On Saturday 29 September 2018, around 50 members of the EIS from all sectors and from across Scotland, plus guests and officials, came together in Glasgow for an event to discuss racism in society and explore what can be done to combat this through education.
Delegates came from all sectors and from across Scotland, including from Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Fife, West Dunbartonshire, North and South Lanarkshire, Falkirk, East Lothian and Clackmannanshire. Around half of the delegates were from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds.
The event marked the official launchof two new EIS anti-racist publications – a Briefing on Anti-Racist Education and Guidance on Challenging Anti-Muslim Prejudice. The event generated widespread media coverage; member engagement beyond already committed activists; and useful discussions about where we are now and what members can do next, individually and collectively, to tackle racism and anti-Muslim prejudice.
On the day:
Alison Thornton (EIS President) and Khadija Mohammed (Anti-Racist Sub-Committee member) co-chaired the session, and both reaffirmed the importance of renewed efforts to address racism throughout the education system.
Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary shared his experience of having been a multi-cultural education/anti-racist advisor in the 1980s, and the significant progress made at that time. He argued that there is a need now for anti-racist education to be revisited. Reference was also made to this being a particularly challenging period, due to the increasing sophistication and coordination of insidious racist forces. His remarks ended on a note of optimism, reminding teachers of their important role in nurturing hope and having the opportunity to give children a different set of values than they might experience elsewhere.
Anas Sarwar MSP welcomed the new guidance from the EIS on combatting anti-Muslim prejudice in schools, and the recognition of the need to embed anti-racist education across the curriculum. He highlighted that the fight against all forms of hatred, prejudice and bigotry is a fight for all of us, and “the big challenge for our generation”. He suggested that “Islamophobia is probably worse now than it’s ever been” and argued that education can break the cycle of inequality, as teaching a child also teaches a family, a community and a country.
Martin Lennon, Show Racism the Red Card shared the history of Show Racism the Red Card, and explored what is meant by racism, and how it manifests, using a ‘pyramid of prejudice’ to illustrate how racist remarks are a foundation for other forms of abuse and violence.
Closing Remarks were made by EIS ex-President, and Equality Convener, Nicola Fisher, who noted that the testimony shared by BME members at the event made challenging racism across the education system an urgent priority. She urged members not to be bystanders when racism occurred and spoke of the power of intervening and challenging prejudice, for example on public transport, which can be one means of ‘turning the tide’ against racism.
She concluded that a society which demonises and victimises certain people is not a healthy society for anyone; but urged members to “hold onto hope” and to remember that there are many more people who reject racism and fascism than there are people who support or perpetrate it.