Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1094/31042

From The Socialist newspaper, 8 July 2020

TV: The school that tried to end racism

Good intentions are not enough

The school that tried to end racism, photo Channel 4

The school that tried to end racism, photo Channel 4   (Click to enlarge)

Chris Holmes, North London teacher

It has become a truism that racism is not inherent but learnt. So, when the Channel 4 series 'The school that tried to end racism' showed an experiment with a group of Year 7 students in a South London school to explore how racism was learnt, it was always going to be a powerful piece of television. Unfortunately, it promised much more than it delivered.

At the start of a three-week programme, the students were given a benchmark test developed by Harvard University to detect unconscious racial basis. Students were timed in their positive or negative responses to different images of race. Shockingly, the same twelve year-olds who had said that they don't see colour and had expressed anti-racist ideas, showed an overwhelming pro-white bias.

Hollow

Shocked that their previously expressed views of equality and tolerance has been exposed as hollow, the students were then divided into 'affinity' groups; of white, and BAME students, to discuss the issues behind this.

While the white students' group had little to offer, other than repeating abstract statements about equality, the young BAME students shared shocking evidence of their own personal experiences of racism in the form of profiling in shops and being stopped and searched on the street by the police.

Initially unsure about being separated from their friends of other races, the BAME students were clearly more comfortable with the affinity group than the white students. They said that it was the first time that they had the chance to openly share their experiences with people who understood.

For the white students, the introduction of the idea of certain advantages was not such a comfortable experience. The use of the 'handicap race' - an exercise that has gone viral on social media - where participants in a race are given different starting points dependent on their life experiences of racial discrimination, gave a powerful practical demonstration of advantages and disadvantages that the white students had previously been unaware of.

So far so good. However, having established that simply ignoring colour would not end racism, it was in the second episode that the limits of the essentially individualistic focus of the unconscious bias model was exposed. Students were taken to the National Portrait Gallery and shown the striking absence of black history or black role models exhibited there in the national story. There was a cursory discussion of the slave trade, and students were shocked to hear about the compensation of slave owners after abolition, but there was no attempt to examine their own school curriculum.

There was frequent use of the terms 'institutional racism' and 'systemic discrimination', but in fact this was restricted to a discussion of negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media and other institutions that produce a cycle of discrimination. The discussion ignored the main argument of theories of institutional discrimination, that unequal outcomes are not necessarily the result of intent or the actions of individuals, but of in-built inequalities in policies and process.

Uncomfortable viewing

This is not a theoretical issue - the students were not asked to share their experiences of life at school, for example, in terms of how they experienced behaviour policies or curriculum options, which might have made for uncomfortable viewing by school leaders.

Similarly, the students took part in a debate about whether Britain was a racist country. But this still did not really address issues of racism in wider society. Most significantly, no reference was ever made to the central role of class in creating inequality and disadvantage, and how that intersects with race.

Perhaps the choice of school for the experiment had some significance in this. Glenthorne High School is an outstanding academy with a significantly lower proportion of students on free school meals than the national average and based in the suburban London borough of Sutton. A very different picture would probably have come from an inner-city school that reflected experiences of poverty, housing, unemployment and crime, all of which cannot be separated from racial inequalities.

The series ended on a feel-good moment when the students retook the test of unconscious bias. Predictably, the results showed that the students had lost their previous bias and were now more genuinely race 'neutral'. Undoubtedly, some of them had been on an important personal journey through the three weeks and, as with any school-based television, this had thrown up moments that were genuinely both funny and moving. However, the programme also showed the limits of an individualistic approach to anti-racism. Whatever its good intentions no school can 'end racism' - it is fundamentally a systemic problem, rooted in capitalist society, requiring fundamental system change.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 8 July 2020:


Workplace news

Fantastic virtual NSSN conference: "Fight for our lives and livelihoods''

Homerton hospital workers deserve equal pay and conditions

Jobcentre reopening: only union struggle will put safety first

Southampton UCU: election victory for combative rank and file

Tower Hamlets council workers strike against wholesale attack on terms and conditions

Nottingham unions fight council job cuts


News

Fight for every job, fight for socialism

Tory NHS betrayal

Young people have no choice but to fight the system

Leicester: End the scandal of sweatshop labour

Covid pandemic and Northern Ireland - workers must resist the bosses' offensive

1,600 less benefits if your job goes - while super-rich splash cash

Testing: Tories' 5bn gift to private sector

Johnson blames care workers for deaths

3bn green pledge: not enough for climate or jobs

Poverty rises again - especially for BAME workers

Them and us


No going back

No going back: Nationalise social care!


Campaigns

The best place to start - join the Socialist Party

Trans rights protests oppose Tory backsliding

Black Lives Matter - the fight is not over


International news

Hong Kong: The fight for democratic rights

Bangladesh: Stop closure and privatisation of Jute Mills


Readers' opinion

TV: The school that tried to end racism

Books that inspired me: The Fire Next Time

The Socialist Inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 8 July 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

School:

triangleHorrific murder in Paris: fight intolerance and racism!

triangleAction on Covid transmission in schools now

triangleNEU Special Conference: A fight for safety in schools is urgently needed

triangleNational Education Union must launch action now

triangleEven more delay in stopping school transmission?

TV:

triangleTV: Council House Britain

triangleTV: The English Game - how the working class made football the people's game

triangleTV: Once Upon a Time in Iraq

triangleTV: Ross Kemp - Living with Forced Out Families

Racism:

triangleSouthampton: Coxford community condemns racist attack

triangleFree Siyanda Mngaza

triangleNon-fiction: 'Why I no longer talk to white people about race'

Students:

triangleDisabled students let down by "rotten education system"

triangleFight for your future at the online rally

Discrimination:

triangleYes to self-identity

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

14/10/20

Obituary

Obituary: Raph Parkinson 1958-2020

14/10/20

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

14/10/20

Labour Party

Non-fiction: This Land - the story of a movement

14/10/20

Education

Students speak out: isolation and uncertainty reign

7/10/20

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

7/10/20

Racism

Non-fiction: 'Why I no longer talk to white people about race'

7/10/20

Film

Film: 'Sick' - 'They've got people looking in the wrong direction'

2/10/20

Southwark

TV: Council House Britain

30/9/20

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

30/9/20

Socialist Party

Why I joined the Socialist Party: Labour moved right and left me behind

23/9/20

Pay

A day in the life of a salon worker

23/9/20

Socialist Party

Why we joined the Socialist Party

23/9/20

Football

TV: The English Game - how the working class made football the people's game

23/9/20

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

16/9/20

Labour Party

Non-fiction: Left Out - the inside story of Labour under Corbyn

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


October 2020

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999