism’ is how the mainstream media under-reports man-made environmental humanitarian disasters in the global south compared to ‘white victories’ such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos space flight programmes….

And one further example lies in how Indigenous activists lives are put in danger.

Colonialism, Extractivism and Racism

The report also highlights three case studies of how colonial powers set up in developing countries (then simply their colonies) and systematically went about displacing indigenous peoples in order to extract resources for profit.

The three examples provided are Shell extracting Oil in Nigeria, and the displacement of the Ogoni people; the destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and the establishment of meat and soy production and also the establishment of industrial scale fishing in Western Africa which has ruined local communities which used to rely on small scale fishing.

The report also covers the waste aspect of Environmental Racism – countries such as the UK tend to ship their toxic waste to poorer countries who often have lower pollution standards – so poor people end up recycling metal from plastic by burning the plastic for example….

Find out More…

There is more in the report such as how environmental racism works in the UK and how we can tackle climate change by simultaneously tackling racism in society, and I recommend you give it read: Confronting Injustice: Racism and the Environmental Emergency.

Relevance to A-Level Sociology

This contemporary report is clearly relevant to the Environment topic within the Global Development module, and you will also find lots of supporting case studies which support Dependency Theory.

In terms of social theory, this is a great contemporary example of ‘grand theorising’ – there’s nothing postmodern about this, and in fact reports leading to theorising such as this implicitly criticise the concept of postmodernity.

Decades of Racist Immigration Policy

A recent report produced by the Home Office (by an unnamed historian) has found that the Windrush Scandal was caused by decades of racist immigration policies.

In case you don’t remember it, the Windrush Scandal first came to public attention in 2018 when it came to light that 83 ethnic minority immigrants to the UK had been wrongly deported, with some of them having been living in the UK (legally) for several decades.

A larger, and still unknown number of victims were subjected to Home Office interrogation over their legal immigration status in the UK and had their lives seriously disrupted as a result, some of them losing their jobs.

Previous analysis of the causes of the scandal have pointed to the ‘hostile environment’ towards immigrants which existed under the Home Office when Theresa May was in charge, but the report goes further and suggests a ‘deeper cause’ of decades of institutionalised Racism at the Home Office.

This article in the Guardian outlines the history of some of the racist immigration policies, some of which included quotas for Black and Asian people but not white people (so overt restrictions on the numbers of immigrants from the Caribbean but NOT from the USA or Europe, for example)….

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This update is a useful addition to the migration topic within the family. It shows how government policies influence the type of people that are allowed to move freely between different countries.

It might also help to explain (if you believe the stats) the higher levels of poverty, educational failure, expulsion and crime among Black Caribbean children – the analysis above points out that the experience of black migrants to the UK (and their children) has been very different (for the worse) than that of white people, resulting possibly in blocked opportunities.

This is also of more general application to any question about inequalities in British Society.

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Should Teaching Black, Asian and Minority History be Mandatory in British Schools?

The Footballer Troy Deeney recently commissioned a YouGov survey of 1000 teachers which found that around 75% of them think the government needs to do more to help them improve the diversity of history teaching, to include a wider range of experiences and views of ethnic minorities.

Troy Deeney is one of many activists campaigning for more multiculturalism in British education, as shown by his recent open letter to the Secretary of State for Education:

Troy’s motivation, as he says in his letter, was that he was expelled from school at the age of 15, and he believes that if school curriculums reflected a more diverse range of views from ethnic minorities, this would help his own and other ethnic minority education feel more included and get more out of their formal education.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is clearly relevant to the topic of ethnicity and education within the education module.

Troy Deeney is suggesting a policy change which would make it compulsory to teach from a more diverse range of perspectives.

If we look at educational achievement at GCSE in recent years there doesn’t seem to be much of a case to be made for doing this – the achievement gap between ethnic groups has narrowed considerably, with Black Caribbean students being the only relatively large minority group falling significantly behind White students. Indian and Chinese students do better!

So the argument for more multicultural education has to come from a broader base than just differences in educational attainment, and given the problems we still have with racism in British society (think about Cricket recently!) there is certainly an argument for having a broader diversity of views taught across the curriculum.

However, IF we did this, it might just backfire, it might create more resentment, more polarisation, a sense of ‘forcing multiculutralism down peoples’ throats’.

Especially if we think about the extent of white working class underachievement and the current backlash against multiculturalism in many American schools.

It might be better just to leave formal education as it is and just encourage more ethnic mixing within classrooms – just get black, white and asian kids to work together collaboratively on projects and to work and play together – and let the sharing of cultures and values take place a bit more naturally?

Are the Police Racist?

This post is an update of some of the evidence that might suggest the police in England and Wales are Racist.

This is a key topic within the sociology of Crime and Deviance. You can view a summary of the latest statistics on ethnicity and crime here.

This 2018 Video from News Night is worth a watch: in which black people speak about their experiences of being stop and search, many as young as 11-14 when they were first stopped and searched.

Many of the young men say they have been stopped over a dozen time, one says he can’t remember how many times he has been stopped and searched!

Liberty have released an analysis of Stop and Search stats pointing out that policing become much more discriminatory during Lockdown in England and Wales.

The government relaxed the restrictions on police stop and search during Lockdown and gave the police more freedom to stop and search at their discretion. The result: the number of black people stopped and searched (under section 60) increased dramatically.

They also report that black people were up to seven times more likely to receive a fine during Lockdown compared to white people.

Black, People, Racism and Human Rights is a recent report published in November 2020 which has a whole section summarising the over representation of black people in the Criminal Justice System – from stop and search through to deaths in custody.

One interesting point to note is that families of people who have been through the CJS think that black men in particular are stereotyped by the CJS as being troublesome and violent.

This blog post summarises some interesting research published in 2016 that found ethnic minorities, especially black youths, featured heavily in ‘gang databases’ held by the London and Manchester police, even though such gang members had no formal history of violence. In fact the stats show that white people have higher rates of convictions for violent crime, but the police databases had disproprotionate amounts of black people on them simply for their being members of gangs.

This suggests an element of stereotyping the way policing was conducted.

The blog further summarises research of Prosecution teams who were more likely to draw on gang stereotypes (Rap music for example) when trying to convict black people compared to white people, and black defendants were also more likely to have their text messages used as evidence against them when undergoing trial compared to white people.

Racial Harassment seems to be common in British Universities, but largely ignored by them.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission recently conducted an Inquiry into Racial Harassment in Universities.

The findings from the inquiry are broken down into three reports, all published in October 2019.

Survey of University Students

This was a short online survey (7-8 minutes) which was completed by just over 1000 students. Ethnic minorities were deliberately over-represented to boost the sample size of some of the smaller sub groups (roughly 50-50 white to ethnic minority sampling).

The survey reports that:

  • Just over one in ten of all students (13%) had experienced racial harassment since starting their course.
  • Around a quarter of students from an ethnic minority background (24%) had experienced racial harassment, compared to 9% of White students.
  • Men were twice as likely as women to have experienced racial harassment (16% and 8% respectively).

The main types of harassment experienced

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Only 33% of cases reported

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The report notes that the main reason for not reporting (cited in 44% of cases) was that the victims had no confidence that the matter would be dealt with effectively.

Survey of Universities

The EHRC’s survey of universities reveals that they receive very few complaints of racial harassment from either students or staff. The report notes that:

“Institutions received an average of 2.3 complaints of racial
harassment of staff and 3.6 complaints of racial harassment of
students between the start of the 2015/16 academic year and
January 2019.

This equates to roughly one complaint for every 1,850 university
employees and one complaint for every 4,100 students since the start
of the 2015/16 academic year.”

Main reason for reporting racial harassment

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main type of harassment reported is verbal…

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Confidence levels in the reporting figures.

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56% of staff are confident that the above figures are accurate, slightly lower for students

Outcomes of reports for harassment

Less than 40% of cases for students, and only 17% for staff result in some kind of redress fro the victim…

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A few problems with the methodology of this study…

  • It’s not clear how the students were sampled (it doesn’t say in the report) – this may be a self selecting sample – students who have experienced racism are maybe more likely to take part.
  • There’s a lot of problems with subjectivity over definitions of terms, and whether some of the incidents being reported are actual harassment. Students reporting that they’ve been eluded from events on racial grounds for example – it’s very difficult to prove this is because of race, and I’m fairly sure it doesn’t count as harassment.

Conclusions

According to students in England’s universities, the experience of racial harassment is common place, with 13%, or roughly 1 out of every 7 students having been a victim of some sort of unfair treatment on the basis of race.

If we look at just ethnic minority students, 24% believe they have been a victim of racial harassment.

However, the universities seem to be largely oblivious to this – they only record 1 incident per 4000 students, which is so far away from the stated figures that the students themselves.

Maybe more worryingly 55% of universities think their own recordings are accurate. I think we can at least conclude from the above survey of students that this is something they may need to investigate!

Finally, if 33% of cases of harassment are being reported to universities, they are certainly not being recorded, again something which seems to suggest that universities are ignoring the issue!

Find out more

You could investigate the above reports for yourself, and even check out the qualitative findings if you like!

Cecile Wright: Racism in Multi-Ethnic Primary Schools

This classic ethnographic study suggests that teacher stereotypes and labelling have a negative impact on Asian and Black Caribbean students in primary schools

This classic ethnographic study of four inner city primary schools suggests that the teacher labeling of ethnic minorities leads to them having a more negative experience of school than white children.

The study took place In 1988-1989, and was published in 192. The main research methods included classroom observations and interviews with both school staff (teachers, managers and support staff) and the parents of some students.

The study involved researching almost 1000 students, 57 staff and 38 parents.

Wright’s main conclusion was that although the majority of staff seemed genuinely committed to the ideals of treating students from different ethnic background equally, in practice there was discrimination within the classroom.

This study seems to be great support for the labeling theory of education and suggests that in school factors are one of the main reasons for the underachievement of ethnic minority students.

Asians in Primary Schools

Wright found that Asian students were often excluded from classroom discussions because teachers thought they had a poor grasp of the English language. When teachers did involve Asian students they often used simplistic language.

Asian girls seemed invisible to teachers and they received less attention from teachers than other students. Teachers often showed insensitivity towards their cultural norms such as disapproving when Asian girls wanted to maintain privacy in PE when getting changed.

She cites one example when a teacher was handing out permission letters for a school trip saying to the Asian girls: ‘I suppose we’l have problems with you girls. Is it worth me giving you a letter, because your parents don’t allow you be be away from home overnight’?

Wright concluded that such stereotypical comments from teachers resulted in other students becoming hostile to Asian students and the Asian students becoming isolated.

It also led to the Asian students becoming more ambivalent towards school. For example, when the school introduced a celebration of Asian culture into the curriculum while Asian students did express some pride in having their culture recognized, they also felt concerned that this might lead to more teasing and harassment from white children.

Teachers did, however, expect Asian students to be academically successful.

Black Caribbeans in Primary Schools

Teachers expected Black Caribbean students to be poorly behaved, and they expected that they would have to be punished as a result. Teachers were also insensitive to the fact that many students would have been victims of racism.

Wright cites the example in one class of a student called Marcus who was frequently criticized for shouting out the right answers to questions, while white students were not.

Black Caribbean students received a disproportionate amount of teachers negative attention. Compared to white students whose behaviour was the same they were more likely to be:

  • sent out of the class
  • sent to the head teacher
  • have privileges removed.

Trivializing Ethnic Minority Cultures

Teachers often mispronounced words or names related to minority ethnic groups, causing white students to laugh and embarrassment to ethnic minority children. According to Wright this situation made ‘minority ethnic values and culture appear exotic, novel, unimportant, esoteric or difficult’.

Racism from White Students

Minority ethnic students also experienced racism from other students which made their life even more difficult. White children often refused to play with Asian children and frequently subjected them to name calling and threatening behavior. Both Asian and Black Caribbean children had to suffer intimidation, rejection and occasional physical assault.

Conclusions

Wright does point out that all of the above disadvantaging of ethnic minority students is unintentional. Schools and teachers do appear genuinely committed to the values of equality and celebrating multiculturalism, they’re just very bad at putting these into practice and their actions have the opposite effect!

Wright believes that some Black children are disadvantaged as a result of their negative experiences in primary school, and this holds them back at later stages of their school career.

Evaluation of the study

The study doesn’t explain why Black Caribbean are held back by negative experiences in primary school when this doesn’t seem to affect the later achievement of Asian children as badly.

The study has been critizied for portrayign ethnic minority students as the passive victims of racism. In contrast, studies by Mirza and Mac An Ghail see students as responding much more actively (and in much more diverse ways) to racism in schools.

Maybe obviously, the date! This is from the late 1980s!

Sources

Adapted from Haralambos and Holborn (2013) Sociology Themes and Perspectives, edition 8.

Cecile Wright (1992) Race Relations in the Primary School.

Are schools institutionally racist?

Based on available research evidence I would conclude that schools are not institutionally racist

One sociological explanation for differences in educational achievement by ethnicity is that schools are institutionally racist.

This means that the school system as a whole is racist, or that schools are organised in such a way that children from ethnic minority backgrounds are systematically disadvantaged in education compared to white children.

If schools are institutionally racist then we should find evidence of racism at all levels of school organisation – both in the way that head teachers run schools and the way in which teachers interact with pupils. We might also expect to find evidence of racism in government policies (or lack of them) and regulation.(OFSTED).

What might institutional racism in schools look like?

There are numerous places we might look to investigate whether schools are racist, for example:

  • The curriculum might be ethnocentric – the way some subjects are taught or the way the school year and holidays are organised may make children from some ethnic backgrounds not feel included.
  • We could look at school exclusion policies to see if the rules on behaviour and exclusion are biased against the cultural practices of students from particular ethnic backgrounds.
  • We might look at how effectively schools deal with issues of racism in school – do the victims get effective redress, or is racism just ignored?
  • We could look at teacher stereotypes and labelling, to see if teachers en-mass have different expectations of different ethnic groups and/ or treat pupils differently based on their ethnicity.
  • We can look at banding and streaming, to see if students from minority ethnic backgrounds are over-represented in the lower sets.

Below I summarise some recent research evidence which may suggest that schools are institutionally racist…

A disproportionate number of GRT and Black Caribbean students are excluded from schools

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children are 5 times more likely to be excluded from school than white children, while Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean students are three times more likely than white children.

I’ve included the temporary exclusion rates below as you can see the difference (you can’t really see the difference with permanent exclusions because the percentages are too small to really show up).

Source: Pupil Exclusions, published January 2020

Whether or not these particular ethnic minority students are being excluded because of institutional racism is open to interpretation, and is something that needs to be investigated further. There is certainly qualitative research evidence (see below) that both groups feel discriminated against in the school system.

Schools punish Black Caribbean Pupils for Hair Styles and ‘Kissing Teeth’

Campaign Group ‘No More Exclusions’ argue that schools with strict exclusion policies are unfairly punishing Black Caribbean pupils for having different cultural norms to pupils from other ethnic backgrounds.

They cite evidence of Caribbean girls having been temporarily excluded for having braids in their hair, while other students have been sanctioned for ‘kissing teeth’, a practice mostly associated with Black students.

Such exclusions are mainly being given out by Academies with strict ‘zero tolerance rules on student behaviour, but according to David Gilborn there is a problem of discrimination when black Caribbean students are being disproportionately sanctioned as a result.

In defense of this policy, Katharine Birbalsingh, head of Michaela Community School in London, which enforces very strict rules on behaviour, argues that we should expect the same standards of behaviour from all students, and that Black students know that ‘kissing teeth’ is rude, and so should be punished for it.

Source: The Independent (no date provided, just lots of adverts, but it must be from late 2019 as it links back to a previous article from October 2019. )

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children feel excluded from mainstream education

Professor Kalwant Bhopal has conducted research with GRT children and found that they don’t feel represented in the school curriculum: parents believed that their histories were not adequately represented, and were uncomfortable with sex education being done in school, as this was something usually done within the family in their culture. In short, it sounds as if they are experiencing the mainstream school curriculum as being ethnocentric.

Parents and pupils also claimed that they had experienced racism from both children and teachers within schools, however, when they reported incidents of racism this tended not to be taken seriously as they were white.

Source: Find out more details at this blog post here.

Racist Incidents In Schools Are Mainly Dealt with by Fixed Period Exclusions

According to a recent Guardian article (September 2019), Hate Crimes in schools rose 120% between the years 2015 and 2018. There were 1987 hate crimes recorded by the police in 2018, of which 70% were recorded as being racist. This means that approximately 1500 racist incidents occurred in schools which were deemed serious enough to warrant police involvement.

Now this won’t be all hate crimes going on in school. Adult hate crimes only have a 40% reporting rate, and this might be lower for crimes against children given the increased levels of vulnerability, naivety and anxiety .

Schools handed out 4500 fixed term exclusions for racist abuse in 2017/18, but only 13 permanent exclusions.

Source: Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions, DFE, July 2019.

If the under-reporting rate is similar for children as it is for adults and if most of these racist crimes aren’t ‘very serious’ then it seems that schools are doing a pretty good job at dealing with Racism, even if they are not always involving the police. This certainly seems to be backed up by the case study below…

Case Study 1: How One School Dealt with its problem of racism:

Some pupils do experience racist abuse from other pupils. One example is the case study of eight year old Nai’m, a boy who moved to from Bermuda to Britain with his mother in 2017, who was a victim of at least five racist incidents in a year. (article link from January 2020)/

His mother was contacted by the school when one student, apparently his friend, called him a ‘black midget’. Another pupil told Niam’h that his parents had told him he wasn’t allowed to talk to black or brown people. Niam’h plays football for his local professional club and says a lot of racist name calling occurs on the football field.

Besides Niam’h being a victim staff at the school where this incident happened (The Lawrence Community Trust Primary School) had also overheard racist comments from other students – such as ‘go back to your own country’ being directed at ethnic minority students and discussion about skin colour between students.

The school seems to have taken measures to address this problem with some of the racist attitudes being verbalized by some students by taking the following actions:

  • they seem to have excluded at least one student
  • they encouraged Niam’h to give a special assembly on Bermuda
  • They called in Anthony Walker Charity to deliver a presentation to students on Racism

Conclusion: Are schools ‘institutionally racist’?

The above is only a small selection of evidence, but based on what I’ve found I’ve got to conclude that they are not.

Sources, find out more

I’m not so sure Stuart is the victim of someone playing the race card…

Alastair Stewart recently resigned his position as a news reader for ITV, following accusations that he’d made a racist comment towards someone on Twitter.

Stuart was having a twitter conversation with Martin Shapland about the relationship between the taxpayer and the crown, and in a reply to Shapland he used a Shakespear Quote:

“But manproud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d— His glassy essence—like an angry ape.

Shapland, who is black, picked up on the ‘ape’ part of the quote and accused Stuart of being racist, and trying to disguise a racial slur within a quote.

Stuart resign from his 40 year career as a news anchor before he was sacked – that tweet above which broke ITV’s guidelines on the use of social media.

NB Shapland has said that he didn’t want him to resigned/ be sacked, and that an apology would have done.

But is this an example of racism?

The first thing suggesting that the tweet had no racist intent is that Stuart has used that quote with other people, which suggests that the intention is to suggest someone’s opinion is invalid because it is not properly informed with all of the facts, rather than it referring to someone’s racial background.

The second thing in Stuart’s defence is his track record: I’ve never come across a sniff of him being Racist before? Obviously all is colleagues and friends say he isn’t, but then they would… but if one was racist, you’d expect something to have ‘come out’ after 40 years in the media spotlight?

Finally, there’s the background of Shapland – some of his previous tweets suggest he’s something of a ‘race warrior’, with some of his tweets calling out white privilege.

I’ve been looking around for an example of something that appears to be racist, but on slightly closer examination . almost certainly isn’t racist, and this seems to be a good example of that!

This feels like ‘trial by social media and political correctness’

As I understand it, in the eyes of the law (certainly where hate crime is concerned) if a victim perceives there to be racial intent, then there is racial intent, so in that sense, ITV had no choice to but to let Stuart go.

However, in this case, the objective truth seems more likely to be that there was any racial intent in that tweet:

It’s probably even the case that even Shapland himself didn’t really think Stuart was being racist: rather it feels like what happened is that Shapland sent off a terse reply ‘playing the race card’ without really thinking about it as part of a social media tiff.

And in the rapid world of social media, you might be able to delete those kind of tweets, but not before someone else has screen shotted and retweeted them!

Final thoughts

To my mind this is a very postmodern event – this kind of thing just couldn’t happen outside of social media.

I don’t think this has turned out too well for Shapland either – he’s getting a lot of actual abuse on twitter now, Stuart has been a popular part of our media landscape for generations!

Also, careful how you use Twitter, it’s not a great case for ‘debates’!

The University of Cambridge appoints first female black head of a college

Jesus College Cambridge recently appointed the first ever black female as its head. This is the first time in British history that either a female or a black person has been the Master of an Oxbridge College.

Sonita Alleyne is 51 years old studied Philosophy at Cambridge 30 years ago and went on to establish a successful career in journalism and has been awarded and OBE. She is a real champion for diversity and inclusion.

black woman cambridge.png

At first sight this seems like a very progressive move to promote equality and diversity, especially when Oxbridge universities have been under so much criticism recently over their disproportionately low numbers of black students and staff.

However, critics might suggest this is an ‘easy trophy appointment’ – what do Heads of Colleges do after all? They’re basically figure heads who liaise with other educational establishments, businesses and the wider communities.

Surely addressing the lack of black female staff (and especially professors) would have more of an impact in promoting equality and diversity?  I mean these are the people who students interact with on a day to day basis, so surely appointments to these positions would have more of a role-model effect, and surely make a difference to the lives of more people (i.e. the people appointed and the students they might inspire.

This appointment is progress, yes, but maybe not the most effective way of promoting equality and diversity

Relevance to A-level sociology 

This is most obviously relevant to the sociology of education. You can use this as contemporary evidence against the view that elite universities are institutionally racist.

Sources/ find out more:

Guardian Article (2018) – Oxbridge faces criticisms over lack of black students.

Article (2017) – List of black female professors in the UK (54 at time of writing, 6 of them in Sociology!)

Vogue Article – we urgently need more black female professors in UK universities (it’s not just Oxford and Cambridge!)

Picture source – BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-48413098

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