We are not makers of history. We are made by history

3 Oct 2013

* October Article of the Month *

‘Good education is not about equality of outcome’ David Cameron proudly stated yesterday at the Conservative Party conference. He claimed that soon, if we elect a Conservative government at the next election, it will not matter whether you’re ‘black or you're white, a man or a woman’. I can’t help but cringe at my desk as I drown in a sea of revision flash cards. This thought is ludicrous. It’s hilarious to think that these factors will not continue to make a difference to outcome, especially in the case of education. 


There is still an evident disproportion in the results from students who are of a white English background and black Caribbean/African backgrounds. It gets even worse overseas when we hear African American economists talk about the racial inequality in American schools. I cannot seem to fathom that there is not one state in which more than 25% of African American students can read and do math at grade level. 

Not long ago I read the recent OFSTED report of my old secondary that I’d left just over a year ago. I must admit, I was not surprised when I read that the girl’s academy had not done well, as I remember my- not so great- experiences. However, I’m glad this has been taken note of so we can help progress these young girls. What was incredibly disconcerting was the fact that the girl’s academy had a serious weakness when it came to the achievement of Black and African students. Brent-being a borough where 95.4% of students are of non white ethnicity- should not be failing their students from ethnic minority backgrounds. It’s incredibly worrying. 

I’ve kept quiet for too long, I know that race inequality is an obviously touchy subject and in some aspects it is seen as a taboo subject. However, it’s my subject and I feel it should be discussed. My theatre studies teacher said in class a few lessons back  ‘Why do we even need black history month?’ he said he felt that black people were not as excluded as they once were and Black History month creates this idea that they are excluded. I took his point on board but, I could not help but disagree with him. I do not believe that it’s simply by chance that Black and African students are comparatively underachieving.

People often say: ‘We’ve come so far, nobody tends to look at race as an issue anymore.’ The truth is we really have not come that far. It’s so hard to find your place in a society where beauty and skin shade are equivalent. We live in a society where fashion designers are reluctant to cast black models due to the sale of their products. It’s hard to find your place when you do not get to learn about your own history and the only thing you knew about your people from your state education was that there were enslaved. How would that make you feel about yourself? How would that make you view your significance? 

I’m genuinely upset with myself because when I hear unnecessary race related comments I shrug them off. I’m so immune to it now, it’s not that we’ve dramatically changed; we’ve just started ignoring it. It’s not a good feeling being used to the drunken men on Kilburn high road shouting things at you. Why am I simply accepting this alienated mentality? Surely it’s not right? I believe it’s got to do with the environment that black girls in the UK are raised in.

Many black girls do not have belief in themselves because they do not know where they come from. If you’re a physicist with a doctorate you know your subject very well and you’re confident in yourself. So if anyone challenged you on a theory or aspect of your knowledge you would automatically know how to respond.  The same goes for race, if you know about your history and your groundings you’re confident in yourself.

It’s not nice hearing your beautiful black younger sister say that she wants to be white when she is a descendent of such greatness. I admit I do not know a lot about black history and I am continuously endeavouring to find out more because it’s intriguing and empowering. The more I know about myself, my people and my history the more confident I am. It’s not a white man’s world and people need to realise this.

By Chante Joseph

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