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You are here: > Campaigns > Black Lives Matter > Time for self-education

Time for self-education

Picture: Maria Oswalt

Most if not all of us will have experienced some form of history education as part of our schooling. But when we look at ways to educate ourselves now, it is important to do so with the realisation that what we were taught in school was not the full picture, and was presented to downplay anything that would portray our nation in a negative light.  

History in the UK has always been taught from a position of white privilege, the position our society has been built for. We may have been taught about slavery and how bad it was - but it’s unlikely that anyone was taught, in school, that after the slave trade was abolished in the UK, the government paid compensation to the slave owners for the loss of their “property”. And yet, if you have been a taxpayer at any time prior to 2015, you’ve been helping to repay the debts those compensation payments led to.  

Similarly, how we were taught about colonialism depends very much on when we were at school. Prior to the 1960s, it would have been taught as a sign of pride, to show the might of the Empire while ignoring what that meant for people native to the countries Britain was laying claim to. If you started school from 1960 onwards, it’s likely you weren’t taught about colonialism at all, as to raise it would be to paint the UK in a less than favourable light.  

Some of us may have learned more about the UK’s shadier activities through our own studies. Most of us will have not. And it is this apathy towards questioning what we were taught at school, towards finding out what the other sides of the stories are, which has led to the recent debates over statues and whether there is value to keeping them. Historical figures celebrated as heroes worthy of commemoration are now being seen for their less honourable sides through the work of those who work to uncover history’s full story.  
And this in itself leads to an important lesson, before we go any further. In seeking to learn about racism and particularly systemic racism in the UK, we will come across information that contradicts what we were once taught. Do not be tempted to dismiss that information just because it doesn’t line up with what you remember - instead, think about why you weren’t taught about the other side of things and how it might have shifted your worldview if you had been.  



We live in an age where it has never been easier to find the information we want. But we understand that for some people, particularly those who have not grown up with the internet, it can feel like there is so much out there that it’s hard to know where to start. So we have put together some suggestions of possible starting points and ways to get involved and we challenge every member reading this to investigate at least three of the options below.  

The internet
While a Google search can bring you hundreds of links for almost any term you can think of, finding the right information can still be a struggle so we’ve compiled some ideas of where to start.  

The Gov.UK website has some useful reading material, including Ethnicity Facts and Figures and The Race Disparity Audit. It’s also worth reading the recent report COVID-19: understanding the impact on BAME communities to understand just one way in which non-white people in the UK are at a disadvantage.    

It’s also worth looking at organisations whose focus is on racial equality. The below were all listed in an Independent article on 13th June as UK-based anti-racism charities to support:

Runnymede Trust: 
https://www.runnymedetrust.org/  
Show Racism the Red Card: https://www.theredcard.org/ 
Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust: https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/
Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI): https://www.sariweb.org.uk/
Kick It Out: https://www.kickitout.org/
Stop Hate UK: https://www.stophateuk.org/
Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER): https://www.crer.scot/
Discrimination Law Association: http://www.discriminationlaw.org.uk/
Race Equality First: https://raceequalityfirst.org/
Black Lives Matter UK: https://twitter.com/ukblm  

Social media
As noted above, social media is a mine of information that is worth investigating - though if you are not used to using it, we would advise you spend some time researching elsewhere first because the volume of posts on social media can make it hard to pick out the gems from the white noise.  

For those who are more used to social media or who have a good grasp on the topic, Twitter and Instagram are full of helpful posts which explain a range of things relating to this topic in an easy to absorb manner along with resources for further reading. Start by searching the #BlackLivesMatter and #blacklivesmatter hashtags and see what you can learn.  

Books
Not everyone has the internet, and even those who are happy to use it might prefer a more traditional method of learning.  

On 9th June, author Layla F. Saad posted on Instagram with a list of recommended reading for understanding racism, white privilege and white supremacy in the UK (list has been edited so titles appear as they do on Amazon.co.uk for easier searching):  

Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change
the World by Layla F. Saad
Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch
Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Think Like A White Man - Conquering the World...While Black by Dr Boulé Whytelaw III
and Nels Abbey
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
Memoirs of a Black Englishman by Paul Stephenson OBE Superior:
The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini
White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-Racial Society by Kalwant Bhopal
It’s Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race edited by Mariam Khan
How to Argue with a Racist: HIstory, Science, Race & Reality by Adam Rutherford
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams  

Documentaries
Not a reader? On 6th June, Instagram user uomfeministcollective posted a list of useful documentaries to educate about racism in the UK. As of that date, these were all available to watch for free online.  

Dispatches Grenfell: Did the Fire Brigade Fail (Channel 4)
Is Britain Racist? (BBC3/YouTube)
Black and British: A Forgotten History (BBC4/ iplayer)
The Unwanted: the Secret Windrush Files (BBC2/YouTube)
How Racist Are You? Jane Elliott’s Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes (YouTube)
Stephen Lawrence: Justice for a Murdered Son (YouTube)



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