Tag Archives: Racism

Can I blame it on the novels…?

When I was younger, my knowledge of racism and discrimination stemmed mainly from my novel reading. I found it disturbing but still exciting to read books like A Light to my Path by Lynn Austin. It was shocking to hear of the discrimination against African-American slaves. It was thrilling to read of their eventual victory and freedom. However, all the novels related to slavery were set in America. This led to my assumption that Britain had never really had much of a problem with racial discrimination. A few years ago I watched the film Amazing Grace which recounts the story of William Wilberforce. The tale of his life work was captivating. However, I did not seem to realise that what was accomplished by him and his supporters did not stop racism altogether; it abolished the British transatlantic slave-trade.

Looking through the materials before our lecture on racism was quite a wake-up call to the scale of the problem in Britain post William Wilberforce. Hearing of the Bristol Bus Boycott and the murder of Stephen Lawrence made me realise that we in Britain are just as biased and discriminatory as any other country. Why had I never been taught about these incidents in my history classes? Where were the novels that also presented the story from Britain’s side? The account of the 1964 general election in which Peter Griffiths used a very racist slogan was shocking. If political correctness hadn’t even made it into politics…where are we to look for a good example? As a teacher it will be my job to ensure that equality is encouraged in the classroom (and maybe I should write a book for teenagers about the problems Britain had with racism and excessive discrimination just to keep them well-informed even in their leisure reading). It will also be important to speak of the mistakes from the past so that we can learn from them in the present and improve ourselves for the future.


William Wilberforce

Bristol Bus Boycott

Stephen Lawrence

Peter Griffiths