My astonishing race Damascene moment that actually almost floored me

Damascene moment re race

Damascene momentI’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:

Her response was like the signpost to that road to Damascus:

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!

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  • Andrew Earl

    I can understand your perspective. It can be difficult work and filled with layers of emotions. For me, I wanted to move my thinking from seeing myself as a general humanitarian who doesn’t want so see people mistreated towards a more active mindset. As an educated, white, man, I knew I had power and privilege to change a system I don’t agree with. Once I accepted that taking no action was essentially contributing to the problem, I found the book easier to read. Hope you are able to get more from it this time 🙂

  • Andrew Earl

    Hi Julia, I really enjoyed your blog post. I’ve recently been creating some training for colleagues around equality, diversity and inclusion, with a focus on racial inequality. We started with a task exploring our own racial, cultural and social heritage. All of my colleagues are White British apart from one colleague who is dual heritage. This turned out to be a great way to understand ourselves, as well as the way in which it informs our identity. I would also highly recommend Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad. It can be a difficult read but you will feel encouraged, motivated and skilled up to act in a way that brings about change.

    • Many thanks Andrew. I’ve just read the book you recommended and yes did find it hard to read. I may need to revisit it now this song so much further in my understanding.

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