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‘PEOPLE GET KILLED CAUSE OF THERE [THEIR] SKIN. IT CANNOT BE STOPPED’: A MIDLANDS CASE STUDY CONSIDERING EXPERIENCES OF RACISM AMONGST PUPILS IN UK SECONDARY SCHOOLS AND THE COMMUNITY

Published
26/02/2020
Author(s)
Sarah Page

Sarah Page, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology at Staffordshire University and Co-Director of the Staffordshire University Crime and Society Research Group

In 2018 an academic partnership research team from Staffordshire University School of Law, Policing and Forensics conducted fieldwork with young people in secondary schools and college students.  We endeavoured to find out about race-hate and race-hate related extremism encounters based on secondary school experiences and in the community to ascertain the extent of the issue.  We also asked participants about their ideas for how issues could be resolved. 

World Café method

Our research used mixed method qualitative data collection of world café combined with follow up questionnaires.  World café is a relatively new methodology to the criminology field and works well in educational sessions because it has the capacity to reflect a lesson (presentation and discussion groups), putting participants at ease with the research process.  A world café event allows for a larger group of participants to engage in a research session than would typically be accommodated through a focus group.  We ran 3 world café events in total.  The follow up questions captured basic demographics and offered opportunity for participants to share anything that they felt uncomfortable sharing in a group context.

Racial abuse

Rich data was collected from 57 UK school and college pupils aged 14–17 years from a city in the Midlands. Just under half of the participants were black and minority ethnic (BAME) pupils, and the rest were white British.  Race-hate victimisation ranged from verbal abuse to physical assault including reports of weapons being used in some of the attacks.  Islamophobic abuse (such as headscarves being removed) was described along with race-hate between white and BAME pupils and between BAME pupils of different origins.  Both BAME and white pupils reported being victims of racial abuse, but BAME victimisation was more apparent in school.  Interestingly, teachers were perceived as favouring white pupils when incidents occurred, with some teachers described as ‘racist’. 

Race-hate exacerbated by social media

Inter-school racial conflict was apparent.  Schools with higher BAME pupil populations were negatively labelled by pupils from white majority schools.  It was evident that racism is complex and that race-hate in schools was reflected in the community and exacerbated through social media communication and media reporting. Some experiences indicated underlying far-right extremist ideology, for example, Nazi signs graffitied in the community.   To address racism and race-hate related extremism efforts are needed in schools with corresponding interventions in the community.

20 years since the MacPherson report and change is still needed…

It has been 20 years since the MacPherson (1999) report following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.  The incident was a concern within education because Stephen was a sixth from pupil, despite the murder occurring in the community, rather than on school premises.  The MacPherson (1999) report championed changes to all public sector organisations, including education to address racism more effectively.  However, our research suggests that change is still needed, and we would encourage the government to make concerted efforts to eliminate racism and race-hate related extremism within society and schools. 

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