Response to “A Classroom Story” Jasmine Rhamie

Jasmine Rhamiepost by JASMINE RHAMIE
University of Roehampton

I have read with interest and concern the Twitter debate generated by my blog “A Classroom Story” which was created as a counter-story. The characters William and the class teacher were representations of typical experiences composed from different accounts which were reported by Black male student teachers during a small scale research project in 2013.

I am in no way suggesting that every Black male teacher or student teacher experiences racism, or always attribute negative experiences to racism or sexism, neither am I suggesting that all white teachers are racist. However, what is clear and supported by a wealth of research evidence is that unfortunately, racism and institutional racism remain features of British life for people from minority ethnic backgrounds. Multiple forms of prejudice and negative stereotyping continue to be a reality for many with distressing consequences and should be eradicated. It is important to note that racism, institutional racism and sexism are complex and my blog does not capture the full extent of the complexities associated with them and was not intended to do so. Furthermore, the participants in the research were reluctant to name many of their negative experiences as racism but recognised they were being treated differently and unfairly compared to their peers sometimes due to the colour of their skin. For these participants being both Black and male made their experiences even more complex and challenging as they navigated their way through predominately white female dominated spaces.

It is not possible to address every point made during the Twitter debate and I will not dignify many of the emotive, irrational and quite frankly factually incorrect comments made about my blog. But I must say that before making assumptions about the blog and dismissing it out of hand there is a great deal of research evidence to support the experiences and interpretations made. A range of studies have been undertaken over the past decades by both white and black researchers that have found racism and racist practices at work across the education system for pupils, teachers and students. What is important is that we work together to actively remove barriers that negatively affect minority groups ensuring equality of opportunity for all students regardless of ‘race’, ethnicity, social class, gender, disability or sexual orientation. In “A Classroom Story” the intention was to deliberately foreground ‘race’ to highlight the challenges faced by some BME male student teachers. I am in the process of writing up the research project for publication in an academic journal which will further substantiate the counter-story shared in my blog.

Examples of literature supporting the experiences described in the blog:

ESRC (2014) Evidence Briefing: Integration and the Drivers of Racism 

Jones, C., Maguire, M. and Watson, B., (1997) The school experiences of some minority ethnic students in London Schools during initial teacher training. Journal of Education for Teaching: International Research and Pedagogy, 23:2, 131-144.

Lander, V. (2011) Race Culture and all that: an exploration of the perspectives of White secondary student teachers about race equality issues in their initial teacher education. Race Ethnicity and Education, 14, 3, 351-364.

Maylor, U., Ross, A. Rollock, N. And Williams, L., (2006) Black Teachers in London GLA report. London: GLA.

Picower, B. (2009) The unexamined Whiteness of teaching: how White teachers maintain and enact dominant racial ideologies. Race Ethnicity and Education, 12, 2

Wilkins, C and Lall, (2011) You’ve got to be tough and I’m trying’: Black and minority ethnic student teachers’ experiences of initial teacher education. Race Ethnicity and Education, 14, 3, 365-386.

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One thought on “Response to “A Classroom Story” Jasmine Rhamie”

  1. Hang on, you appear to be defending the story in your blog by admitting that it was not true, and that the people who you based it on would not necessarily agree with your interpretation of the events you described. That’s not much of a defence. In fact, that’s why it was so objectionable in the first place.

    This was your description of how white women see black men:

    “But William he was the stereotypical threat, the mugger, drug dealer, the gang member, the rapist, the one whom all White women should fear. Is this what it would always be like for him? When will he be seen as just a person, a man, a teacher? Why does being Black set alarm bells off in the minds of people he meets?”

    Can you understand why basing this on a story you made up, or on your reinterpretation of experiences of black men who would not agree they had been subject to racial prejudice, is problematic? Particularly when some (not all) of the actual experiences you describe might equally have come from white or Asian men in primary schools. Aren’t academics meant to consider all the explanations of events, not squeeze everything into one narrative? Or should we assume that all white women are racists and all negative experiences a black man can have involving white women are about race, not gender, not age and not individual personalities?

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