Developments in Anti-Racism
By Gill Crozier, author of Racism and Education in Britain: Addressing Structural Oppression and the Dominance of Whiteness
Two years on from the tragic and brutal death of George Floyd (2020) at the hands of the police in the USA and the resurgence of the inspiring Black Lives Matter Movement internationally, can we see any tangible changes in terms of the challenge to racism? Maybe this is an impossible question to answer. Perhaps we cannot make causal links between initiatives and outcomes but we can explore developments and observations and analyse debates that are on-going. Police brutality continues as we see in the last weeks of January another Black man, Tyre Nichols, was murdered by police in Memphis, Tennessee, USA and there have been other deaths of Black people in custody in various countries of the world. In Britain, the police harassment of Black people such as in the disproportionate Stop and Search practices continues unabated. Likewise, the presence of police in urban multi-ethnic schools and the negative effects of this has come to the fore. The damaging impact on young Muslim people and children of the PREVENT strategy, Britian’s version of anti-terrorism, anti-radicalisation in schools and universities and other public services, remains problematic and increases negative stereotyping (Jerome et al. 2019).
Whilst there is an on-going rise of extreme right wing populist movements, trends, policies and even governments (see Italy, France, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary for example) there also continues organised challenges to these and anti-racism specifically. The passage and process of racism and the efforts to challenge it are not linear and since 2020, in Britain for example, there have been some positive and encouraging developments such as a conscious shift in the representation of Black, South/Asian and other minority ethnic groups in film, television, theatre and classical music. With regard to Education, my key concern here, many organisations and small enterprises have been set up to address anti-racism training for educators and the debates around ‘decolonising’ education/the curriculum and racism and Whiteness in general continues. There is evidence of grassroots commitment and resolve to change society for a more equal and just one. Whilst the right-wing media continue to try to whip up anti-immigration feeling, the general population has become more accepting in its attitude, recognising the importance of immigration for the development and economy of the country but also recognising the devastation of people fleeing war, famine, deprivation and persecution and the inhumane way such people are frequently treated by governments and their callous policies.
As I have argued (Crozier 2023) repeated British governments have sought to manage and control the multi-ethnic society that we live in in order to maintain the dominance of Whiteness – White supremacy – that is central to ‘Western values’, so much so that in 2014 the government of the day introduced the statutory requirement that schools and teacher Educators had to teach ‘Fundamental British Values’ as part of their curriculum. The government is in denial about the existence of White supremacy as an issue or the existence of pervasive institutional racism. But the challenge to White supremacy and racism is on-going and the British government and governments elsewhere have instigated repressive State measures to undermine these efforts (see for example, similar measures in the USA). In Britain these include the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act; anti-immigration measures such as the policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda and attempts to close down debate and discussion of racism and Whiteness in Education. In 2022 the Department of Education introduced ‘Impartiality Guidance’ which admonished teachers not to discuss or teach anything that suggested a personal opinion; earlier in the year the Equalities minister had declared that teaching Critical Race Theory was ‘unacceptable’ in schools and Education establishments and that discussion of Whiteness would not be tolerated. There were also attempts – which failed – to discredit the idea of institutional racism through the government commissioned CRED (2021) (Sewell) Report and assert that racism was not a problem in our society.
The challenge to racism and Whiteness in Education needs to be harnessed and organised. The National Education Union has developed an Anti-Racist Charter and Advance HE has produced an Equalities Charter. The devolved governments of Wales and Scotland are developing anti-racist education policies. These are important initiatives but they are still limited. They take place in the face of a hostile government and within a context of a fragmented and marketized education system. The task is immense, ranging across schools, teaching, the curriculum and the organisation of the institution itself, as well as the need to address teacher development and the initial education of teachers which has also been impacted by government imposition of a Core Curriculum Framework (2019). To achieve sustainable and insightful change requires the building of a mass movement around Education in collaboration with grassroots movements, organisations and unions.
Gill Crozier is Emerita Professor of the Sociology of Education at the University of Roehampton, London, UK, School of Education. She was formerly Director of the Centre for Educational Research in Equalities, Policy and Pedagogy. She has researched and published extensively on ‘race’ and racism, parents and schools, children’s school experiences, and students social and learning experiences in higher education.
- Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report March (2021). (‘The Sewell Report’) www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-report-of-the-commission-on-race-and-ethnic-disparities Accessed 25 March 2021
- Crozier, G. (2023) Racism and Education in Britain: Addressing Structural Oppression and the Dominance of Whiteness. London: PalgraveMacmillan.
- Jerome, L. Elwick, A. and Kazim, R. (2019) The impact of the Prevent duty on schools: A review of the evidence. British Educational Research Journal, 45 (4), 821–837