“If you are a white teacher in a classroom, you still have a responsibility to think about, teach about, and understand issues of racism,” states Kalwant Bhopal, professor of education and social justice and deputy director of the Centre for Research in Race & Education (CRRE) at the University of Birmingham.
Speaking on the Tes Podagogy podcast, she explains that, too often, issues around diversity and racism are left to BAME teachers to call out. She adds that in everything from behaviour techniques and recruitment decisions to curriculum choices and pedagogy, every teacher needs to have race issues in mind.
“We have to start dismantling and disrupting the social structures that continue to perpetuate the notion of whiteness,” she says. “It is not just the job of the BAME teachers [to think about and tackle race issues], quite frankly BAME teachers need white allies to stand up and say racism is going on. A white person saying that will be seen quite differently to someone like me saying it, I am quite often told I have a chip on my shoulder.”
Racism in education
In a wide-ranging discussion, professor Bhopal details how racism can occur in schools, the need for more BAME teachers, and the fact that issues can be worse in schools where there is the least diversity.
“We found that where numbers of BAME students was very small, there was an indication those students were more likely to experience racism in schools [than those in diverse schools],” she says. “And when they reported the racism, it was more likely to be denied, there was a notion that ‘racism does not happen here’.”
She does not believe teachers are intentionally racist, more that schools are systemically set up to be so. She wants more training for teachers on diversity and racism, but she also wants every teacher to take their responsibility as an advocate for change seriously. In the podcast, she provides a blueprint for this to happen.
You can listen for free by downloading the podcast from iTunes or listening below.