BLAM UK is one of the few organisations in the UK ensuring the United Nations International Decade of African Descent is being celebrated and championed in the UK. The UK in 2014 failed to ratify the decade. One such important activity and aim of the decade is that it Urges States to ensure that textbooks and other educational materials reflect historical facts accurately as they relate to past tragedies and atrocities, in particular slavery, the slave trade, the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism, so as to avoid stereotypes and the distortion or falsification of these historical facts, which may lead to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, including the role of respective countries therein.
On the 20th October 2020, The UK Equalities Minister made a statement to the effect of suggesting that racism is a debatable topic, not only is this a problematic stance, it suggests that racism and white supremacy are matters that do not exist in society. We refute any such claims from a Government that continues to produce and uphold policies that allow racial discrimination to thrive in all aspects of British society, including education. We know Black Caribbean students are 3x more likely to be excluded from school and Black students are routinely underpredicted in schools. Instead of the Minster to be creating and drafting potential policies to end these racist practices, she wants to censor the very notions that will help us in achieving a more fair, balanced and equitable society.
The Minister’s stance is simply furthering the Government’s desire to effectively censor teachers ( a trend started by the Government’s recently drafted PSHE Guidance that is facing a legal challenge ). By suggesting that it is illegal to present a fact as an actual fact, she is attempting to create a culture of politically motivated state-sanctioned censorship of anybody who is deemed to be “radical or left”. It must be of note that a government minister (who is not a teacher and nor is she a judge) should not be allowed to state claims that are not in line with the UK’s international human rights obligations. The Minister’s stance is incompatible with the right to freedom of thought and also the UK’s obligation under the International Convention to End Racial Discrimination ( ICERD). Under ICERD Art.7- State Parties undertake to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information, with a view to combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination and to promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and racial or ethnical groups, as well as to propagating the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and this Convention. The UK is obligated under international law to take immediate and effective measures in the field of teaching and one such effective measure is the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
If we look even closer to home at the UK’s Domestic laws on Equality and discrimination, we see the following under Equality Act 2010, s149 para 1 there is a Public sector equality duty:
(1)A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to—
(a)eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act;
(b)advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
(c)foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
The Minister’s stance again is not in line with the public sector equality duty that school must legally adhere too. It is important that Ministers, who do not have the function in society as Judges are not left to interpret the law and how it should be applied. We have a separation of powers in the UK and the minister must be reminded of this, as she takes the notion of asserting what is legal; even when this is not in line with UK’s international obligations and domestic law.
In a year where we have revisited the historically and ongoing legacies of white supremacy, it is imperative that the UK government creates further guidance that supports its international human rights obligations.
We urge schools to resist this politically motivated sanction from the Government. We ask them to further their pledge to eliminate racial discrimination and to adhere to the Equality Act 2010 Public Sector Duty– and continue to rightfully teach narratives that assist in the fight to eliminate racial discrimination in all parts of society.
By Ife Thompson