Getting Down to “the Bone” of the Problem

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I was on a webinar sponsored by the National Education Union today.  The first panelist was the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr.  He made several interesting points in his address.  He noted that the Black Lives Matters movement is more than just a policing issue. Other panelists included Kevin Courtney, and the MP Diane Abbott.

Reverend Jackson noted that the police are the guards at the gates.  He stated that “what is behind the gate is the real issue.”  He said it is the system that needs changing.  Jackson, on a few occasions reiterated that the police patrol the community, they don’t control it.  They are the “skin” of the community, but the problem is “bone deep.”  The underlying inequality is the bigger issue.  People need to see that the “lack of barbarity” is not the same thing as freedom.   Even if every policeman was kind, it wouldn’t erase the issue of embedded racism and inequality in social outlooks.  Reverend Jackson closed with the reminder that his colleague Dr King had focused on as well.  “We are all God’s children.  We need to learn to live together as civilised people.”

Kevin Courtney, the Joint General Secretary of the NEU called for the decolonialising of the curriculum as an instrument in getting to Reverend Jackson’s “bone” of the problem of racism and inequality.  In Mr Courtney’s words, we need to challenge the “soft violence” of inequality.  Education can make a real change in the underlying assumptions that manifest themselves as structural racism.

For those wondering what structural racism is, Ms Abbott gave a great example.  When she was a young student, she was challenged by her English teacher, and accused of plagiarism.  Her teacher wanted to know where she had copied her story from, because it was assumed that a Black girl, couldn’t have written one that good on her own.    Reverend Jackson, had addressed this myth of Black intellectual inferiority earlier in the webinar.

All in all it was a thought provoking and challenging opportunity to see where we as educators can go to truly make “All lives matter.”