Tackling Racism in Schools

It has been almost a year since the world witnessed the killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020. Since then, we have seen how people have come together to try and heal the wounds of racism but there can be no papering over the cracks.

For the dream of racial equality to be real, complete transformation is needed. Until now (and I can say this with confidence, because over the past 30 years, I have been involved in various local and national race equality initiatives) addressing racism has been a cognitive exercise, with a heavy emphasis on analysing data, sharing the figures and writing policies.

Whilst these are all important actions in themselves, the sad truth is these actions have had minimal impact, because many remain unfamiliar with the new terrain and conversations this work requires.

Discussing Race

Many school leaders are still largely uncomfortable discussing race and feel ill-equipped to discuss either race or racism. If we are serious about addressing racism in schools, we need racially literate school leaders.

We need leaders who are able to have uncomfortable conversations about race and stop ignoring the emotional content of this work. As when the emotional content is ignored so too are the real issues.

The real issues are to do with us. They are to do with who we are as human beings. The relationships that we have with one another and how our individual and collective stories interweave to create a bigger narrative.

Yes, we need to be able to intellectualise and think critically about what it means to become racially literate and we need to recognise that this is deep personal and emotional work. It is work that requires individuals to:

  • Explore issues of identity and integrity and what they truly mean in the context of their own school settings
  • Connect with who they are and their own racial identities
  • Develop new ways of being in the world
  • Such work defines courageous leadership in this arena and is fundamental to growth and positive change.

Effective Leadership

And it is only through doing this type of work that school leaders can model what effective leadership for racial equality and social justice really look like. Up until now, I have seen how fear and uncertainty have hampered progress for all. Yet, it doesn’t have to be like this. Our schools can be powerful places for social change.

As Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the Universe bends towards justice” but this depends on participation.

And we can all choose, if we so desire to participate. Making a choice to participate means standing on the right side of history and being part of a transformational process to accelerate the social change that our world is crying out for.

Viv Grant

Viv Grant is an Executive Coach, Author and Public Speaker. She is the Director of Integrity Coaching.
You can follow Viv on Twitter @Vivgrant

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