My astonishing race Damascene moment that actually almost floored me
I’m taking the opportunity to repost this piece on race as it is almost 2 years since I first published it and I’m interested to know if there have been any changes in society’s approach to racism. Have our schools found a way to help build communities where all pupils feel safe? Has your view changed and if so how?
It’s a Sunday so I suppose that’s pretty appropriate for a Damascene moment.
I was tweeting with Amanda Wilson about her marvellous blog post ‘Do you understand what it’s like to be a black student in a UK School’ and I mentioned that it was going to help me in my thinking. Since the death of George Floyd and all the media coverage of Black Lives Matter and the huge increase in articles about racism and its effects, I have been trying to extend my understanding of the situation we have in this country. This blog confirmed to me that I need to be braver and ask questions that I may feel uncomfortable about asking. Only then will I learn.
My comment to her was:
An excellent read that endorses my view that as a white woman I have to ask questions of my ethnic colleagues. Otherwise I’m always going to get it wrong or worse stay silent. Thanks Amanda!
— Julia Skinner FCCT (@TheHeadsOffice) August 8, 2021
Her response was like the signpost to that road to Damascus:
It’s also worth noting that we are all ethnic….but it’s those colleagues whose roots are Asian, African or Caribbean that you’ll want to have the conversations with. 😃
— Amanda Wilson MCCT (@AmandaWilson910) August 8, 2021
That was it! The light bulb flashed! I was saying inside ‘Of course.’
Let me explain.
When I’m talking about white people I never refer to them as white people. If I need a ‘label’ I will refer to the country they come from so they’ll be French or Spanish, Swiss, Liverpudlian, Londoner. The colour of their skin never comes into my thinking.
So, when I’m talking about people of colour why do I feel I have to put them into a race category? Does that make a difference to my telling or thinking? I have read with interest the use of term BAME supposedly representing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people. I have always used it assuming that people it groups together were quite happy with that categorisation. It was not until I read that actually it is not a term those included are happy with. I then thought but how do I refer to People of Colour and other ethnicities? But of course, I shouldn’t call them anything! If I need a point of reference, I should refer to the country their cultures originate from. Of course, ‘BAME’ is easy to remember & slips off the tongue but it is not correct. So just as I would not call an Irish man and a Scots man ‘Celts’ because they share a similar heritage, I need to stop looking for groupings for everyone else.
This Damascene moment does mean I’m going to be asking more questions of all my colleagues and friends whatever their hue. You have been warned!