Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – THURSDAY 8 OCTOBER 2021
BLAM UK Press Release: Leading Black Organisation Calls for the Immediate Reversal of a South London School’s Decision to Ban Black British English from the classroom.
A South London Secondary School, Ark All Saints Academy, has banned the use of Black British English (BBE) in ‘formal learning settings’. Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health UK CIC (BLAM UK), a grassroots organisation, is calling for the immediate reversal of this decision to ban the use of Black British English (BBE). The policy degrades and harms Black students by reinforcing anti-Black linguistic racism, classism, and an ideology of white supremacy by reinforcing elitist forms of English as the “norm” whilst simultaneously othering and criminalising BBE.
Black British English (BBE) is a legitimate language and form of expression. BBE is the intersection between African, Caribbean, and white mainstream English and has its own syntactic and grammatical structure. Alison Donell states, ‘creole in Britain has since become the language of Afro-Caribbean and, more generally of Black youth culture.’ The creolization of these languages has a long history dating back to African enslavement by European powers and the American and Caribbean plantation systems, where enslaved Africans were forced to create alternative ways of communication. The white imperialist agenda stigmatised these languages to reinforce their racist view that Black people are inferior.
According to a Guardian analysis, Black students are between three to four times more likely to be excluded from school than their white counterparts. This disparity is clear evidence of institutional racism in British schools and the banning of BBE will likely intensify this figure further. The blatant privileging of whiteness and white middle-class identity is discriminatory and damning to Black students that already suffer from societal and institutional marginalisation. Would this infringement on Black children’s learning also extend to classroom material like Black British writers such as Benjamin Zephaniah and Linton Kwesi Johnson whose work would no longer be in line with school policies?
‘Code-Switching’ is the practice of policing Black individuals’ ways of speaking, acting, and interacting with white people and culture. This level of cultural policing is being institutionalised by this school and is being enforced on children. This creates a climate of fear, confusion, and low racial and self-esteem for Black students who should be celebrated for their bilingualism. This hinders creativity and expression by preventing Black students from normalizing BBE in spaces where it is fundamental, such as in various music, art, intellectual and other cultural spaces. There is no data to support the notion that the use of BBE hinders the educational achievement of Black students, children are able to navigate the duality of their language, it is the institutionally racist education system that is in fact the hindrance.
Not only is this clear anti-Black racism, but this is also unlawful and violates the Equality Act 2010, The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), The Education Act 2002 and lastly The UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
BLAM UK rejects the guise of whiteness on Black language and culture and demands:
- The reversal of the policy with immediate effect.
- Ensure staff attend professional training on language discrimination.
- An adjustment of existing school policies to honour BBE and other languages used by students from Black backgrounds.
Founding Director of BLAM UK Ife Thompson says:
The implementation of this policy reinforces the ideology of the inferiority of Black languages linking to the historically racist and imperialist view of Black people as ‘less than.’ BLAM rejects the guise of ‘professionalism and preparation for the future’ as explanations provided by the school for the ban. There are Black professional work spaces that would require fluency in BBE. We also need to think deeply about the historical implications of what we deem to be ‘proper’ English.