OPINION

Bring people together to tackle racism rather than back divisive council approach

Posted On 12 Mar 2022 at 7:29 pm

Brighton and Hove City Council cannot and must not be allowed to marginalise, misrepresent or silence the voices of black and ethnic minority parents and residents who oppose their anti-racist schools strategy.

On Monday 7 March I submitted a deputation calling on the council to consider the inclusion (to their anti-racist schools strategy) of an education resource produced in Brighton and informed by a colour-blind approach to anti-racism.

This deputation was supported by the anti-racist campaign group Don’t Divide Us.

This request was opposed by a rival deputation from the campaign group Save Our Schools.

My request was rejected and the Save Our Schools deputation was endorsed by the council.

I believe that the Save Our Schools deputation contains a number of baseless allegations against those voicing democratic public opposition to the ideology behind the council’s five-year anti-racist schools strategy.

Both mine and Catherine Fisher’s deputations focused on the concept of colour-blindness. In my deputation, I was clear about what I (and fellow campaigners at Don’t Divide Us) mean by a colour-blind approach to anti-racist education.

“This is a universalist approach rooted in the classic liberal tradition of equality before the law. It is an approach that promotes and emphasises the content of a person’s character over and above the colour of their skin (or any other immutable trait).”

As I made clear in my deputation: “A commitment to colour-blindness is not a denial that racism exists or that there remains important work to be done to reduce and combat discrimination.”

In Ms Fisher’s deputation, read to the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee after mine, it was stated: “Some of the opponents to having this strategy argue for the current ‘colour-blind approach’ in schools that seems to advocate ignoring race and racism, making it somehow taboo to talk about difference or acknowledge the diverse histories and experiences of individuals and groups in society and our schools.”

This statement was soon followed by another: “We can’t tackle racism by pretending it doesn’t exist.”

This is a gross misrepresentation of my position – colour-blindness is not a denial that racism exists.

Colour-blindness does NOT mean racism-blindness. Rather, it is the essence of an anti-racist approach famously exemplified by Martin Luther King Jnr (a hero of mine).

Moreover, given my presentation of a video resource that openly promotes discussing difference, diverse histories and the importance of standing up against racism, this deputation’s distortion of my position (the position of many parents in Brighton and the position of campaign group Don’t Divide Us) is profoundly dishonest.

Yet, it is a position which the council have endorsed.

Bola Anike

I would like the council to formally apologise for accusing me of wishing to pretend that racism doesn’t exist. As someone who’s experienced racism first hand I find the allegation disgraceful.

The Save Our Schools deputation draws links between my position in relation to the anti-racist schools strategy and an entirely unrelated Daily Mail article relating to the use of words “mum” and “dad”.

I would like the council to formally apologise for conflating my concerns regarding the ideology behind their anti-racist schools strategy with an entirely unrelated article published in the Daily Mail.

I am shocked that a council that prides itself on values such as diversity and inclusivity would adopt such an intolerant position in relation to viewpoint diversity when it comes to the question of how to tackle a problem as important and serious as racism.

Moreover, I am shocked that a council that prides itself on inclusivity would see fit to exclude from its anti-racism strategy resources informed by a colour-blind approach to anti-racism.

I am also shocked that a council that claims to wish to centre and highlight the voices and perspectives of traditionally marginalised individuals would not only sideline and marginalise my position but grossly misrepresent it too.

Martin Luther King

During the Save Our Schools deputation, Alison Ali, who read out the text of the deputation, said: “I do note the so-called liberal arguments in favour of colour-blindness that was in the first deputation but my big question there is if colour-blindness as an approach worked, why is systemic racism still so prevalent and endemic in our society today?”

There is nothing “so called” liberal about colour blindness as an approach. It is simply liberal. Equality before the law has until very recently formed the foundation of anti-racist advocacy and education in the UK and US.

The idea that colour-blind approaches are not liberal is a belief not a fact.

The idea that “systemic racism” is “prevalent and endemic” in UK society is likewise a belief not a fact.

This belief in “systemic racism” is typically supported by dubious data that conflates disparity with discrimination, falsely classifying the former as evidence of the latter.

These are beliefs rooted in an outlook based on critical race theory (CRT). I am disappointed to see that the council persists in promoting them as facts and dismissing opposition to its partisan position with baseless misrepresentations.

According to critical race theory – which underpins the council’s strategy – racism is not (just) defined in terms of individual acts of prejudice carried out by individuals but is allegedly embedded in all systems and structures that manifest divergent outcomes between individuals from different racial groups.

If leaders at the council wish to engage in and promote activist advocacy in relation to the dismantling of public institutions and systems (on the belief that they are systemically racist) they are welcome to do so.

But these contested beliefs must not be smuggled into Brighton and Hove’s schools on the presumption that this is simply uncontroversial “anti-racism” education. It is not.

An obligation to promote anti-racism is not a mandate to promote CRT or to silence opposition to CRT-based education.

Opponents of critical race theory do not wish to tackle racism by pretending it doesn’t exist but prefer approaches that bring people together with a focus on our common humanity rather than approaches that divide with a focus on divergent “lived experience”.

And what about my lived experience? On what basis does my council determine that my lived experience and the outlooks that it has informed are less valuable and less worthy of endorsement and propagation than the lived experiences of others?

Racism affects us all and we should all have a say in how our children are educated about this important subject.

The future of our wonderful vibrant, racially diverse and broadly well-integrated society depends on it.

Bola Anike is a British Nigerian mother from Brighton and a supporter of Don’t Divide Us.

  1. Don Reply

    We’ll done Bola, have you heard of the Equiano Project?

  2. Linda Jameson Reply

    This attempt to deny that systemic and institutional racism exists is diagraceful and insulting to many of us who have suffered from it. I don’t know what the agenda of the author is but it does not in any way seek to address racism, just let those guilty of it off the hook.

    • Tim Cruddas Reply

      Where is your evidence that systemic racism exists in the UK? Many studies and surveys find the opposite, the UK is one of the least racist countries in the world.
      What IS disgraceful is the way in which CRT based policies divide our children, who are innocent about race until it is shoved down their throats by the likes of BHC.

      • Da Wind Reply

        Hi Tim. Still being spicy I see!
        It’s easy to see Systemic Racism in the UK cos some of it wears a uniform with P.O.L.I.C.E written on it.
        As for your crude defence of Neo-Lib policies ie NOT educating the young about past wrongs, committed in our name, by overt racists is beneath even your (to be sure) poor rational. 2/10 must try harder.

  3. harb Reply

    There are certainly pockets of racism in some of our institutions, a sort of racist sub-culture, but I’d rather listen to someone as intelligent, liberal and compassionate as Bola than those who advocate the US-derived Critical Race Theory approach. I’ve just played the webcast of the meeting where a Councillor read her words. Linda, I’m sorry to say it, but you sound like one of the condescending middle-class white women who patronised Bola and her point of view. There were people representing the Council who effectively called for some children to have segregated residential lessons on the basis of their skin colour. However well-meaning they might be, they are advocating the same approach as white supremacists in the USA and apartheid-ruled South Africa and Hitler’s Germany. It was wrong then and in those places and it’s wrong for Brighton today. I don’t know why the Greens and Labour would want to align themselves with such a right-wing and divisive approach. Listen to Bola and tackle the problem of racism properly, respecting our best liberal traditions.

  4. A Salter Reply

    I hope you and parents with similar views will not give up. Brighton and Hove City Council have bought into the CRT package sold (quite literally) by many so-called anti-racism experts. They would probably want schools to identify Hutus and Tutsi and put them into separate groups.

    A jewish acquaintance has a nice line with supporters of CRT. Jews are a race. They are more than averagely well-educated and wealthy. So does CRT point to a need to address this patent lack of equity? Should schools identify the relevant children and get them to recognise their privilege? What could possibly go wrong with this?

    • Roy Redman Reply

      Out of interest, what was your acquaintance’s take on the debate around institutionalised antisemitism within the labour party ?

  5. Julia Reply

    Well said Bola Anike. You make it abundantly clear that your defence of the liberal ‘colour blind’ approach to anti-racism in schools is NOT racism blindness. How ironic that your deputation to the council was attacked by council leaders. Evidently their desire to foreground black voices only applies to those with whom they agree.

    • Susie Reply

      We have one of the most diverse city council in the country. Fact! The LP and the Greens are full of non-white representation. No change needed, thank you. The ppl of B&H want clean public toilets, not more equality propaganda, we have plenty of it already.

      • Roy Redman Reply

        A look at the list of Brighton councillors would suggest that may not be the case. Can you say what you base your assertion on ?

  6. Adrian Hart Reply

    An excellent open letter to the council here, well articulated by Bola Anike. I wonder if they will reply?

    I feel sorry for the authors of the rival Deputation, the campaign ‘Save Our Schools’ (SOS). It’s a laudable campaign but they seem to have been exploited by council leaders.

    It would not have been possible or permissible to gain advanced sight of Bola’s Deputation in order to write the rival one. I have no doubt that the intention of Save Our Schools was simply to defend the council’s CRT-based strategy against a foe (an amalgam of nefarious ‘bad actors – media, parents, the Don’t Divide Us campaigners) that they then inadvertently stereotype and misdescribe.

    As Bola explains,the culprits in this are the council. Knowing of both Deputations, they allowed the rival Deputation to act as a gunboat aiming its fire at Bola.

    Save Our Schools should be incensed with BHCC. The optics look awful – a council that claims to be committed to prioritising PoC voice and experience endorse the SOS Deputation in order to shoot down Bola Anike. Her experience and voice don’t fit the council script.

    Welcome to democratic particpation BHCC style.

  7. RRJ Reply

    ‘ Colour-blindness does NOT mean racism-blindness. Rather, it is the essence of an anti-racist approach famously exemplified by Martin Luther King Jnr (a hero of mine).

    Back to school for you or should that be whoever from Central Office wrote this…Martin Luther King’s beliefs are continuously whitewashed in this way… here is video from 1967 and a tweet from his daughter refuting what you have just claimed:

    https://twitter.com/berniceking/status/1248722483886395393?s=21

    • Adrian Hart Reply

      So RRJ, lets be more precise. On August 28th 1963 King made his ‘I have a Dream’ speech. About half way he says “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”.

      Almost sixty years later, in the city of Brighton and Hove, we are justified in taking the essence of that sentence in King’s dream and applying it to the here and now. The American context is different of course and the link you provide absolutely does not refute Bola’s statement that the aspiration of seeing past skin colour in schooling is a good thing and should not be conflated with ignoring racism.

      Rather, debates in the US over what King did or did not mean boil down to a political argument between those who, ever since the 1963 speech, bend Kings words to a view of a post civil rights era where anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and those who point out that vast swathes of black America were ‘bootless’in the first place.

      It may not be your view RRJ, but in 21st Century Britain black and Asian kids have opportunities to transcend ‘race’ like never before. Today, its precisely the rarity of the kind of racism we saw 30, 40, 50 years ago that makes its occurrence so much more shocking. Today its the well intended ‘anti-racism’ policies such as those proposed by BHCC that defer our dreams of finally placing ‘race’ in the dustbin of history (plunging children back into the divisive mire of racial thinking).

      Bola Anike made it very clear what she took from Martin Luther King vis-a-vis ‘colour blindness’. It was a plea for an approach to schooling that promotes and emphasizes the content of a child’s character over and above the colour of their skin (or any other immutable trait). She also made it clear that any insistence that individuals should not be treated differently because of their ‘racial’ and cultural identities does not mean that discrimination against particular groups should be ignored. Your snipe at Bola Anike is misplaced, though I welcome the discussion it raises.

  8. Ben Dover Reply

    Nope sorry since when is it the councils right to butt in to what is taught to our children

  9. Paul Temple Reply

    Wonderful open letter and deputation Bola -well done for taking a stance I thought the way your deputation was dealt with at committee was awful, (but then Cllr Clare never listens to anyone with an opposing view). I hope the ongoing DOE uncovers the illegal CRT teaching in schools.

  10. Lesley Reply

    How many times do we have to insist that no-one is saying racism doesn’t exist. Of course it does.

    However I have never been aware of racism being a particular problem in Brighton and Hove. Certainly not to a level that warrants this major investment by the council, apparently on our behalf. The council have spent a fortune (of our money) developing this training without ever showing that there is a need for it. Teachers have dealt with individual cases of racism in schools for decades and should be left to continue that work.

    BHCC and Hannah Clare in particular are implementing an ideology which they blindly subscribe to. CRT is an ideology/an approach to racism which is contested. They are teaching it as fact. One alternative view – ‘colour blindness’ at least should be taught as an alternative approach.

    CRT is divisive. It doesn’t help us move forward but entrenches people in their opinion silos, places guilt on white people and victimhood on black people. We can do better than this.

  11. Su Reply

    We have one of the most diverse city councils in the country. Fact! The LP and the Greens are full of non-white representation. No change needed, thank you. The ppl of B&H want clean public toilets, not more equality propaganda, we have plenty of it already.

  12. Rehema Reply

    The Council has not always treated non-white staff fairly and the same is true of the Royal Sussex Hospital, but the problems seem to have been a small numbers of people and the sub-culture around those toxic individuals. To the best of my knowledge, the institutions themselves (and those at the top) have long grappled with these problems when they have arisen, sometimes with success, but they do cause a great deal of pain and damage. Having read Bola’s words, and the article about her Deputation to the Council, it’s hard to understand how the Council can believe a more divisive approach is the right way forward. Please don’t give up, Bola. You’re right to speak up.

  13. Tim OROURKE Reply

    Excellent letter. I fully endorse Bola’s view. The council should be ashamed of their actions

  14. Eva Eden Reply

    Whatever Brighton & Hove’s Agenda is, it is certainly not in the best interests of children.For a number of years there has been a subversive & ongoing campaign to “change” the dictionary definition of racism, well knowing to get a false & devise viewpoints into law would not succeed as it’s based on their biased opinions.This subversive ideology turned their manipulations to the part of our society that is most vulnerable in order to indoctrination & their means through schools & teacher.Children are told to do what their teachers tell them, children are told your teacher is teaching you facts.So here we see the most appalling of breach of trust, the most appalling betrayal of children.
    In order to discuss racism reality must be applied, this includes racism against mixed race individuals & that includes racism from within the Black community to mixed race people.Antisemitism never seems high on the agenda that’s an outrage.Racism towards Irish people is real & rampant & black communities are quite happy to join in asserting “that you can only be racist to black people”.Not listen to Bola’s & trying to undermine what she has to say & try & smear Bola should ring all the alarm bells.Parents & people of Brighton & Hove fight for honesty, fight against dogmatic ideology based in bias & untruths.

  15. Mike Reply

    Excellent and well-written article, thank you Bola! It’s sad that people try to denigrate, smear, and silence a PoC with a different viewpoint. The call to “centre voices of colour” clearly only applies when those voices have the “correct” opinion.

  16. Dr K A Simon Reply

    I completely support Bola Anike’s position and arguments and thank her for taking such a brave, principled stance. The actions and statements of Brighton and Hove Council are dishonest, unethical and deliberately divisive. One could almost believe they and Save Our Schools invent the notion of systemic racism in this country (so comprehensively debunked by the Sewell Report) in order to feed the need of their vain, foolish egos as virtue-signalling makes them feel good about themselves. The Council should stop spewing vile propaganda designed to twist our children’s minds and get back to its actual job. Please keep up the fight, Ms. Anike: you are the voice of reason and decency.

  17. Tim Cruddas Reply

    Well done Bola..all power to your elbow.

  18. Pat Jeffery Reply

    Excellent letter – Racism does exist but there has been a change so that everything being viewed through the prism of race. This is not helpful. Teaching children they are victims does nothing for their self esteem where they should be being taught that they can achieve their dreams. Teaching white children they are perpetrators of an unequal society is also counterproductive in reinforcing differences rather the using the colour blind approach. Changing society is a long and difficult process as women know from their struggles for equality which has still not been achieved over decades. Getting rid of racism will take as long as there are no short cuts let alone the teaching of CRT.

  19. Nathan Adler Reply

    I would also like to add my support for Bola here – if only the council would listen! Well done for pointing out the error of their ways.

  20. Michael Hoey Reply

    Well done, Bola, for speaking common sense to this dogmatic council. This OTT “anti-racism” by patronising white lefties is actually very harmful to genuine racial harmony

  21. Liz Reply

    Well said Bola. Sorry to hear you have been so misrepresented.

  22. Saddened-by-idiots Reply

    CRT is a marxist based belief system created to use race, gender and whatever minority groups to create division and revolution replacing critical theory based on class which failed spectacularly. Black people who support this have been conned by privileged white middle class lefties to ferment their revolution. BLM in the US was founded by marxist. Marxists who left the BLM org when their personal property portfolio became public. As in the US it causes pain and division but will ultimately fail. Have you forgotten what Malcom X said about US white liberals (UK – lefties): “The white liberal differs from the white conservative in one way. The liberal is more deceitful and hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal has perfected the art of posing as the negro’s (sic) friend and benefactor.” In the UK read – the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour party. In truth B&HCC are inspiring increased division and resentment in the city. They will be recruiters for both black and white extreme supremacy groups, such as Sasha Johnson’s TTIP and Tony Robinson’s EDL. These middle class elites are laughing at you! The far right will lap this up and simply say that black people are the enemy of the white people. Using CRT, which attacks a people simply because they have white skin, is nothing more than a Darwin award for antiracism.

  23. Jerry Reply

    Don’t think anyone could have said it better! I certainly could not. As I have a lot of Irish in my background I would point to Northern Ireland as to where identity politics can end up. There religion as opposed to race was the dividing line. There they segregated and had oppressor and oppressed language. And there tragically it devolved into bloody slaughter as both communities butchered one another.

    Dividing people and telling them they are different does not bring people closer together it drives them further apart.

  24. Simon Reply

    We have one of the most diverse city councils in the country, and possibly world beating for diversity. What more they want?

  25. Carole Sherwood Reply

    Save our Schools calls for all children to feel “safe”, “valued” and “equal”. Sadly, this will not be the case if CRT-based anti-racism is established in schools. Instead, children will be taught to look for difference, judge people on the basis of their skin colour and categorise each other as victims or oppressors. Bola rightly points out that assertions such as “colour blindness has not worked” are actually beliefs not facts. Proponents of CRT often make such strong assertions without any evidence to support them. How could they? They do not believe in objectivity, evidence, science or truth, only in “lived experience”. Yet, as Bola points out, despite the fact that she herself has experienced racism and belongs to a marginalised group, her “lived experience” doesn’t count in this instance because she holds views that do not fit the CRT worldview. This is a worldview that encourages division and fosters grievance and guilt. CRT is not taught, in the way that other subjects are taught, but is a lens through which people are encouraged to look for signs of racism in everything around them. Imagine a child feeling anxious about touching a friend’s hair or telling them they are clever because they fear being labelled a racist. Imagine a child of mixed heritage coming to view one parent as a victim and the other as an oppressor. Imagine a child being separated from their best friend on the basis of skin colour. Welcome to the world of CRT. Bola is right to challenge it and I thank her for her efforts.

    • Jojo Goldsmith Reply

      Save our Schools sounds like a bunch of white middle class parents which have totally misjudged the room here and are willing to let the LA manipulate then to do their dirty work. I would say they are a total busted flush now and won’t be taken seriously.

  26. James Phillips Reply

    Thank you so much for this Bola. This really is becoming a battle for the souls of an entire generation and we’re very lucky to have you be a part of that fight.

  27. Duncan Greenland Reply

    Great letter Bola , the council and schools need to be challenged on promoting this kind of divisive material under the guise of’ anti – racism’ a more common sense approach to tackling racism is needed one that unites not divides .

  28. Iain Fitzsimons Reply

    I totally agree with Bola. This serious issue should be driven by “what is the ultimate goal for schools and society in general?” If the goal is unity and equality in a community with shared values, then categorising children and parents based on how much melanin they happen to have in their skin, and then bestowing degrees of victimhood or privilege based on how they fit onto a colour chart is divisive and cruel to those kids. It cannot have any positive outcome. The overwhelming majority of schoolkids in Brighton and Hove do not have any idea of racism or what it is. Are we going to allow them to be ‘taught racism’ by teachers who should be teaching them how to read and write!

  29. Louise H Reply

    If I was black I wouldn’t want a child of mine to be educated in a Brighton school. I sat through this anti-racism training and I thought it was disgraceful labeling and stigmatizing black children as being different and victims instead of letting schools treat them as equals. Instead schools shoul slam down hard on any form of bullying or discrimination and teach kids to value themselves and be kind to others. If you are constantly told you are different as are your classmates and you are a victim there is the danger you turn into one.

    • Roy Redman Reply

      Without wanting you to expose yourself to any repercussions, I can ask in what context you had this training, are you a Brighton teacher ?

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