The Myth of Racist Kids – anti-racist policy and the regulation of school life

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Roy and the Space Monkeys


Posted: Friday 18th October 2013

As someone who's worked with classrooms of schoolkids over the years, hearing a child use a word that could be deemed offensive in the adult world is a common experience. Invariably no one in the room, child or adult, is offended but the teacher will often feel duty bound to explain that this word is indeed "offensive".

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The dream anti-racism postponed

Posted: 28th August 2013

In the run up to the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, media commentary has been overwhelmingly centred on how far King’s dream has fallen short. A UK Guardian editorial on ‘the Dream speech” offers a typical lament; “…50 years on, it is bitterly apparent that it is still not honoured in the everyday lives of African Americans. A black president, yes, but unemployment levels, earnings and the justice system all indicate a society where equality is in retreat”.   In pronouncing the anniversary as little more than a reminder that King’s dream “remains unfinished business”, it’s striking how racialised this pop-up analysis is. Few stop to consider how far class and poverty – rather than racism - act as key determinants in black experience both in the U.S and here in Britain. Apparently, for these commentaries, it doesn’t matter that black citizens are dissportionately working class and poor – or that standing right alongside them are poor, white folks – racism is the one-stop explanation.


Ava Vidal and the N-bomb. WARNING: some bad (including “evil”) language

Posted: May 2013

For Show Racism the Red Card patron Ava Vidal, Reginald D Hunters use of nigga is no laughing matter. But the queen of profane comedy, who says her biggest influence is Chris Rock, has got herself into a right royal muddle on this one.



The Defamation of Varndean School

Posted: April 2013

Anti-racists take note: there is NOT a “culture of racism” at Varndean School.

I’m often challenged to explain why I insist the spectre of racism in UK schools is a “myth”. It happened recently. “Adrian … research has shown there are more than 30,000 recorded incidents per year”, said my challenger.   I pointed out that it was actually my research that had shown this but seeing these incidents as ‘racism’ is a bit of a stretch. I pointed out that most of this stuff is name-calling and emanates from primary schools keen to demonstrate their zero tolerance, ‘nip it in the bud’ approach. My challenger had assumed it to be mostly a secondary school phenomenon. But he had a trick up his sleeve: “So what about that secondary school in Brighton? You live in Brighton! It’s the school where black children are regularly attacked and racially abused by gangs of white children. It was in the Institute of Race Relations monthly newsletter. It was on the European ‘Hate Crime’ news archive (produced by the I-CARE, the Internet Centre for Anti-Racism Europe). Didn’t you hear about it?”.

Ah, Varndean School. I had heard about the ‘racism’ saga from numerous parents who have kids at Varndean. But they hadn’t heard about it from their children. They read about it in the local newspaper. “BRIGHTON SCHOOLGIRL HOUNDED BY RACIST BULLIES” ran the headline (see Brighton Argus Wednesday July 4th 2012)). And from Argus-online, to the IRR, to I-CARE it propagates across the web.


The tip of the iceberg melts last

Posted: January 2013

When it comes to the social reality of race and racism, 2012 can look like a good year for British society … or a very bad year.  But if we insist that rose and race-tinted spectacles be handed in at the door – which was it?

So how are things in multi-racial Britain? If you were to review 2012 you might agree with me in saying that, thanks to the Olympics, it was the year an exciting, fizzing superdiversity became more prominent than ever. The ‘mixed-race’ ingredient causing things to bubble has been dubbed the ‘Jessica Ennis generation’. Everywhere you looked Britain seemed distinctly less white; a melting pot of ethnicity where even the meaning and relevance of the term ‘race’ is melting away too.

Or you might, like race-equality think-tank The Runnymede Trust, see this as something of an illusion.

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