Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Jeffrey Boakye, author of Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials, and the Meaning of Grime and Black, Listed: Black British Culture Explored, is teaming up with Applied Psychologies to talk structural racism, unconscious bias and how we can all make a change.
Ahead of our first event together - Unconscious Bias: Exploring Race, Identity and Discrimination in Education - 4th February 2021, Jeffrey introduces himself and shares the biggest reveal of his career so far...
Let me start with two facts.
One: I’ve been a teacher since 2007.
Two: I’ve been a black teacher for the same amount of time.
I only mention this because there’s something about being a black teacher that has given me a particularly useful perspective on education in general. Being black in education is a marginalised position. Non-white teachers make up a relatively small percentage of the overall teaching body. So you end up with a viewpoint from the outside looking in, seeing the big picture, the smaller details, the painter’s hand and even the frame.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that the straitjacket of formal education is an uncomfortable fit for all of us. As it stands, education has evolved into a one-size-fits-all standardisation trap that teachers and educators often struggle to breathe in. It sounds dramatic, but it’s one of the realities of the job.
At the same time, education is an extension of wider society – the same society that struggles with all kinds of injustices and social inequalities. Racism is one such injustice.
As a black person, I’ve felt the discomfort of racial inequality in society at large. As a black teacher, I’ve scrutinised the system I’m in. The same system I experienced as a child growing up and being educated in the UK.
I should introduce myself. My name is Jeffrey Boakye. I teach, I do media, I write books, and I have high hopes for the various systems that I’ve found myself in. I can’t ignore the potency of race as an impacting factor on equality in education and beyond, and, truth be told, I don’t think that any other teacher should ignore it either.
Racism isn’t limited to acts of hatred and discrimination. It takes many forms. It’s prejudice and stereotyping. It’s a lack of opportunity and social access for minority groups. It’s apathy and ignorance. It’s the privilege to live a life unaffected by the colour of your skin. It’s a whole series of societal structures put in place long before any of us where born, seeking to give power to historically dominant groups.
It affects all of us and it damages everyone.
It’s not enough for adults to be not racist. We need to lean into anti-racism, and every school needs to become a site of this anti-racist work. This, for me, has been the big reveal of my career. From the start of my career in the heart of multicultural London, to East Yorkshire, where I live and work now, I’ve seen the need for a better understanding of race in education.
Working with Applied Psychologies to deliver training in this area promises to be a vital part of this journey, where educators can lead the way. We need to see racism so that we can recognise it, understand it and ultimately have a chance of undoing it.
As ever, the first step will always be one of the most important.
Jeffrey's challenging and provocative talk on race in education is not to be missed. Here at Applied Psychologies we recently had the pleasure of hearing Jeffrey's session as part of our CPD offer. Here's what some of the team said:
“I was really grateful to be part of this session - it was a conversation I’d wanted to have so often but didn’t really know where to start. Jeffrey has a brilliant way of hitting you hard with the facts whilst also allowing free and open discussion. I would recommend this session to anyone who wants to know more and do more about unconscious bias and structural racism in schools, workplaces or their community.”
"It made me think back over my career - particularly as a newly qualified teacher in Leeds - I was very naive, having come from a very white working-class background. I was well meaning but hugely ill informed! It made me think again about my responsibility as a teacher in challenging."
"I thought Jeffrey was both engaging and inspiring. He was also really challenging. I think he holds an audience very well - essential for staff with too much to do... you go away thinking 'I can do something'. Wouldn't it be great to present to groups of staff, parents and students together?"
"I found that the session was simultaneously fascinating and moving. The nature of the discussions, particularly the metaphors section, made me feel challenged, but in a positive, thought provoking manner."