Black teachers still burdened by racist taunts

23rd July 1999 at 01:00
BLACK AND ethnic minority teachers face persistent racist remarks and name calling from both colleagues and pupils, the Educational Institute of Scotland reveals in its latest campaign against racism.

Overt racism is on the increase, the union warns, as Jim Wallace, Deputy First Minister, this week strengthened the Scottish Executive's resolve to tackle racism and institutionalised complacency in its response to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

Schools often refuse to accept racism is an issue and members' lives continue to be blighted by racism and racist behaviour despite more than 20 years of legislation designed to outlaw discrimination, the union says.

Several of its observations are matched in the Scottish Executive's report set out on Tuesday by Mr Wallace and Jackie Baillie, Deputy Minister for Equality.

Mr Wallace said: "The problem is that for far too long we have been complacent in Scotland, seeing racism as an English problem. We have prided ourselves on our tolerance while ignoring the fear and suffering within our own ethnic minority communities."

Ms Baillie will lead an advisory forum that has been asked to draw up strategies to tackle race equality issues.

In its report, Breaking Down the Barriers, the EIS says institutionalised racism in education "must be recognised as a powerful force in perpetuating inequality and discrimination".

But the Scottish Executive has rejected several of the recommendations of the Macpherson report into the murder of Londoner Stephen Lawrence. It dismisses publishing the number of racist incidents in each school as this "may discourage the reporting of racist incidents and would unfairly penalise schools who are approaching the issue in an open and honest way".

There are also concerns that such information could disclose the identity of individuals.

Nevertheless, the Executive says schools and local authorities are already considering recording incidents in each school. A forthcoming Scottish Office circular will emphasise that all racist incidents should be reported to parents and the authority. School boards should not be involved in individual cases.

The Executive also accepts that it may be necessary to offer further curriculum advice to reflect the needs of a diverse society.

The EIS report concludes that the curriculum does not "adequately reflect the multicultural, multiracial, multilingual nature of Scottish society".

It adds: "Ignorance of different cultures or stereotypical expectations about the abilities of different ethnic groups leads to unintentional racism. Also there may be unwitting use of racist images or language and failure to promote positive role models. There does come a time, however, when 'unintentional' or 'unwitting' is no longer pardonable."

Eighteen black and ethnic minority teachers responded to an appeal for information (see below). Some highlighted the difficulty many white colleagues had in accepting the existence of racism, its pervasive nature or that they were insensitive about it. Black teachers were forced to adopt strategies to deal with low-level racism, which was deeply felt, the EIS says.

The union calls for zero tolerance of racist abuse and harassment and properly funded research into the experiences of black and ethnic minority people. Staff development and training in anti-racist policies and practices are seen as essential.

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