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Antiracist Multicultural Education

I have discussed Islamophobia throughout this volume. It is important to also emphasize ongoing anti-black and anti-Asian racism. Indeed, I noted in chapter 6, when referring to the research of Gillborn, how black students and their peers of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage continue to be significantly less likely to achieve the key benchmarks when compared to white peers of the same gender. I also referred, in chapter 3, to the underachievement of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) students. I have stressed the need to combat all forms of non-colour-coded racism.

Having consistently argued in the past (e.g. Cole 1986a, b, 1989, 1998a, b, 1992a, b) against multicultural education, and for antiracist education, I now believe that technological advances, in allowing people to speak for themselves—for example via websites, blogs and email—provide a window of opportunity for multiculturalism; and thus for antiracists to modify their position to include multicultural education. The way forward, I believe, is to promote both antiracism and antiracist multicultural- ism: to create opportunities for hearing authentic voices, but, as argued in chapter 3, in conjunction with objective analysis. I would thus now advocate an antiracist multicultural education. This should avoid simplistic versions of ‘Racist Awareness Training’ (RAT), practiced in the past in the UK, whereby all white people were considered to be infected with a racist virus which could be cured by the right therapy (for a critique of RAT, see Sivanandan 1985).3

Using the web creatively, antiracist multicultural education should be about the importance of antiracism as an underlying principle, about the need to constantly address institutional racism and ‘race’ equality, and about the promotion of respect and non-exploitative difference in a multicultural world. As we saw in chapter 5 of this volume, during the 1970s and 1980s, and into the 1990s in Britain, there was a protracted debate between those, broadly liberals, who wished to promote multicultural education (celebrating the diversity of cultures which make up British society), and those, mainly politically Radical Left, who advocated antiracist education (viewing the institutional racism of British society as the fundamental problem). In terms of actual hegemonic practice in schools, most schools were and have remained monocultural (promoting ‘British culture and values’, whatever that may mean), some have practiced multicultural education, and, only a few have actually put antiracist education into practice.

As we also saw in chapter 5 of this volume, the antiracist critique of monocultural education is that in denying the existence of, or marginalising the cultures of various minority ethnic communities, it was and is profoundly racist. The antiracist critique of multicultural education is that it was and is both patronising and superficial, and often offensive. In chapter 5, I also tried to demonstrate the Marxist underpinnings of my favored form of antiracist education in my example of the Australian bi-centennial of 1988.

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report (Macpherson 1999), as I argued in chapter 5, was a milestone for antiracists, in being the first acknowledgement by the British State of the existence of widespread institutional racism. Antiracist multicultural education must have, as well as anti-black racism and Islamophobia, non-colour-coded racism as integral to its project. It is highly likely that xeno-racism has filtered down into schools in the UK, and is impacting on day-to-day pupil interaction. How this will affect inter- and intra-ethnic relations is largely unforeseen. What is clear is that anti-xeno-racist multicultural education must feature largely in UK schools’ priorities. There is also some evidence of racism from students from Newly Joined Countries of the European Union (NJCEU) pupils being directed at Asian and black pupils in the UK (Glenn and Barnett 2007), and this clearly needs addressing too.

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