I love reading a variety of articles and books that allow me to debate and develop my own identity as a creative artist but also to help me grow into the black woman I want to be. Ever since I began nursery till today, a massive percentage of books and poems I’ve read are by white people. To be honest, when I was younger all I cared about was my attachment to the story-line and my relatability to the characters. However, since realising that, I’ve never had a full chance to read and learn about my own race throughout my academics, is unbelievable. Our own narrative has been reduced to the odd author and poet for literally every 30 white writers. This transcends to history classes, whereby slavery is the only module and the face of all black history.
If you type into Google “Books to become well-read person” a number of these lists will include books written by white authors. Which leaves the question, in order for anyone to become a ‘well-read’ person you have to only read book written by white people, which is suggestive that intelligence cannot be gained from reading a book written by a person of colour. Books by black authors have had just as much impact on the literature industry as white authors and therefore deserve equal appreciation.
slavery cannot continue to be the face of all black history
What I’ve been taught about my race came from racially progressive shows, other black creatives, writers, the internet, documentaries and my family and friends. A white 18 year old however, learns the majority (if not all) of their history at school yet we have to do this externally.
Some white students grow up with a superiority complex and a severe lack of understanding for other races history and cultural importance. Why? Well one reason is because they know nothing about our history; nobody came forward at any point of their education to show there is more history beyond one textbook devoted to only one set of people. A lack of a varied narrative is definitely a contributing factor to discrimination ethnic student’s face based on the ignorance of other pupils; this eventually develops into more forms of harsher or more subliminal forms of racism outside of the school walls. Within the workplace with the debate on natural hair, our skin making it harder to move forward and easier for our opinions to be ignored, the ‘angry black woman’ title if we speak up, ‘the dangerous black man’ as the media paints us are all some of the factors that arise from ignorance and hatred that could’ve been dealt with in earlier years.
Growing up, it was my family that got me books by Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela’s autobiography but it was school boards that bombarded us with Shakespeare. Writers such as Malorie Blackman, Rupi Kaur, Maya Angelou, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Julia Álvarez and so many more, who have contributed to global literature deserve to be read and analysed just as much as Carol Ann Duffy.
“Diversity of thought is vital if universities wish to retain intellectual integrity. It is no longer acceptable to present male, European authors as the gold standard of knowledge, and marginalised groups are shaking the academy from all angles.” – Jason Osamede Okundaye is a student at Cambridge from south London. He is a writer and activist on LGBT+ and race equality and president of Cambridge Black and Minority Ethnic campaign.
It has also come to a point where millions are against this racial educational oppression and continue to fight for diversity not only within the classroom but the workplace now too, the internet, gender, sexuality and politics. This is an absolutely amazing break-through that so many more people need to continue to do, such as Lola Olufemi who wrote a letter to her university at Cambridge to “decolonise” its English literature curriculum and continues to campaign for a diverse reading list despite major newspapers such as The Telegraph trying to barricade her message.
Hollie Berman, a 19-year-old English student who signed the open letter, said: “Student representatives have been campaigning for more diversity for a long time. You can’t ignore the colonial history of Britain. It’s so important to have this conversation – you’re confronting the elephant in the room.”
To exam boards selecting the literature for new students, understand life beyond your own history and let students read about ours, as well as black students own history. Exam boards such as Edexcel and AQA, you are in a position of power and influence to determine what we learn and therefore you now consciously motivate students who have less developed attitudes to the wider world, this is dangerous especially as it goes against minorities own stories.
If it only comes down to British history then ethnic minorities contributed to your history and helped build this country more than we are acknowledged for. I’ve been taught so much about the World Wars etc so why won’t you learn about mine? We wrote, we travelled, we told our stories, but most importantly, we existed. Racial discrimination within academic syllabuses is a thing, don’t ignore it. Include us.
To the young black people reading this, embrace your culture, use your platform no matter how big or small to educate and eradicate ignorance towards us because from that unity can come, better and more connecting syllabuses which will extend from schools to the wider world . Our history is rich, beautiful and important; our contribution to society does not end in published school books because you are the future. Continue it.
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