By S Neeraj Krishna
SADIQ KHAN has accused the British education system of offering “one-dimensional, identity kit version of history”, while urging people to “go around” it to tackle racism.
The London mayor said in a virtual discussion on Sunday that the anti-racism protests following the custodial death of black American George Floyd served as a wake-up call, stressing that one could no longer be “complacent” about equality issues.
Joined by F-1 champ Lewis Hamilton and stylist Basma Khalifa, Khan said coming across racial slurs in London “wasn’t uncommon” during his growing years in the 1970s and 80s.
“We have made huge progress over the last 30 years, but the reality is that even in 2020 in the most progressive city in the world, if you’re born black, your life chances are far less than any other ethnic group,” he added.
Elaborating on calls to “decolonise” education in Britain, the Labour stalwart said history was learnt more through familial and social interactions, not just classrooms.
He opined that the government was “quite prescriptive about what we learn”, adding that the current school curriculum offered a “one-dimensional, identity kit version of history”.
“I’m not sure if we can wait for the government to understand why it matters — we’ve got to do things ourselves,” Khan said during the Goals House virtual meet.
“We can’t do it formally through the structures of government and the national curriculum, we can use other ways to go around them.”
On the current resurgence of anti-racism movements, Khan stressed it was vital to have the right kind of “allies”.
“Some politicians, frankly speaking, play on people’s fears, the fear of what the Black Lives Matter movement could lead to,” he noted.
“Others should be addressing the fears, and I’m firmly in the camp of addressing people’s fears, addressing their concerns about equality and racism.”
Touching upon British politics, Khan said: “Why are there are too few politicians who look like us?
“The reality is our life experiences are very different from others and you have got to put yourselves in our shoes to understand what we go through.”
The next mayoral election in London, Khan added, should be an “arms race” on who possesses more anti-racism firepower.
“And in the meantime, we can educate [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson and his cabinet as well,” he said.
Khalifa, who has often been vocal about lack of diversity in the fashion industry, said she felt “privileged” that her voice was being “part of the changing the narrative”.
The designer and filmmaker said it was imperative to sustain the “the momentum created by the Black Lives Matter movement”.
“The conversations now are about education – this is what you need to read, what you need to watch, what you need to know, but then there needs to be actionable change,” she added.
“That for me is the most important next step, I love that everyone is learning but I want to see it put into place.”
Hamilton — the sole black Formula One racer in history — also emphasised on “creating allies” on anti-racism front.
The six-time champion said he experienced “a lot of push-back” as he railed against racism in recent times.
Hamilton had created a stir at the Tuscan Grand Prix, which he won, on September 13 as he wore a T-shirt highlighting police brutality.
He had also slammed sports celebrities who chose not to speak out against racism.
“I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest of stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice,” Hamilton had written on Instagram.
“Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white-dominated sport. I’m one of the only people of colour there yet I stand alone.”
Citing his experience, he told the panellists of the virtual meet: “I’ve spoken to people high up who will say ‘well, all lives matter’, and these are older men in their 60s and 70s.
“I’ve called out people but I’ve also realised that it’s all about creating allies and empowering people, encouraging them to try and educate them and get them to be a part of it.”
Hamilton added that it was “incredible to see what happened in Bristol this year”, referring to the pulling down of slaver Edward Colston’s statue in June.
“None of my friends or people of colour should be walking past statues that represent and are celebrating people who were slave owners,” he said.