Well here I am at it again, writing and thinking, again. With everything currently going on in the world racism is at the front of my mind, again. Wouldn’t you love not to think about it? Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world without any form of discrimination? I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood recently, I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness for a time and during that time I didn’t think about skin colour or ethnicity I called all other children brother and sister, even if we were not actually related and all adults other than my parents were called uncle and auntie and skin colour didn’t matter to anyone all that mattered was the word of God, oh ignorance truly is and was bliss.
At primary school there wasn’t many children of colour but again it didn’t matter they were just kids the same as me, but when I got to secondary school I learned about racism for the first time, it was a real shock and horrible to witness I heard a white girl call a Sikh girl a dirty “paki” tuns out the white girl was wrong as the girl she’d just insulted was from actually India not Pakistan, I can’t remember either of the girls names but I remember asking a teacher what the word meant because the Sikh girl was in tears because of one word and I was horrified, he went on to explain racism to me in a little more detail and I was even more horrified. This teacher was a Religious Education teacher and the next lesson I had with him was probably one of the most memorable, but it was also the on of the only ones sadly, that were about racism and how bad it was and I took a real interest because I’d gone from a world filled with love where everyone was equal regardless of skin colour, race or creed into a world where hate and negativity were rife pretty much overnight.
Looking back on my school days I would have loved classes in equality and diversity as a core subject from the beginning, we did have a few classes in secondary school on the subject but not nearly enough and they didn’t make much of an impact on many of my fellow pupils to be honest, I’ve faced discrimination myself for having a disability and at school was labelled a “Lesbo” for not having an interest in boys and never getting changed with the other girls during PE, but in fact I was covered in needle marks from medication I needed and was embarrassed about it and I did have a secret crush on one boy but my prude upbringing meant it wasn’t something I was openly comfortable talking about with others. I had seen other pupils subjected to all kinds of discrimination during my time at secondary school and as much as I loved school I also hated it, most of the discrimination I witnessed was racism and we only really had classes on the subject of racism and discrimination when there was an incident at the school or in the media.
We never really learnt about slavery at school either, except that the workforce that built the pyramid’s for the Pharaoh's in Egypt where slaves and the Romans had slaves and some of them were forced to fight as gladiators, but I remember going to The British Museum in London with a family friend when I was 10 years old and seeing an exhibit of 1700/1800’s slaver ship with mannequins depicting slaves all chained up cramped together in the hull with an audio tape playing the most sorrowful sounds for authenticity I remember thinking why, just why? How could people treat other people like that, how could a person or persons take the freedom of a bunch of other people for profit and condemn them to a literal living hell? It was really shocking to think that even as little as 200 years ago slavery was the norm for most people and that you could literally put a price on a person’s life was appalling, to me all live if precious and priceless, I also learned that the vast majority of people stolen for slavery during this period where of African origin and learned about the really dark side of slavery from watching a great film called Beloved based on a book by Toni Morrison in my late teens, it’s based on the true story of Margaret Garner. The Character that depicts Margaret Garner is named Sethe played by Oprah Winfrey and shows the mental and emotional affects slavery had even after she gained her freedom. I think anyone who wants to at least try to understand the horrors of the black slave trade and the impact it had physically, mentally and emotionally on slaves should read this book, but I warn you it’s not easy reading or watching and the apparition of a near adult Beloved is fiction (I hope). Also up until I was 10 my only knowledge of slavery was from the bible and the people of Moses, but bible study only focused on miracles and the freedom god gave back to his people not the struggle of those enslaved but again I was still ignorant at the age of 10 and I though well at least black people are free now, how wrong I was.
Looking back on my life over the last 30 something years, I admit that perhaps at times I myself may be guilty of racism and other forms of discrimination, not because I meant to do it, but because even now I’m still learning and even Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman jokes are racist and at one time I’d tell these kind of jokes and laugh upon hearing them all of the time, if I have ever discriminated against anyone because of race, gender, sexual orientation, personal identification or disability it is because of ignorance, not because I have hate in my heart and feel that if I’d of had a more diverse education that was more inclusive of equality and diversity I would never have been guilty of any kind of discrimination in the first place. If you feel like me, that education is the key to killing racism and discrimination of any kind, please sign my petition to make equality and diversity a core curriculum subject at all schools in the UK at:
Written by Lisa Varty for The Derbeian Magazine blog © 3 V Media Limited