Sociological Spin on Racism

Being an excessive coffee-drinker myself, there is nothing I love more than sitting in a niche cafe with a coffee-to-go (just simpler to hold and less chance of spilling) whilst watching the wide variety of customers rushing about their daily business but still making that extra bit of time with friends or family to sit in and get a hot drink. Spotting the locals is something I, myself would class as a talent however; it does spark many questions as to why people decide to partake in such rituals, some almost religiously.

After a lecture I attended on Tuesday, I was made aware of the fact that there is so much more behind coffee-drinking than meets the eye. Coffee drinking can associate with many things such as, globalisation; friendship; a ritual and even the much-loved catch-up. It sparks conversations into debate as to why caffeine is such an acceptable drug and remains legal whereas some countries are unhappy with this use of caffeine and will be quite happy to permit the use of Marijuana. The activities we take part in whilst drinking coffee are also very important, the various discussions we have, some life-changing whilst others remain dour catch-ups with Great Aunt Margaret that won’t move on past the topic of weather after assuring her that I have had enough to eat at least 4 times before she has finally swallowed the last drop of her double shot skinny latte.

I know what’s running through your head… ‘What a waste of my time, clicking on an article about racism and now I just want a coffee’ Worry not, there is method behind my relatable nonsense.

What I was doing was dusting off your sociological imagination and encouraging those of you reading this that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the structure and functioning of human society. The particular topic I am wanting to discuss is on, as the title suggests, racism. It is a subject that we talk about without much weight… something that we may even joke about when with our friends, no harm intended, but actually thinking about racism being a dangerous, restricting and life-threatening topic sends shivers down my spine as I have been fortunate to grow up in a family and a society that hasn’t had any such issue with race in the short, 19 years I have been alive. Just seeing cases such as Emmett Tills is enough to make my stomach turn.

Thanks to Joseph Arthur Gobineau, we were all split into three groups; white, black and yellow. The White were seen to have ‘superior intelligence, morality’ and ‘willpower’ whilst the Black were seen as being ‘less capable, lack of morality and emotional instability’ Not long after this, the second world war inspired the idea of ‘Race Science’ but this wasn’t continued as it was discredited when the war ended (part of this was because the Nazi’s were incapable of providing reason for their racial theories in their discriminatory policies. Nowadays, social scientists believe that, ‘Race is nothing more than an ideological construct.’ which then begs the question of whether or not sociologists should abandon race as being a useful concept altogether. Race is seen now as more of  a set of Social Relationships in which groups and individuals can be located. While I have been researching this topic, it has become all the more confusing to me as to why people would even have a desire to think upon someone as being lower-class merely based upon what ‘race’ they assume they fit into… the kind of people who will be screaming for equality and claim that everyone should have equal rights whilst clutching their handbag closer to them as an African-american male steps into the elevator. It’s 2018, and it is magnificent to see how the world has changed in the last century, but we still have so far to go as this is something i believe we shouldn’t have had to combat in the first place.

perhaps i will rewrite this blog as a teacher, teaching kids from all backgrounds and nationalities without a second thought and the famous speech of Martin Luther King will sound true as I finish with the last verse of his forever-memorable speech;

When we allow freedom to ring-when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, we are
free at last.
(Copyright 1963, MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.)

The Ignorance of Inequality

It’s a sad reality isn’t it? How one child has an abundance of choice when it comes to choosing what they want to be whenever they grow up no matter their ability as the parents bottomless bank fills in any struggling areas leaving tutors happy and select pupils outstanding in the classroom surpassing those  ‘less capable children’ as they just can’t afford to be as ‘intellectually gifted’.

But that’s just my unconscious bias talking, and this will indeed have had its fair share of influences on the way in which I have viewed education over the years.

Just as i have mistakenly analysed the education system, there are various situations that are misinterpreted by teachers and parents alike when it comes to those that are more disadvantaged than others. Put yourself, first of all, in a parents situation. What they can and can’t afford is down to their occupation and that, in itself, is purely down to their own educational background, which flows right back onto their parents and how affluent they were and so on, so forth. So you see, a parent is going to want the best education possible for their child in order for them to grow up with a decent job and therefore able to afford and and support a family of their own. If you can comprehend these factors, you will understand that it is therefore not a crime to invest into a child’s education if a parent has the funding to do so.

Now transition to a teachers perspective, your palms are sweating coming up to assessments, you want every child to do well. You want the best for everyone but you just can’t seem to get little Jonny to understand fractions and you can’t focus all of your time purely on his struggle as there is a small handful others in the same boat in different subjects. With exasperation you think to yourself ‘why can’t Jonny just go and get the extra help he needs?’ You get irritated with him in the days that follow as he seems disorganised and distracted. Your reputation is on the line. You think life is so unfair.

Unfair… it’s funny that this word should crop up so quickly.

Maybe there should be a reminder at this point as to the 4 areas of the GTCS SPR which include, Social Justice; Integrity; Trust and Respect as well as Professional Commitment. Jonny didn’t have breakfast this morning, his mum hasn’t been paid yet and she couldn’t afford a loaf from the local supermarket, just like she cannot afford to send Jonny to a tutor, she’s frustrated too and this leads to disruptive behaviour from him. Remember the integrity, how are you treating this class with an equal mindset, examining critically the attitudes and beliefs of those parents whispering about Jonny and his ability in the car park whilst picking up their children. What can you do to make life better for the children in your care?  It’s a simple matter of social justice; ‘committing to the principles of democracy and social justice through the right principles and policies.’ Trust and Respect are also as equally important and go hand-in-hand with improving the education of the children within the care of teachers. If teachers respect each and every pupil as an individual and trust that they are doing the best of their ability to get the best out of each child, the children should then be able to follow this example and therefore respect each other of differing ability which can also show parents and others that, every child is trying their best and is using the resources available to them in order to get the most out of their education. If there is no respect communicated there will be severe issues within the classroom which will impact the children’s future as well as their self-esteem. Of course none of these factors can be followed wholeheartedly without Professional Commitment and always following GIRFEC in  order to shape and be shaped in a positive way within the classroom, demolishing inequality and regenerating the Education System.

‘Teaching… What’s the big deal?’

I used to have the same confused question racing in loops around my little head as mum was at her wit’s end running about packing schoolbags, making up an A-class packed lunch fit for 3 as quickly as I could count to 20 (which, by the way, was an impressive time for a 6 year old) and then heading into school where she would begin breakfast club quickly followed up by her main role of educating those needing special assistance in the classroom, also known as learning support unit 1…
How? How did she have the energy and the motivation to execute all of these tasks with an ever-present smile? Not only how she does it but why? Was the stress of 3 children all within a 3 year age-bracket in the morning not challenging enough? Surely she doesn’t actually do this 5 days a week because she actually enjoys it.
It wasn’t until later in life that I would come to the understanding that the woman I call mum, actually loved transforming the life of every pupil she came in contact with. I watch even now as she treats every child as an individual, as though it’s just the two of them in the room together. She encapsulates their attention with a snap of her fingers and makes good use of it as she brightens up their day one sticker at a time.
I can detect the sense of satisfaction when a child finally spells that word right all by themselves after practicing all week, thinking about how I have the capability to be one of the stepping stones that got them there. The sense of achievement… just knowing I could be a part of that spurs me on to the belief that teaching is for me. Amongst the stray Lego bricks and the spilt paint there are children waiting to find themselves, seeking out their potential without knowing it. It is my firm belief that as a teacher it is compulsory that I don’t just teach but know my children and that I walk with them as a crutch until they stumble upon what it is they are here to do.

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Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

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