Race Hate in British Schools Mirror Wider Social Prejudices

NSPCC says, children whitening skin to avoid race hate in British schools.
NSPCC says, children whitening skin to avoid race hate in British schools.

According to the NSPCC children as young as ten are whitening their skin to avoid racial abuse at school. In much the same way that many British-born black men and women now opt for mixed-race progenies to give their children a better start in life. One set of circumstance is described as “heartbreaking” while the other is supposedly a sign of progress. But what’s the difference between the two since both are driven by racial prejudice and a desire to fit in?

Race hate in British schools is nothing new. Racial prejudice in school was active and vociferous when I was a boy, and very little has changed in forty-odd years despite much talk to the contrary. Race hate in Britain may seem a thing of the past as we like to believe that rising numbers of biracial children are a sign of progress and ever black man you see on TV is dating a white woman, but these are just symptoms of the same race hate problem–fear of the dark or a desire for acceptance.

What do you do when your girls come home to tell you there is a hierarchy of favouritism at school that places white girls on top, followed by mixed-race girls, then light-skinned girls, and black girls at the bottom? Do you start to wonder if you’re living in a type of post-Brexit apartheid system right here in multicultural Great Britain?

What do you say to them when these young black girls explain that this racist attitude runs throughout school life from how teachers treat you to the number of followers you may or may not have on Instagram? When they say that it’s not so bad for them because they’re lighter. Are you supposed to feel better?

Are you supposed to feel relieved even when you can see for yourself that everything on TV and in the media promotes the progenies of black men partnered with white women as diversity while ignoring black couples and making dark-skinned girls feel invisible? Is that what this country of ours calls a job well done; a home goal?

I’ve tried to make my face white before using makeup so that I can fit in.

The black boys in our school won’t date anybody darker than themselves, my nieces say. They are mainly into white girls exclusively. They see it as a form of social acceptance that people don’t hold on to their handbags or their Rolex when they see them walking with a white girl in the streets. It seems these black boys can’t advance in society outside of being a famous footballer or a thug, so bedding white girls and having half-white children is the closest thing to success for them in this environment. But don’t you worry, Uncle, my girls say, we’re like you, we like our own.

But it’s still hard to turn the black boys’ heads if you’re not wearing three-foot-long fake hair with fake nails, windscreen-wiper eyelashes, and decked out like a Christmas tree. It’s like all the black girls are auditioning for MTV or some cheap reality show based on all our prejudices. That’s not how you and Mum and nan brought us up to be. We’ll concentrate on our books and our studies for now. We won’t worry about wearing fake-hair to school or trying to match a standard of beauty that doesn’t see us as beautiful. It’s a shame when we internalise other people’s prejudice and ideas about who we are.

If we’ve got our degree and we’ve got our education, England isn’t the only place to be somebody in the world even if we were born here. Home doesn’t seem much like home these days, anyway. You’ve just come back from five years in West Africa. You weren’t at the bottom of the social ladder there, were you? You were at the top of it with a chauffeur and a very good job. You played golf with your bank manager, and you lived a good life in a beautiful home near the sea.

Now you’ve come back here, and people are still holding onto their handbags when they see you walking down the street. They don’t look with their eyes. You’re a fifty-six years old man. Who the hell are you going to be chasing down the road for their handbag? Idiots!

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Paul Boakye is a writer/editor, health promotion specialist, and marketing consultant. He helps brands and not-for-profits engage with diverse audiences online and offline — Paul blogs about writing, WordPress, and travelling.

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