An average teacher in an average classroom makes 1500 choices every day. Our working life centres around the outcome of these decisions and then making infinite other choices as a result.
Decision fatigue is very real; at the end of a day it’s not uncommon to see teachers struggle over the smallest choices because we’re so unconsciously tired of choosing. Our brains say no!
Many of the decisions I make in a day that contribute to my decision fatigue are subconscious. I don’t have to actively think about how I address the child on the carpet who’s messing around, again. I don’t have the actively choose my tone when talking to the shy child who I know is desperate to join in.
But I’m actively choosing to be antiracist.
It’s not enough anymore to say ‘I’m not racist.’ Good for you, you’re not racist. But if you’re not actively against racism and trying to make a change from wherever you’re at, then it’s not good enough.
I am in the extremely privileged position of having white skin and a white British name. This means I fit society’s narrow expectation of what is ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’. [Click here and here to read about why names matter.] This privilege helped my pre-18 education, it helped me be admitted to university, it means I look like nearly every stock image of women in my profession.
It also means that, according to some sources, I am up to forty times less likely to be the subject of a ‘stop and search’ procedure by the police. I am proportionately less likely to be arrested if I attend a protest, to be a victim of police brutality, and my likelihood of being killed by the police is practically nil. I have never had to worry for my safety at the hands of an institution that is supposed to protect me.
George Floyd did not have this privilege.
Eric Garner did not have this privilege.
Laquan McDonald did not have this privilege.
Breonna Taylor did not have this privilege.
These black individuals did not have the privilege that I have often taken for granted throughout my life. I’ve never had to think about what would happen if I was approached by police on the street, or pulled over in my car – and that’s what privilege boils down to.
It’s not exclusively an American problem either. Sean Rigg. Sheku Bayoh. Sarah Reed. Azelle Rodney. Cherry Groce. Mark Duggan. I could go on and on: black people are being killed by institutional racisim in this country too.
Earlier I wrote that I had made a choice. I am going to be educated on this matter because I can’t stand not to be, any longer. I’m ashamed that it’s taken me to 22 to properly pay attention, but I am listening now.
I am paying attention now, and I am furious.
The world is not white, yet from reading the National Curriculum, the document that tells us as teacher what our children should know, you would think it was.
The world is not white, but from looking at the House of Commons you would think it was not only white, but male too.
The world is not white, but how many black authors are on my bookshelf? How many black voices do I hear on a regular basis through TV, film, music, podcasts, journalism, literature?
The choice I make now is to fight for change, because Black Lives Matter.