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We can’t erase our racist past, so let’s do better teaching kids

Boston, U.K. – Since the horrific murder of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Black Lives Matter protests spread across the globe. In the last month, we’ve seen people unified like never before, standing against the systemic racism that we’ve allowed to develop and become ingrained into our society.

Eya Labidi/YJI

People want change, but something that is so established cannot change quickly, which leads to the point: how can we provide long-term justice and equity to black citizens who’ve been oppressed for centuries?

Sadly, history cannot be deleted, so we must forever look back on the horror and the atrocities of the past.

But we can move forward, and the key to this is education. We cannot understand how to be an anti-racist without fundamentally understanding what an anti-racist is and the history of the atrocities inflicted by British colonialism.

Calls for changes to school syllabuses and reading lists have spread throughout the protests.

In an interview with The Guardian, Lavinya Stennett, founder of The Black Curriculum, said, “There’s an appetite for change. People want to see the events of the past weeks lead to lasting change. It’s something we’ve known is important for a long time. Finally people are listening.”

In the same article in The Guardian, Rosamund McNeil, the assistant general secretary of the National Education Union said the government needs to be more proactive.

“It’s time to show leadership on making the curriculum more diverse and more representative,” McNeil told the newspaper.

This is the problem. We are letting racism manifest in our society through various avenues. People lack the knowledge of what being an anti-racist is, they’re not taught in schools, and most importantly, they’re not encouraged to find out.

Books are a start to learning. (Tristan Simpson/YJI)

In the expansion of the British empire, the English spread slavery across its colonies, killing thousands under horrific conditions and subjecting them to lethal diseases.

It is this history that schools must teach the next generations so they can understand that the British empire isn’t built on white Anglo-Saxon blood as is often taught, but by the blood, sweat and tears of enslaved people.

Politicians across the globe have spoken out about the riots.

The Voice reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged the “incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice” of Floyd’s killing.

Recently in England, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown into Bristol harbor.  This act is symbolic of the movement to tear down our history of oppression, and to start building a new society, one that is inclusive and just.

Response from politicians and other public figures varied, with some condemning the act and others more sympathetic, questioning why statues celebrating slave traders are still standing.

Key acts like this are momentous in removing icons of slavery and racism. But what we have to remember is that this is only the beginning. We cannot remove history, and we cannot forget about our history; what we can do is learn from it.

The next generation needs to understand from a young age what racism is and how we can work to destroy it. Without this vital change, racism will always continue to flare up in the future.

Writing letters to your local government leaders or your head teachers and school officials can be crucial in making this change.

But educate yourself, too. Look for literature from by writers of color and non-fiction books about understanding racism. The responsibility is ours to push for and build the foundations for an equal society.

Tristan Simpson is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

Eya Labidi is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International. She made the illustration.

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