Why anti-racism books do NOT encourage segregation

Lily Dosanjh contemplates the Equality Minister's latest comments and discusses the importance of anti-racism literature

Lily Dosanjh
9th November 2020
Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch, has recently come under criticism for her speech in The House of Commons last month. Badenoch expressed her concerns for the teaching of anti-racist books in schools and how this could lead to the creation of a segregated society. 

The implementation of anti-racism resources in the education system is crucial as it teaches young people the most important life lesson: how to be a decent person. Schools should strive to teach pupils how to be good citizens in society, therefore, it only makes sense to implement the teaching of critical race theory in the curriculum. The future generation needs to learn about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace as well as the cases of racism that occurs on a daily basis. However, teaching anti-racism in schools would go beyond learning lessons on better representation, it would allow for white students to learn empathy and analyse their own privileges and look at British history with a critical lens. 

Yet, perhaps the most important argument in favour of learning from anti-racist books is that learning from these mediums would prevent the sentiment of alienation in the class environment that is often felt by people of colour (POCs). Additionally, it is important to learn about the joys and success of POCs in a historical and literary context and that we are not characterised by suffering and sadness.

It is important to learn about the joys and success of POCs in a historical and literary context and that we are not characterised by suffering and sadness.

Something that comes to mind on the topic of decolonising the curriculum is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk, where she challenges the idea of “the single story” narrative that is encompassed in literature. There are many dangers in characterising groups of people through catastrophe and this is unfortunately present in current learning environments.

Therefore, a decolonised curriculum in the education system would, not only provide a more accurate version of history where all students can seek representation in their textbooks, but it would also present a humanised version of history. 

Author of Black, Listed and English teacher, Jeffrey Boakye, discusses the importance of moving past Eurocentric modes of teaching British history in order to go beyond ideas of better representation but instead to “recognise that it [the curriculum] exists as part of a system that is rooted in racist soil. [So that,] only then can we begin to uproot, and plant something better”. Afterall, there is nothing more unifying than acknowledging responsibility and learning from the past. 

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