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  • Writer's pictureSumbella

Learning about Race & Racism (Part 2)

[#teaching + #learning about #race & #racism] (Part 2 of 3) When I was a child - perhaps 8 years old or so, I was standing near my father in a shop in London. The shopkeeper eyed us both and asked him: is this child... with you? I was confused. Of course he was with me! He was my dad! Didn’t this person understand?! Why would it seem that we weren’t a family? The answer to that last question is simple:

Skin colour.

I have fair/white skin, my father has brown skin.

And here's the reason I was confused:

I had grown up in a multicultural primary school in London with plenty of friends from a variety of ethnicities and cultures. This, along with belonging to a mixed heritage family, skin colour wasn’t something to which I attached importance, let alone #confusion or a cause for #disrespect. Everyone around me was a human being to interact with, learn from and maybe even be friends and play with.

I think children really are some of the few who can sometimes be blissfully colourblind and unbiased in their treatment of others.

But for adults, it’s not the same.

To say you are colourblind and see past “skin colour” often perpetuates a problem.

It wasn’t until recent years, when I began to learn more about race and ethnicity that I came across a teacher called Marie Beecham. She helped me understand the implications of saying something like “I don’t see skin colour.”.

Marie has a way of delivering her message in a soothing and polite manner. For me, communication and delivery of the message is huge - words matter so much, especially when you’re trying to learn or teach something.

💡So here’s a key takeaway I learned from her:

‘Colourblindness’, or saying “I don’t see colour”, Beecham explains, ‘enables people to ignore racism, even though it’s a well intentioned attempt to seek fair treatment for all people, as it misidentifies #race as the issue, rather than #racism.’.

This was a point of #unlearning and #relearning for me personally. The result?

I no longer say: "I don’t see skin colour."

Instead, I say - or think: "I see you, fellow human. How has your journey been so far? What’s your story?"

Then, I make sure my mind is open.

And I listen.

💬#overtoyou: have you had any similar experiences? Are there any teachers or public figures who have helped you learn/unlearn ideas about racism? How do you tackle such discussions in your #classrooms or with young learners? I’d love to know, and invite you to share.


Marie's Instagram:

’The Changemaker' podcast:

📸 Photo: me & my brothers with my dad in London ~1995. He showed us how #Pashtun men wear the turban in the villages of his hometown in #khyberpakhtunkhwa. And then my mum, Margi Kulsoom Orchard, took this photo. ☺️

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