I have been unusually silent on here this month, in regards to it being Black History Month here in the UK. Where do we start really? I've said most of what I could say before and to varying degrees it makes me feel angry that BHM still needs to be a thing. For anyone out there btw, wanting to ask that question, with the additional point that, because we don't have a white history month do we? Can I just make it abundantly clear that the reason I'm angry is because we do still need it. Because we still live in a painfully racist society (world). Black people, Black contributions to society and history are still not fully acknowledged or included when we talk about/teach history, and Black people are still having to battle daily with the overt and micro aggressions that sustain the systemic and structurally racist society in which we live.
There are many different things I could discuss, but this story popped up on my timeline and it puts quite clearly into perspective some of the frustrations that I feel currently.
I want to talk about this little soundbite from Tory MP, Jonathan Gullis.
Apparently, any teacher found using the term 'white privilege' should be reported to PREVENT and face a disciplinary hearing for using the term because...drum roll... The term white privilege is racist apparently and children should not be exposed such political ideas. He also goes on to say that any teachers speaking out against the Tory government should be sacked because schools...education, should not be about personal politics.
On the one hand, I can agree with the second sentiment. Education should be about giving children the tools to decide what they believe for themselves. Except it is not. Never has been. Education, the whole system, is riddled with political bias in how it works as a tool to perpetuate the status quo in society (in terms of class and race) and how we still have a curriculum that upholds the voices of whiteness and masculinity - that literally teaches children (through the hidden curriculum) that white, middle class men are superior and more valued because they (the beneficiaries of state education) are largely shown white, middle class men as the leaders and specialists in their fields. But still, having an open floor for teachers to express their own personal (party) politics would be messy and should, as much as possible be kept out of the classroom.
Party politics are very different though to discussing ideas of bigotry. I.E. racism, sexism, classism etc. These sort of politics should be the backdrop to the basic rules of the society in which we live. And how can we possibly discuss racism without acknowledging white privilege? Gullis says that it is racist to suggest that all white people have white privilege. Which just makes me, as I'm sure it does many others, sigh...because where do you even start? It's a bit like me trying to argue that just because I'm able bodied, it doesn't mean I have able bodied privilege... YES I FUCKING DO, as does every single able bodied person, or better still like me saying that I felt I was the victim of ablesim because I was told I had able bodied privilege. Or (have to crowbar this story in) even a bit like Dominic Raab suggesting that men and women are both victims of misogyny (in his comments the other week about why misogyny should not be seen as a hate crime). In the latter, he is right in the sense that feminine presenting men are definitely victims of misogyny (although not at the same rate as women) and that feminism is actually beneficial to all men, as well as women, because men suffer too from patriarchal norms. But I think we all know that Raab was not making a radical feminist statement here. He was just entirely ignorant of what misogyny actually means. And Jonathan Gullis is seemingly equally as ignorant as to what racism and white privilege are. It's just so basic, and that feeling of despair when you hear politicians coming out with shit this ignorant is deep and real. Because, what hope is there?
I qualified as a teacher this year (July 2021), and yes, have used the term white privilege before as part of my teaching. The idea that I could be hauled across the coals for this and potentially lose my job makes me feel a multitude of things. Angry, scared. Fed up. Because basically, what Jonathan Gullis is saying is that teaching children about how systemic racism works should be treated as an act of terrorism. That anti racism is terrorism. That threatening the status quo will not be tolerated.
This is not education in my mind. This is the ruling elite doing what they always do: attempting to preserve their power by all means necessary. This makes me want to send him a copy of Paolo Friere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (a refreshingly radical book written in the 70s on how corrupt the system of education is, and how we as teachers can effect a change through the ways in which we teach). Because what Gullis is advocating here is the opposite of education as the practice of freedom, as Friere calls it, it is education as a form of indoctrination and oppression. This is education as a factory that serves the purpose of those in power, not education as a way to level the playing field...but the truth is, this is what the education system was designed for and has ALWAYS been. A tool for those in power.
We need an overhaul, we need to move on from 19th century ideologies of hierarchical class structure and Jonathan Gullis needs to be seen for the relic that he is. We need a fucking revolution!! ✊🏾✊🏻✊🏼✊🏼✊✊🏾✊🏿