Category Archives: Ethnicity

The Museum of Racism

A shocking collection of racist artefacts has recently gone on display in ”The Museum Racism’  which aims to use ‘objects of intolerance to teach tolerance and social justice. The museum itself is in Michigan , but the virtual version is also well worth a look, having an excellent range of racist artefacts mainly taken from the last century – broken down into categories such as ‘Racist cartoons’ and ‘THe N-Word’. A Fascinating resource for any one interested in the history of Racism in the United States… and shocking!

Differential Educational Achievement by Ethnicity – The Role of Cultural Factors

Teaching this topic this week – thought I’d share a web – based lesson I put together… For A level, and general interest…

Results statistics

Resources looking at Home Based/ Cultural Factors – Read/ Watch the items below and answer the questions in the boxes provided

Focussing on Chinese Achievement

  • Britain’s Tiger Mums – (college stream link) – watch this and note down all of the reasons why British Chinese children might do so well in school. If your outside of college this was part of More 4s ‘Wonderland’ series (2011 or 2012)
  • Read this article on Amy Chua – one of the world’s severest ‘Tiger Mums’ (She’s American) – ‘on the benefits of burning your child’s stuffed animals’ – Is her severe approach justified?
  • NB – If you think Amy Chua is severe – check out this style of ‘Eagle Dad’ parenting (NB – not UK based!)
  • Question – There are 300 000 Chinese families in the UK – how could you find out if the above case studies are generaliseable?

 Focussing on Gypsy and Roma Achievement

  • Watch My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (college stream link – the first 10 mins and then roughly 53 to the end) – note down all of the factors that might explain why only 8% of Gypsy/ Roma children achieve good GCSEs (if you’re outside of college I’m sure you can find a link to this now classic show Channel 4 show somewhere online!)
  • You may have seen this – horse outside videoQuestion – Is this racist?
  • There is some good research here – from the Gypsy Roma Traveller site (Leeds based) – see if you can find any reasons why this group might underachieve…

 Focussing on Black-Caribbean Achievement

  • Watch this video – discussing the UK riots of August 2011 – They don’t actually say it (in a shameless example of political correctness!) but they are really talking about ‘black parents’ – note down all of the things that might explain Caribbean underachievement
  • Read this article which reinforces that above and demonstrates that the issue of ‘absent black fathers ’ is on the political agenda – Do you think Cameron is right to be worried about ‘absent black fathers’?
  • Read this article by Tony Sewell – who argues that Caribbean boys underachieve because of out of school factors   – Summarise all of the factors he lists that explain Caribbean underachievement
  • The fatherhood institute is also concerned about the absent black fathers – read this item and note down some of the reasons why Cameron might be wrong to just blame ‘absent dads’ for Caribbean underachievement


‘Honour’ Killings and ‘Honour’ crime on the increase

Reflecting on these may make you a bit less sympathetic to to the moral relitivism of Postmodernism – and a bit more sympathetic with the idea that Feminism might just still be relevant in today’s society after all.

Honour killings typically involve a family killing daughters who ‘dishonour’ the family name – namely through having boyfriends they don’t approve or, or through failing to marry (typically arranged) a partner the family approves of.

In a recent high profile quadruple honour killing in Canada – in which Mohammad Shafia, his second wife and their 20-year-old son are being tried for  four murders – of Mohammad’s first wife and three daughters.

Following a wiretap, Mohammed was was recorded voicing his disgust with his “treacherous” daughters and saying he would kill them again even if they came back to life a hundred times…… “Even if they hoist us onto the gallows … we have not done anything bad,” he says in the recordings, calling his daughters “whores” for having boyfriends.

But it’s not just Honour killings that are the problem – For obvious reasons, families may not be prepared to kill dishonourable daughters – instead they just beat and imprison them and subject them to emotional abuse (which I guess happens automatically if you’re being beaten and abused?!) – as the following case study indicates –

Maya’s story

When I was 16 my mum came into my room one day and said I had to get married to my cousin in Pakistan. I was horrified: I wanted to go to college and get a job, and I didn’t even know him, how could I marry him? But when I said no, my mum slapped me across the face. After that I wasn’t allowed out. My family treated me with disgust, as if I had shamed them. My father, mother, even my young brother, beat me on a daily basis. My body was covered in bruises. I wasn’t given any food for days on end, and I tried to take an overdose on several occasions. I just used to sit on my bed from morning to night. Prison would have been a better place.

 Honour crimes are much more widespread in the UK than you might think –

Thanks to an FOI request from The Iranian and Kurdish women’s rights Organisation (IKWRO) – we now know that there were almost 3000 honour crimes in the UK last year – recorded by the police – but the data only comes from 39 out of 52 police forces, the other 13 either failing to collect or provide data on honour crimes.

Such cases include such things as threats, abduction, acid attacks, beatings, forced marriage, mutilation and murder. To add to these shocking findings – based on the 12 police force areas for which comparable data was available, reports went up by 47% in just a year.

IKWRO makes the case that the increase is due to the fact that more women are resisting the demands made on them by their families –

This example illustrates a lot of Sociological themes –

It’s a good example of the relevance of Feminism – without this Feminist organisation we wouldn’t have this information available too us – obviously the media pick up on honour killings, but much less so with honour crimes.

Secondly, a good e.g. of a crime that, even with police recorded crime, remains hidden – IKWRO estimate that the actual number of honour crimes may be 4 times higher.

There is also a global dimension to this – many of these honour crimes are done when girls resist demands to go abroad to marry cousins or family aquaintences, and of course there is the obvious culture clash between the patriarchal states of Iran, Kurdistan, and also Pakistan (also strongly associated with honour killings) – in that in these states this kid of daughter abuse is not illegal.

A final dimension is that the increase in honour crimes may be an indiciation of increasing liberation of Asian and Middle Eastern women – at least those living in diaspora communities – as the increase in recorded crime occurs not only because they are prepared to resist their parents unreasonable wishes but also because they feel more confident in coming forwards…

So I guess that’s a positive note to end on, oddly?

White households – 20 times wealthier than black households in the bad ‘ole US of A.

The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center – 2009 data. The ratios were significantly better in 2005 (when white households were only ten times wealthier than black households) but the recent collapse of the mortgage market and house prices has affected blacks and hispanics much mroe than whites.

Apologies for the short post, but every now and then I come across something so stark that it’s just worth flagging up – I mean we have inequalities between ethnic groups in the UK – but this is is nothing compared to the bad old USA!

Sonny’s Lettah – Linton Kwesi Johnson

Listened to this with my class yesterday – a great way of illustrating the extent of police racism in the 1980s as manifested most obviously under the sus laws – Sonny’s Lettah is taken almost verbatim from a letter written by a black youth (according to this blog) to his mother in Jamaica explaning why he’s in jail – basically he killed a cop in the process of defending his brother from an unprovoked incident of racist police brutality.




I include selected lyrics below, the full lyrics, and translation, can be found here

it was de miggle a di rush hour
hevrybody jus a hustle and a bustle
to go home fi dem evenin shower
mi an Jim stan up waitin pon a bus
not causin no fuss

when all of a sudden a police van pull up
out jump tree policemen
de whole a dem carryin baton
dem walk straight up to me and Jim
one a dem hold on to Jim
seh dem tekin him in
Jim tell him fi leggo a him
for him nah do nutt’n
and ‘im nah t’ief, not even a but’n
Jim start to wriggle
de police start to giggle

mama, mek I tell you wa dem do to Jim?
mek I tell you wa dem do to ‘im?

Dem thump him him in him belly and it turn to jelly
Dem lick ‘im pon ‘im back and ‘im rib get pop
Dem thump him pon him head but it tough like lead
Dem kick ‘im in ‘im seed and it started to bleed

The whole album – Forces of Victory – is stacked full of songs relevant to teaching about police racism in the 1980s –

Tony Sewell – explaining black boys’ underachievement

A few details of Sewell’s explanations for the relative underachievement of British Caribbean boys

Against people like David Gilborn, he argues that it’s ¨not  teacher Racism! He says there are ¨Multiple causes – Mainly out of school –

  • Lack of legitimate opportunities to get a good education!
  • Poverty
  • High proportion of single mother households
  • Cultural Deprivation –
  • Anti-school peer group pressure – gang culture
  • Poor schools – ethos of low expectation
  • Low teacher expectation (rather than racism) – linked to their knowledge about what’s going on outside of school ¨
  • All of this results in lack of self belief – an ‘Oxford’s not for me ‘attitude!

Sewell also says that black boys suffer from a  lack of social capital (contacts) He also, says, NB – it’s about class and gender as much as race!

Sewell’s argues that the solution to black boys underachievement is to provide them with strict schooling that demands high expectations and, as far as is possible, provide them with positive opportunities that middle class students get through their social and cultural capital that middle class students ; effectively he says that if we do this, then this should make up for the disadvantageous they underachieving boys face. Importantly, Sewell, does not seem to accept that disadvantage is an excuse for failure.

Sewell runs the ‘generating genius’ programme – aimed at improving the educational opportunities of disadvantaged students –

Details of Sewell’s  Experiment –  ‘Generating Genius Programme  -how to raise black boys’ achievement
The aim of generating genius was to get 25 black boys, all from failing schools, interested in science and engineering. Starting in 2006, at age 12-13, these boys spent three or more weeks of their summer vacation working alongside scientists at some of Britain’s top universities, such as Imperial College. Sewell claims that these boys got amazing GCSE results, and now that the first wave have had their university acceptances, at least 3 have made it into Oxford and Cambridge.

Sewell argued that Generating Genius worked because it established the right ethos and high expectations – which effectively combated the disadvantages that his students black boys faced – They also created a ‘science crew’ or a learning crew’ – imitating gang mentality (relevant for boys!) and exposing these children to universities at an early age – made them think ‘university is for me!’ and provided the contacts necessary to get them into those unis.

There are lots of limitations to this’ experiment’ – just a few include –

  1. Lacks representativeness – very small sample of ten boys!
  2. Lack of control of variables means we don’t actually know why the boys improved so much – was it due to the contacts, or did they try harder because this was a unique project and thus they felt ‘very special’? (a problem of reliability)
  3. Ignores white working class underachievement (worse than A-C working class!)
  4. Girls also excluded

I also wonder whether or not Sewell’s work really gets to the root of the problem – Class inequality! Summer schools for black boys funded by charities cannot compete with the advantages the upper middle classes give to their children by sending them to £16000/ year prep. Schools such as Sunningdale. Also, Even if you provide fair and equal opportunities for black boys surely Racism in wider society will still disadvantage them as a group compared to white boys?

Related Posts – The Role of Cultural Factors in Explaining Differential Achievement by Ethnicity

On the benefits of burning your children’s stuffed animals

Amy Chua and her daughters - who had a TV free chilhood
Amy Chua and her daughters - who had a TV free chilhood

Amy Chua’s latest book – Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – argues against the weak, cuddling, Western parenting style, making the case that the much stricter approach of Chinese parents is superior. Some of the rules she subjected her own daughters to included –

  • Never letting them attend sleepovers
  • Never having ‘playdates’
  • never watching TV or playing computer games
  • Practising musical instruments 2-3 hours a day.

If their standards ever dropped, she called them garbage and threatened to burn their stuffed toys. There is a good overview of the main themes of the book here and she discusses the book in this video

This is a great example of a biographical piece of research giving us an insight into Chinese parenting and one that can easily be related to education…. while this is an extreme case study, and we need to be cautious of operating in stereotypes, there is wider research that suggests Chinese (and Indian) parents are stricter with their children and place a greater emphasis on the importance of educational achievement than parents of other ethnic backgrounds  – and they make greater efforts than white British parents, for exmpale,  to police their children to make sure they are doing their homework. Their children’s social lives are also policed to a higher degree – and Chinese and Indian children generally have less freedom.

One such piece of evidence is Francis and Archer (2005) –  in their study of British Chinese students and parents, similarly point to the high value placed on education by parents, coupled with a strong cultural tradition of respect for one’s elders, which facilitates the transmission of high educational aspiration from parents to children, and that students derive positive self-esteem from constructing themselves as good students.

There is a distinct correlation between stricter parenting and exam results – it is Chinese students who get the best GCSE results in English schools.

ethnity and educational achievement

Also, if you look at things cross nationally, according to OECD league tables, they come top in academic standards for reading, maths and science, while the UK comes 25th, 28th and 16th respectively, even though we spend considerably more per head of population on education.

What isn’t clear from the data (and also what you won’t get from one book about one family!)  is what exactly it is about the relationship between parents, children and education that makes Chinese students so good at exams. Is it that they put in more hours out of fear or guilt, or is it that they use thes time they do spend on education more effectively either because they are more focussed due to less TV or because they have better learning techniques… or because of something else?

It’s also worth considering whether this type of parenting is more or less conducive to producing children who  capabable of independent thought and action in later life than the more liberal parenting we typically get in the west.

Education and ethnicity at Oxford and Cambridge

Matthew Benjamin, 28, who studied geography at Jesus College, Oxford, said: “I was very aware that I was the only black student in my year at my college. I was never made to feel out of place, but it was certainly something I was conscious of.

“When I arrived and they wanted to do a prospectus, and have some students on the cover, they chose me, and one other Asian guy and another guy from Thailand. It was clear they wanted to project this image of somewhere that was quite diverse. The reality was very different – there were three [minority] ethnic students in a year.

“On open days, some black kids would see me and say ‘you’re the only black person we’ve seen here – is it even worth us applying?'”

Old News by now – but worth noting! -from the Guardian in early December 2010

What initially appears to be a bleak portrait of racial and social exclusion at Oxford and Cambridge seems not to be the case on closer inspection of the statistics.

The Guardian recently reported that official data shows that more than 20 Oxbridge colleges made no offers to black candidates for undergraduate courses last year and one Oxford college has not admitted a single black student in five years. The university’s admissions data confirms that only one black Briton of Caribbean descent was accepted for undergraduate study at Oxford last year.

Initially things appear to be quite bleak –

“Of the black Caribbean students getting straight As at A-level, the vast majority apply to Oxbridge…. those who do choose to apply have a much lower success rate [than white applicants]. One in five in comparison with one in three for white students. That doesn’t seem to have shifted for the last 15 years.”

However, the most selective universities argue that poor attainment at school level narrows the pool from which candidates can be drawn. But black candidates are more likely to apply to elite universities. In 2009, more than 29,000 white students got three As or better at A-level (excluding general studies) and about 28.4% applied to Oxford; while 452 black students got three As or better, and nearly half applied to Oxford.

A spokeswoman for Oxford said: “Black students apply disproportionately for the most oversubscribed subjects, contributing to a lower than average success rate for the group as a whole: 44% of all black applicants apply for Oxford’s three most oversubscribed subjects, compared with just 17% of all white applicants. That means nearly half of black applicants are applying for the same three subjects … the three toughest subjects to get places in. Those subjects are economics and management, medicine, and maths.with 7% of white applicants. This goes a very long way towards explaining the group’s overall lower success rate.”

This is the interesting thing about African Caribbean apsiration in the United Kingdom – despite achieving worse GCSE results as a group compared to white, Indian and Chinese children, African-Caribbean children are actually more likely to stay onto do A levels, and more likely to apply to high end universities than white children – where they then experience discrimination?

Social Class background is a far better predictor of who will do well at school and then go onto university in the UK – despite the fact that our political spin doctors seem to think that class matters – the stats on social mobility suggest that class is pretty entrenched!