Powerful shots against racism

15th September 2006 at 01:00
Sharon Foster is to be congratulated on her BBC film, Shoot the Messenger, referred to in Michael Shaw's article "I would be afraid if I were a white teacher" (TES, August 25).

Far from being either "unremittingly negative" or "racist", the film is an honest and anti-racist view of our Caribbean community, giving a lead into ways of solving some of the dilemmas we face. She tackles several issues that are direct results of racism in our history with simple honesty and clarity.

The upbringing of the main protagonist based on a "middle class" and snobbish home-life shows us pitfalls of pride and self-aggrandisement, a direct result of our acceptance of values based on stratification. In the portrayal of the "misunderstood" teacher who believes that being hard on the black boys will help them, she highlights the importance of teachers communicating with pupils, listening and sharing instead of just handing down correction.

Those who objected to the bitterly painted graffito "Fuck Black People"

should also have taken hope from the clear message that this was a man on a mission to understand the world that has let him down. When he wrote the phrase, he appeared unable to understand the relationship between what he perceived that black people had done to him and the history that has made black people complicit in the racism in the society.

We do not just stand to one side and have racism done to us - we participate and condone. He thought he had found the answer from his middle-class success - that failed him. He thought the church was the answer - it was not. He only began to understand when he was prepared to listen to the child who had been so callously let down by a teacher's lack of understanding, who had brought about that teacher's downfall and finally led that same teacher towards enlightenment.

A powerful contribution to the anti-racist struggle, it was also gripping and very enjoyable. The drama moved with pace - shocking us, gently pacifying us, introducing moments of sheer pleasure, engendering laughter and pathos. Finally, ended on a positive note promising us nothing but leaving us with a sense of hope. And the hope is that we will read the message rather than shoot the messenger.

Dr Greta Akpeneye. Address supplied

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