The BLG and the ETF: Dr. Tiffany Holloman
The Black Leadership Group (BLG formerly BFELG), and the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) are committed to working together to support an Anti-racist Further Education and Training sector. As part of our shared commitment, ETF partnered with BLG on the recent ‘Symposium report’, a publication that leads Anti-racism in Further Education.
Below Dr Tiffany Holloman shares her experience as a researcher.
ANTI-RACISM IS A MOVEMENT, NOT A MOMENT: DR TIFFANY HOLLOMAN RESEARCHER LEEDS BECKETT UNIVERSITY
There are four key points that I want to discuss, which I believe will ensure that the 2020 ‘Black Lives Matter’ demonstrations were not just a moment. Number one is that the anti-racism fight is constant. Number two, that the victims are typically bearing the brunt of that fight and this should not be the case. Three, mass action only occurs after, unfortunately, a grotesque incident. And four is that tackling racism cannot be a reactive event.
The anti-racism fight is constant
If we look back in history, the victor writes the history. I know about the Trojan Horse, I know that it was the people of Troy, who did it, I have no clue what the other people’s names are right now. And I say that because we, as victims of suppression and oppression, we typically have not been able to have a collective voice and write our stories, and that is something that is sorely missed and a mishap when it comes to fighting anti-racism. And I think what is necessary to know is that, although you do not hear us or have not heard us collectively, we were always fighting.
The victims should not bear the brunt of the fight
The victimhood of where we sit is ours to bear. But it is also – I do not want to say it is a curse, but it is a sort of a curse – it should not be, the fight cannot be left to us. James Baldwin said that we did not create the structure, we did not create racism, we should not have to try to fight constantly to dismantle it, because we cannot do it. It is not our job. And unfortunately, it falls on us, century over century, time after time, to try to do this. This is a grave injustice.
Mass action only occurs after, unfortunately, a grotesque incident
However, every so often, in history an event occurs where change is made, where a shift is made, where momentum grows, and typically it is on grotesque actions. Historically, going back to the capturing of lynchings with photographs, the capturing of water hose cannons on Black people during the 1960s, all the way up until last summer with the murder of George Floyd – only then, and only when it is actually in – I am going to be honest – in white purview do we see massive action, not when it is being read. You have read about rebellions, you have read about John Brown, these are issues that are constantly being read, and part of history. However, there is something about actually seeing a body, seeing a Black person lose their life, that drives mass adoption. This is a travesty.
Tackling racism cannot be a reactive event
I think the way that we tackle this cyclical event – where we have these waves of momentum, and then it dies down – is to start young. To start early, start talking about racism very early. When I was lecturing at the University of Leeds, I taught a course called race and migration. One day, we had a talk about racial experiences. So, rather than just stand up in the front and lecture, I asked all the students to form a circle and we would talk about their experiences with racism.
And in my class, I had, of course, white British students, Polish, Italian, Black British, mixed race, and Asian. My white British students told me this was the first time that they were able to a) talk about racism, and b) feel safe talking about racism.
They were 20, 21 years old at the time, and listening to stories from their cohorts, who at the ages of four and five, saw their parents being spat on, seeing their brothers being harassed by cops. It should not be that they are 21 years old when they start trying to dismantle and understand racism. This is where education comes in, not just Further Education, but primary and secondary education. And I know there may be pushback, should they not be learning about racism at such young ages. I disagree. I knew. I was born in the 80s, and I remember watching Daffy Duck imitate Hitler. Hitler was bad. By the time I was 11 years old – and most of you all can agree, you knew who Hitler was, you knew he was bad. And I think that racism in general should be tackled in the same way.
2020 is not just a moment
There is no reason I should be talking to 21 year old white students who have never discussed racism and see it as an embedded system. And I am going to close with this. I do not see 2020 as a moment. It is not. It is a movement, like I said in the beginning, it is constant. It is just that the momentum needs to be constant. And to me, it is almost like a tide. Typically, all the victims are fighting the normal tide, the normal rise of the tide, and the low tide, the high and low. However, again, unfortunately, you have bad events that create a tsunami. That’s what, to me, the pipeline of having Anti-racism embedded in education would be. It would be the constant tsunami, the constant flow, because –just like we have a broken pipeline when it comes to Black and other ethnic minority students in education, we will have a pipeline for all the white students to be able to understand racism through their pipeline and I think, again, it would be a shift of momentum in ensuring that our movement is constant.