A contributor responds to Makki Tahir’s previous Melting Scot blog post, by highlighting the importance of education on issues of current and historical racism, and why schools in the UK have failed to educate their students adequately on these matters.
I open Twitter. A statue of a slave trader was bought down by heaps of Black Lives Matter protesters, using rope. The same rope was tied around its legs and rolled onto the river. This happened so close to home, in Bristol. Mere miles away from me, not in America which seems worlds away, culturally and geographically.
I read the Twitter thread. People pointed out that the slave trader statue met the same demise as the people he enslaved.
Other people also took to Twitter. They cited; ‘statues preserve history’, ‘we shouldn’t forget the past’ ‘tearing statues down is anarchy, this isn’t peaceful protesting’.
This wasn’t just Twitter, credible journalists took to their opinion pieces and cited the same words as the people of twitter opposing what happened in London. I read these articles on Snapchat.
I came upon one article reiterating the ‘preserve history’ mantra. It said opposing the taking down of all statues would simply delete history. They stated that history was ugly, its ugliness should be shown by these statues. The statues preserve history, do not take them down. But this is ignorant.
Education preserves history, not statues. Why was I not taught of the ugliness of history in my classroom? I was learning the full story of the enslavement of black people on Twitter. Why was Twitter telling me that ‘slave masters’ cut the hands and feet of children and their parents if they did not meet the quota of rubber collected that day? These were the same men who adorned the streets of Texas, Belgium, Bristol, Glasgow.
Why was I not taught in school who these men were? This was when I realised that my education has failed me. The education system has failed me. The education in Scotland is ‘board, general, education’. It is so broad that it glosses over everything worth knowing. I know the trenches in WWII were muddy. I know what the soldiers ate, where they kept their forks, where they used the toilet. I didn’t even think to realise black Americans fought in WWII. I didn’t even imagine Indians fought in the war. Why were Indians fighting in WWII, this wasn’t their war? I scroll through Twitter…oh so India didn’t gain independence from Britain until 1947. Scroll again. GURKHAS fought in WWII. My own people?
History in classrooms was taught to me in rose coloured glasses. No, white coloured glasses.
It is not the job of statues to educate. Our education system has failed us. The history of Britain’s involvement of the slave trade, its habits of systematic racism is always swept under the rug. It is kept under the rug.
It is not credible for me to say I learn my history, my news on Snapchat, on Twitter. But these forms of social media have educated me more in a week than in the 15+ years of my education. I am being taught facts that need to be engraved in my mind. I was so indoctrinated by my ‘broad, general education’ that I forgot to take my rose-coloured glasses off.
Racism against black people only happens in America right? Or at least I was taught so in school. It doesn’t happen in Britain apparently. Since it doesn’t happen in Britain, why are British people so frustrated, right? You see where an uneducated narrative leads.
I am conditioned to see things in the white narrative. I only saw what I was told to see, to never question it further.
I am thankful for the Black Lives Matter movement for educating me. I am thankful for the people who have taken statues down all over the world for telling me to take my glasses off.
But it shouldn’t take a civil movement for me to see.
The Scottish education system, atone for your neglect. Instead of placing plaques on statues calling slave traders for what they are. Teach me what they did in my classrooms.
By Melting Scot Contributor