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‘When Black lives matter all lives will matter’ Part 2: forging new alliances

Blog Editor, IOE Digital23 September 2020

Ann Phoenix, Afiya Amesu, Issy Naylor and Kafi Zafar – a teacher and three students discuss the BLM movement in their second blog.

The scrutiny of racism that Black Lives Matter has produced raises questions of commonalities and differences in experiences of racism across groups. One consequence is that Asian people have found themselves remembering the pain of being subjected to implicit and overt racism. One example is learning that others thought there was something inherently wrong with darker skin through being asked at age five years, “why is your skin black?” before having any concept of race, ethnicity, or skin colour.

Fons Americanus by Kara Walker, displayed in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall. Photo by Les Hutchinson via Creative Commons

Part of the complexity ingrained in everyday racist practices is that it is not simply between those who are white and those who are ‘other’. Instead, South Asian children learn early that, not only is there a great deal of racism and casteism towards South Asians, but also within their own South Asian communities. Comments from elders range from complaints of becoming too tanned in the summer, and darker skin ruining marriage prospects for young girls, to offhand remarks about how beautiful a baby is for no other reason than their fair complexion. This is, arguably, as destructive as external racism since it tears South Asians apart from the inside. This colourism is now recognised to be one face of racism that has gained strong footholds because of histories of enslavement and colonialism. It highlights the importance of recognising what Avtar Brah, in the 1990s, called ‘differential racisms’.

Increasingly, young British Asians are fighting against these ideologies through not only embracing their own dark skin, but also breaking down the stereotypes and stigma (more…)

‘When Black Lives Matter All Lives Will Matter’

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 September 2020

 

Ann Phoenix, Afiya Amesu, Issy Naylor and Kafi Zafar – a teacher and three students discuss the BLM movement in a two-part blog.

The publicity following the death of George Floyd after the white policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck galvanised support for the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM and the attention it has garnered over the last few months has thrown light on the ongoing discrimination and systemic racism that black people continue to face.

Alongside the unprecedented global protests against racism, there seems a new appetite to understand the specificities and ubiquity of anti-black racism and its subtle, every-day materialisations as well as its murderous manifestations. That quest for understanding has seen an extraordinary outpouring of testimonies from black and mixed-parentage people, telling stories of events and day to day experiences that have generally been reserved for insider conversations on microaggressions and discrimination.

It is evident in institutions such as the media and universities that both like to see themselves as progressive but are repeatedly shown to reproduce social inequalities. A crucial (more…)

Whose history will my mixed-race daughter be taught?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 July 2020

Meena Khatwa.

‘We are here because you were there’ (A. Sivanandan).

Windrush protest

Whenever I deliver a lecture on slavery, the British Empire or migration, I always begin with this simple yet powerful quote. It immediately grabs the students’ attention, and they begin to understand centuries of brutal colonial history, laid bare in those words.

I’m a British Asian, born in Slough, in 1973. Like other Asian families at that time, I lived with my extended migrant family. Our house of ten resembled Piccadilly Circus. Every morning each family member bustled to their low-paid manual jobs.

The events that led them to the UK were shaped by the history of British colonialism. My grandparents fled Karachi during the Partition in 1947 and, for a few years, were refugees in a newly-formed India. They then moved to Kenya, but had to flee again after it gained independence in 1963, which brought them to the UK and to Slough. My PhD research captured similar stories. These families were identified as ‘twice migrants’ and – perhaps surprisingly – this upheaval resulted in slightly better assimilation because they had already experienced resettlement from India to Africa.

Slough was an interesting place to grow up, a social experiment in collisions of culture and traditions. I attended St Mary’s CE primary school, singing (more…)