BNP IN THE CLASSROOM
By Marcia Hutchinson
Monday, July 6, 2009.
After the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, the McPherson Inquiry concluded that despite best intentions organisations could still end up unintentionally discriminating against ethnic minorities. ‘Unintentional’, is the important word here. Organisations are made up of the people who work for them. In the case of public organisations these people come from all colours of the political spectrum. If people with good intentions can end up discriminating against ethnic minorities what of those who hold racist views?
The idea that a person can be a member of a far right political party like the BNP, which believes in repatriation of ethnic minorities; and still treat all children fairly would be a joke if it were not so serious. A great deal of what a teacher does is at his or her, own discretion; which children to pick to answer questions, where they sit, what grades are given for work; who is punished and for what. These are all powers that could easily be used to discriminate against non-white pupils.
An illustration if I may; a young relative of mine was constantly getting in trouble at primary school. He was one of a handful of black children at the school. He thought he was being picked on. His mother spoke to the teacher concerned. The teacher admitted that sometimes a group of boys were misbehaving and she couldn’t identify each on but she knew Roy was part of the group because; “he does stand out with that hairstyle doesn’t he?” Roy’s hair was styled in mini-dreadlocks. He was also the only black boy in the group.
The teacher probably did not intend to be racist in singling out Roy but as the only black child he was easy to identify, (and therefore blame) for the bad behaviour of the group. Until Roy’s mother pointed this out the teacher had no idea that she was effectively discriminating against Roy. She was almost certainly not knowingly racist, but this is exactly how institutionalised racism works.
The London Metropolitan police, who were deemed institutionally racist by the McPherson inquiry, have attempted to clean house by banning BNP membership. The GTC (General Teaching Council) have decided not only that they will not ban BNP membership for teachers but that they will not even debate the issue.
It is quite simple, membership of the BNP is incompatible with the implementation the Race Relations Amendment Act and the Community Cohesion Act, both of which impose legal duties on teachers to promote cultural diversity. This alone would be sufficient grounds to ban BNP membership for teachers. It’s a relief to see the Equalities Commission today taking them to task over their membership (non-Caucasians are not allowed to join- yes I know they wouldn’t want to but that is not the point).
It’s time to take the bull by the horns and deal with the creeping extremism in our political system. The leaked BNP membership list contains the names of a number of teachers so this is not a theoretical question. How would you feel it they were teaching your children?
Marcia Hutchinson studied law at Oxford University before practising as a solicitor for ten years. She changed direction in 1997 establishing Primary Colours to meet a need for high quality culturally diverse educational resources. She has written for a range of publications, including the Guardian, The Yorkshire Post and the Caribbean Times. She was recently the subject of ITV's My Yorkshire. She speaks regularly at conferences and other events on education for diversity.
Marcia is available to comment on all aspects of education for diversity and issues around multiculturalism in schools. For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org