Part 5 -ANTI-RACIST AWARENESS TRAINING
In this part I will examine my involvement with anti-racist awareness training. As well
as demonstrating the work that I did I will also develop the rationale for approaching
the training in this way. Let me try to indicate some of the themes for the rationale; in
the conclusion examine these themes and then consider whether this approach is
valid. Do we know what racism is and how does it affect our students? Is this racism
something that we can control or is it beyond our control such as the racism of the
school system? Historically our society has developed its infrastructure on colonial
exploitation, does this have any relation to racism and our students? And finally do
the policies that we create fulfil their intended role? Also please note the occasional
reference to personnel in this field, and bear this in mind when I consider the
personnel issue in detail in part 6.
My work on anti-racist awareness began when I moved to Hove Comprehensive; in
fact in London I had steered away from the work because of some horrific stories I
had heard. What had concerned me could be described as some form of
over-exuberance. I had heard that some anti-racist awareness practitioners
approached the subject matter from such an evangelical viewpoint that they totally
alienated the people they were training. It was as if these trainers were working in
some form of group therapy where participants had to open up their hearts, accept
their racism and repent. Alleleuiah!! This was another example of where the excesses
of London's active minorities had clouded my judgement.
The headmaster at Hove Comprehensive had just arrived from Croydon and he knew
the career value of Equal Opportunities(EOPS) but in my view he was only interested
in policy and not in practice; this later became a major problem. In my first year he
seemed keen to use my experience and he encouraged me to join the EOPS
Committee; as a committee we put together a one-day INSET programme on Race
As a result of the success of this day the headmaster allowed me to go on an NUT
racism awareness course (see appendix 5A for NUT course materials together with
other materials they have produced on this issue). Following this course I was also
allowed to present a session on Racism Awareness on an INSET day programme
where staff chose what session they went to. Hove, as I said above, is a reactionary
place - the headquarters of the National Front was based in Hove, and with the
attitude that there was no problem at the school because there were no black
students there was resistance to this work. However the session went down very well
- course evaluation at the end of the day followed by a compliment from the deputy
head ic staff development. I then offered to run an awareness course based on the
NUT training, and got limited support from the headmaster. We were allowed to run
the course on Tuesday afternoons after the exams when no cover was required, and
the headmaster even volunteered to join the course.
The basic structure of the course was as follows:-
Week1 Intro with icebreakers - Prejudice - what is it?
Week2 Brainstorming leading to Prejudice + Power = Racism
Week3 Posters - Racism in the UK
Week4 Posters - Racism and Colonialism
Week5 Institutional racism
Week6 Racism policies
The best way I have found of demonstrating the course content is to use a video as I
did in the INSET so at this point if you would watch the video all the way through it
will give you an understanding of what the course was like. (Pause to watch video -
please be tolerant of the editing, I had no access to proper equipment only a lead
between two VCR's).
Although the video contains a commentary from me, in this section I want to give
some justification for the approach I took. The main concern I had was summed up
by Scarman(video 4:00 mins - all video references are given by time at standard
play), "racial disadvantage derives partly ........ from a deep unconscious prejudice
which we have not yet succeeded in eliminating from ourselves"; by ourselves
Scarman was referring to the "host community".
I made an assumption in giving the course. There is a deep unconscious prejudice
and that through the course I tried to expose this. I then hoped that by exposing it
people would recognise the injustice of it all, and try to do something about it. I now
feel that this approach can only deal in part with the issue because of other
pressures. In other words even if we "eliminate the deep unconscious prejudice from
ourselves" can we remove "racial disadvantage" from society?
PREJUDICE + POWER = RACISM
Through usage people freely interchange the words racial prejudice and racism as if
there is no difference in meaning, and from the dictionary racial prejudice is a
"preconceived opinion" that a race is superior and "racism" is a "belief in the
superiority of a particular race, prejudice based on this"(Concise Oxford Dictionary).
But this goes little way to examining what racism does. If I don't like black people
what harm does that do? Very little, it is only when I am in a position to offer jobs,
housing, education and others and I use my dislike to prevent black people from
equal access that any harm is done. And in UK society where the majority are white
and a significant proportion exhibit some form of dislike of black people we have
people in positions where they don't give equal access. By drawing an arbitrary
distinction between prejudice and racism through the element of power, the teachers
were able to focus more on what matters - not the words but the power to deprive, to
withdraw loans, not to offer employment etc. (see video 7:50 for an example of the
results of the exercise, pause at 7:57 for definitions and see NUT document in
Appendix 5B "Prejudice Plus Power: Challenging Racist Assumptions" for further
justifications for teachers).
Next we looked at posters in two sections - racism in the UK and colonialism[video
8:50 to 13:12] (see footnote *). Do we accept that colonialism is important in
understanding racism in the UK? Certainly my headmaster didn't. He attended the
first workshop on prejudice(he had probably attended similar in London), and then he
arrived half way through the workshop on colonialism after missing two weeks. With
his prior antagonism concerning myself and the union he immediately saw the politics
and I remember he was disconcerted to say the least.
If you consider the posters as shown in the video excerpt, they don't connect racism
with colonialism - it is assumed. Let me try and expand on that assumption. There is
a clear similarity between racism in the UK and colonialism, and that is that both
systems have disadvantaged black people. Even though some white people here in
Africa make statements like "The first problem for Africa was the coming of the white
man, the second was his leaving", if you consider the approach taken by Walter
Rodney in "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" then the first coming of the white
man started the process of underdevelopment which took a society which was in
advance of the West and made it the Third World. The white man leaving has caused
problems, and there is no doubt from living out here there is an unreasonable
dependence on the white man and white people are undoubtedly given respect and
authority. But this has also to be placed in context. Under colonialism the whites
established a structure alien to the African way of life - their own. In my view this
business structure did not suit the tribal structure (if I can judge as an outsider).
Further when white people were thrown out by the independence struggles (or left if
you take the view that a military presence was not economically viable in post-war
Britain) they left in tact the economic infrastructure connecting Africa to Europe, and
post-war the Americans further came in and enhanced the economic dependence on
the West. Since the 70's Japan has also made its economic presence felt so that
Africa is now totally a farm(the original meaning of colony), or a market-place for
Western goods. Hence we have the Third World situation where black people are
In this world matters like this are never this simplistic. In practice many of the
businesses are run by white people and, because they provide some jobs, they are
run to the advantage of the community. Efforts by many Batswana do not have the
same success and this is said by their own government, yet at the same time the
businesses are established here by the whites for profit motives only. In the West
white business people are part of the community they work in, even if they have their
own class or neighbourhood there are usually some connections with the community
which removes some of the excesses of raw greed. Here the white business
community is totally separate, and it appears that for some the business arena is for
profit at whatever cost to be taken back to the home for the family where they live
separate lives. And that's if the presence isn't purely capital where the profit is
measured only as a percentage of the investment, and that terms like customer
service or business integrity are unnecessary impositions on the percentage return.
Furthermore I believe there is an international white brotherhood, I'm sorry I couldn't
resist using such an emotive term, but business people like to deal with their own. If
they know how the business contact is working then they have no fears concerning
their deals. If these people have all come from similar education systems and
societies then they know how to work together. Hence I use the term international
white brotherhood, but this isn't a complete picture because it ignores leading players
such as Japan and Indians and Pakistanis outside their own countries. But I firmly
believe that Western business choose in Africa to deal with whites rather than blacks.
In the new South Africa under the African National Congress(ANC) there have been
two finance ministers both of whom were white and neither were members of the
ANC (nor any other party I believe). The first, who later resigned, had a
well-established business reputation and the second used to be in charge of one of
the leading banks.
Clearly colonialism, and its progeny - neocolonialism, disadvantages black people but
the intention was not to go to Africa and oppress black people, the purpose was trade
and profit. Many people of the "host community" in the UK argue that their society
does not intend to hurt black people, they argue that they have EOPS legislation but
in practice racism causes disadvantage to black people(and others) in the UK. So
one important lesson to be learned from the colonial legacy is that intention is not a
requirement of racist practice.
So based on this cursory glance at the history of colonialism, what is the relevance of
colonialism to racism in the UK? Firstly the families of black people in the UK have
their origins in the colonial system, and secondly the practices of the colonial system
are paralleled in the UK as in the case of intention.
What is the importance of the background country? Firstly older generations harp on
about the good times in the old country. In the case of the Afro-Caribbean community
in the UK many "came to this country believing that they were British since .... they
had been brought up in an English-style education system which through its
curriculum, examinations and teaching methods had imbued them with the British
culture and way of life [Swann p21]". Connected with this many "adults came to the
UK ..... for work, a better standard of living and education[Klein p19]". Now "when the
West Indian community sees so many of its children failing to fulfil their true potential
......... the resulting alienation has clearly fostered the view that the only way in which
the West indian community can shield its youngsters from racism and its
manifestations ........ is to take the system into their own hands[Black schools section
of Swann p516]". It is not the established examination curriculum they want to
change as I can verify from working in the Gresham Supplementary school, but it is
an effort "to instill in them (West Indian children - BZ) an understanding and pride in
their ethnic origins and above all ensure a "fair deal" from the education
So it is not the colonial legacy of disadvantage that has its affect on this group of
people but the resulting deprivation of the disadvantage in the home community,
together with a false hope agenda, brings these people to the UK where they suffer
an alienation which leads to the problems associated with racism.
"Divide and Rule" was an important maxim of the colonialist. In my current
geographical situation the divisions of aparthied are a clear example of this practice
albeit not a policy but an inheritance of the English since the 70's. It is important to
recognise that division within the UK is also very important. From a political point of
view the first division to note is in the class situation where the working-class (using
the broad Marxist definition of class) are divided - women-men and black-white.
But within this racial division we have further divisions. In an article in Race and Class
Kenan Malik says that "the assertion of difference has become, for many radicals, the
principal dynamic in society today[p1]". In the same article he quotes Stuart Hall as
positing that "the new ethnicities" present " a non-coercive and a more diverse
conception of ethnicity, to set against the embattled, hegemonic conceptions of
Englishness which .... stabilises so much of the dominant political and cultural
discourses[p2]." Stuart Hall's argument, according to Malik, comes under the
postmodernist umbrella, and celebrates the politics of difference. My own approach of
radical Marxist class conflict is seen by postmodernists as Eurocentric universalism
"a means of imposing Euro-American ideas of rationality and objectivity on other
peoples [Malik p2]." However Malik later points out that postmodernism "embodies
the same romantic notions of human difference as are contained in racial theory[p4]".
Though it is clearly not the intention we have here some form of Divide and Rule
colonialism, in fact worse than this I see the need of the intellectual to create
differences where they were not originally. But then intellectuals have often been in
the vanguard of some of the worst excesses of history simply because their particular
philosophy suited the contemporaneous exploiter.
In England I was told that the best way to understand what is happening with racial
issues is to view England as a microcosmic colonial situation affecting black people, if
this is what black people say I listen unless I have contradictory evidence. As a
totality I have no such evidence. Maybe all my approaches are simply outdated if you
take a postmodernist approach - and reject totalistic overviews!!
Returning to the reasons I gave the course I hope the relationship between racism
and colonialism is now clearer. The family background of the racially-disadvantaged
is colonial, and as a totality their experience in the UK could be viewed as a
microcosmic colonial situation. Bearing this in mind if the teachers on my course
wanted to understand the situation of the racially-disadvantaged then one important
step is to understand colonialism.
I now want to look at Week 5 of my course which concerns institutional racism. Now
the keyword to understanding institutional racism is the word intention. Very few
teachers intend to be racist but that does not mean they are not involved in the
practice of racism. Please refer to the video, and watch the section from 14:00 to
19:15. To be perfectly frank I did not use the exercise of the "subtly-racist school" as I
thought it was too contrived, but it clearly worked well on the video. I cannot
remember the whole of the workshop but I did use the drawbridge exercise. [Katz
pp70-72 photocopied as Appendix 5D]. This demonstrates how a black person can
blunder through a system suffering the ultimate penalty yet each person fulfilling a
role they consider worthwhile and justified. The keynote to my approach on this topic
was that teachers should understand that even though they did not consider
themselves racist they might unintentionally practice racism because of the institution
they were working in.
In the last week we summarised what we had learnt from the first five weeks. We had
been asked by the headmaster to look into the question of a policy on racism but
when we began this it was clear that the group showed little interest in creating a
policy. Unfortunately I am not sure whether it was because of my reactions to the
headmaster and policies or theirs but it never happened. In the school we used to
have a green slip/yellow slip as a good/bad reward system. On the yellow slip(bad)
were listed typical characteristics of badness such as no books/equipment, uniform
etc. On behalf of the INSET group I suggested a category "Use of racist/sexist
language". Although at worst this met with a lukewarm reaction I cannot remember
this category appearing on these slips - IMPORTANTLY FOR ALL THE STUDENTS
AND PARENTS TO READ!!
I felt very invigorated delivering this course and over the six weeks we built up a good
understanding together, and even without report backs I know that everyone learnt
and enjoyed it - except the headmaster. I also have to be honest and say that we did
very little with the work. Eileen[18:40] said "I needed to examine myself much more
deeply ... I had strong feelings before about this subject and I had never really done
anything about it." I think that my participants would have given the same reaction,
and they, and myself, didn't do anything about it. Did Eileen?
It is easy in such situations to be self-critical but could we have seriously done
anything? Let's start with the policy issue. Yes, we all had the ability to write a very
convincing policy for the school, and perhaps we shouldn't have been discouraged
about doing it by the headmaster's attitude. But apart from creating a policy what
would it have produced? Would it have helped change the attitudes of the students or
the teachers? In my view very little.
Klein discusses the process by which a policy can be built and that this "process can
be of great value. First, issues(which are often uncomfortable ...) are raised and
debated; second, they are related to other policy decisions in the school(eg
streaming, discipline procedures, resource selection, language support), so
developing school practice through review. Third every policy requires support and
agreement within the school and also from parents and governors"[p105]. If we wrote
the policy who would have debated the issues? Would a marginalised issue/group as
ours have been able to relate this issue to other policy decisions and would we have
received support from teachers etc.? In my view the answer was no. The headmaster
wanted a policy, in my view, to parade as part of an image he built as an EOPS
headmaster within East Sussex. In Botswana headmasters are headmasters not
headteachers, sometimes women call themselves headmasters here for the status,
but in the UK it was usual to call the person in charge of the school, headteacher.
The headteacher of Hove Comprehensive insisted on being called headmaster - not
a very liberated position but just an example of his hypocrisy. The staff knew that he
was not serious about EOPS issues, and so many avoided being involved - sadly the
more dynamic (and in many ways good - but not on this issue) senior teachers of the
school. We knew this issue would not have staff support in view of all the other
pressures on teachers placed by the moving goalposts of government legislation.
Although we learned from the course we did not implement. Basically as the male
teacher on the EOPS working party excerpt in the video said "We are not moving fast
enough to counter the racism of society[29:28]". At Hove Comprehensive the
teachers in the workshops may have advanced but the tide they were fighting against
was too strong. I would generalise this to the whole of society; no matter how much
awareness training occurs it is not enough to counter the tide, and I personally see
this tide as a political question. If the political direction of the government is not
strongly active in fighting racism then the UK will continue to practice racial
disadvantage. With a Tory government that turns to a policy of repatriation as a
vote-winner and a Labour party whose vote analysis is determining its policy there is
little likelihood that the racist tide will be countered at government direction - it is more
likely to be swelled.
Conclusion to Part 5
Through developing my involvement in awareness training I have tried to present my
rationale for the course I gave. Awareness is the keynote here, I tried to make the
teachers aware of their own unconscious prejudice built up through being brought up
in a racist society where white people have the power to cpntrol aspects of black
people's lives such as housing, employment, education etc. I tried to show that
unconscious practices built up in the colonial era have their counterparts in English
society today, and hopefully by making teachers aware of this connection they are
able, in some way, to counter these practices. And then most importantly for teachers
trying to show them that, whether by intention or not, if they are in an institution which
practices racism, again whether intentionally or not, they compound the problem.
Having a policy that is not practised is also an aspect of this institutional racism, and I
tried to give reasons for our lack of desire to become involved in that.
Finally in this part on anti-racist awareness I found the whole process very
interesting. Whilst starting from the position of a typical northern youngster who
happily called a spade a spade, I learnt a great deal about the causes of racial
disadvantage of black people and found that I was able to put across some of this
understanding in INSET workshops. Sadly I am not sure as to the validity of the work.
I am convinced that I was able to show the teachers some of the deep unconscious
prejudice that they held together with showing them how racial disadvantage was
propogated by the vestiges of a colonial system and by institutional practices but in
the end what could I show them to do? Maybe on a personal level these people, who
were inclined this way anyway, would show a greater awareness and knowledge
involved in issues concerning race, but perhaps ultimately they will be powerless to
effect a meaningful change, like myself.
REFERENCES to Part 4
Concise Oxford Oxford University Press 1990
Katz Judy H "White Awareness; A Handbook for Anti-Racism Training"
University of Oklahoma Press 1980. ISBN 0-8061-1466-5.
Klein G "Education Towards Race Equality" Cassell
1993. ISBN 0-304-32387-X.
Malik K Paper "Universalism and Difference: race and
the Postmodernists" in Race and Class Vol 37
#3 1996 Institute of Race Relations. ISSN 0306
Rodney W "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa?" Bogle
L'Ouverture 1983 ISBN 09501546 4 4
Swann M "Education for All - The Report of the
Committee of Inquiry into the Education of
Children from Ethnic Minority Groups" HMSO
1985 Cmnd 9453.
* These posters I also used in a community group course of workshops (see appendix
5C for details) on the situation in Ireland; the racism, cash crops, colonialism and
many other ideas had their exact counterparts in racism against blacks.
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