|""We charge the Barbican with exhibiting institutional racism" - Sara Myers|
"Accept the university of death" - Gwendolyn Brooks
I recently finished my Masters in writing and teaching, and I'm currently teaching in schools. My stance is that racist indoctrination is still alive and judging by the reading lists on every school / university / curriculum I have come across, our educational institutions still glorify and endorse racist literature, defended by creative writing and English Literature professors as "the mentality of the time". I'm not even saying to remove or censor these writers, I'm saying, it can't be taught without taking the painful narrative of colonial atrocity seriously. Without asking why all the "uncivilised, barbaric, savage" language is something that can pass without deeper interrogation of racism, how it translates today and why the establishment forgives it?
Much empathy is needed from teachers (I don't just mean qualified teachers in schools, but anyone sharing and accessing knowledge) in the presentation of this history. They need to understand that every time a white writer calls a black person a nigger, he / she is denying their humanity. It seems these "canonised" writers who are used as models of supreme literary achievement (such as H.G Wells, Darwin, Conrad, Kipling, Woolf, Lawrence, Larkin) and let's not even get started on the Americans, who assumed black people would never read their books, because the system they believed in would forever keep them illiterate. These writers were not stupid, they were racists, directly benefiting from slavery and defending white supremacy. To call black people human would be to admit that the only thing rich white people were by default is human rights abusers. What kind of teacher would not be able to empathise with this? Perhaps a teacher, who themselves are victims of a racist education? This requires a deeper exploration on race politics, particularly if you're a white teacher educating students of colour. How can we expect black and white students to have the same response to these narratives? Its about creating an honest history and debate between all students and teachers (regardless of background). Would this not be a positive move in bringing us all together?
Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe have written excellent essays on this
As our education system has such a miserable time confronting colonial history, people surely aren't ready for Exhibit B before they're ready to resolve the present institutional racism. Perhaps part of what has caused offence is that Brett Bailey has assumed racism and slavery are things of the past?
In other news, the country has just started a war.