Lets talk about it: Is it institutional Racism?

I want to be  more courteous to my white colleagues for whatever information I am going to write about. I don’t want to be taken out of context because I believe we are people of various opinions. Some people may get along with you and some people may not and misinterpret the given in formation. Firstly I hate nobody regardless of colour, race, religion, age or disability. But I hate some things that happen in our daily lives that are applied unfairly to the other people because of their colour or race. It diminishes the positive spirit and hence it cripples the self-belief. It’s high time that something needs to be implemented.

I am drawing your attention into my story that happened to me more than a week ago. It so happened that my agency that I worked for had gained a contract for me that last for a period of three months at one of the Sure Start centres in GortonManchester. The contract commenced on the 2nd of July 2012. I was very happy when my agency informed of the contract. The following Monday I went to the centre and I arrived one hour earlier and I was scheduled to start at 9:30 am and finish at 4:30 pm. On arrival I went to the reception and introduced myself and I signed in. Later one of the seniors, Kay, a female took me around as she showed me the place and asked me some securities questions, of which I passed with flying colours. At 9.30 am, Kay came to the staffroom and took me to the classroom and introduced me to other staff members and children. The children were thrilled and one by one they came and greeted me and some repeatedly asked for my name, which I voluntarily gave it in.

As a new staff, you always want to observe and ask the old staff if there is anything they want you to do, so I was at their disposal and I was willingly to do anything in line with school regulations and education policies. I noticed that there was no structured lessons for the children that ranged from 2-5 years, It was mostly free play in and out door activities.  75% of the children were black and 25% were white and Asian. There was one Asian and eight whites teachers. The children spent ¾ of their time outdoors on good days meaning the sunny days and less on raining days. In most cases the senior staff had always asked me to supervise the children outside as they played. I went with the enthusiasm and joined in their activities and I introduced new games and some beautiful music for their age, as the week progressed. The children and I became compatible and everything began to swing well. I began to enjoy more of my work. I love children and children also love me. (To those who had read my earlier article about children titled: Affection would understand me straight away my relationships with children). I became part of them and naturally you want to protect them and that no harm should come upon them.

Within all these smooth flows with children, there was one thing that I came to notice that the second day at work, there was a new staff member from a different agency a white lady, her name Clara (not her real name). Later at noon I saw her rushing to office where she had been called for and I marvelled upon what it could be? She came back thirty minutes later. At break time we went together to the staffroom and chatted animatedly. Then, Clara, not her real name began to tell me that she just had been offered a three months contract. What it intrigued was that the dates of her contract were exactly the same as mine and I wondered why? I thought genuinely that they must be in short of staff to sign two people from different agencies at the same time. I told her that I also have been offered a similar contract like hers. We were all happy for each other.

The following week went smoothly until Friday afternoon. At break time I went to staffroom and I met up with Clara and we talked lively. In the middle of the conversation Clara alerted me that there was a meeting going in the boardroom. One of the seniors, a white a lady called Sue ( not her real name) whom I worked along with overheard our conversation and immediately she interrupted us. “I have been called at that meeting, but I refused to go,” she spoke with a subdued voice as she looked at me. I wondered what the meeting could be but I had a funny feeling probably they were discussing about me but on what grounds? When I was really enjoying working with the children. So I dismissed the thought. We dispersed soon after break. I went back and whilst I was outside with the children, one of the staff members, Vee, asked me to come into the building since one of the seniors, Kay, wanted to speak to me. It was the same Kay who had introduced me and showed me around the place and she spent her most of the time working at the reception not with the children.

I went straight to her, “I am sorry, Euna”, she began hesitantly, “to tell you that today is your last day working here. Eer…err, we found out that we cannot be paying two people here. It’s going to be costly.  So is this going okay with you?” I shook my head in disbelieve.   I began to fight with my subconscious  and telling me what to say; it is not okay with me. I loved this place and I enjoyed working with the children. I have a lot more to offer and I don’t want to go. But unfortunately I never let out these words. I felt like I have been struck by lighting. “Is there anything wrong have I done?” I asked as I finally gained my voice. “No, No, There is nothing wrong you have done. Believe me if there anything wrong you have done I would have told you now,” Kay said as her face no longer wanted to face mine. “But you will be here till 4:30 pm and you will be paid for your hours.” She said as her hands patted my shoulders and left the building.

I found my way back and the moment I entered the classroom, the very senior teacher, Vee, was worried for me, I think my face had told her the story. She continuously asked me for several times, are you okay Euna? Unfortunately I was completely in denial to answer her back. I had no words for it. I nodded that I was okay? I was fuming and wanting to release all my emotions. I wished they had not told me until to the end of the shift. It distracted me as my emotions overrun me.

I wanted to be somewhere alone and lick my wounds. I did not want children to see me in a tearful mood. As I was thinking, one teacher came to me, Julie and hugged me. “Euna, what’s wrong? I never saw you sad. You are always cheerful.” Tell me, what is it? I shook my head as the tears swelled in my eyes. “Go get some water to drink, Euna, please.” Julie released me and I went for water in another different building far from the classrooms. I drank water and took time to compose myself.

Afterwards I went back and calmly I spread the bad news to all who were worried about me. I received words of sympathy and comfort. I did my best to enjoy the few hours with the children that had left for me. Somehow the children they seemed to understand me and they came and gathered around me, and individually they began to tell me their own stories of miseries and disappointments. We played games and sang over and over the songs that I taught them, the other teachers watched me in awe as I performed my last plays with children.”Oh, Euna, you have a beautiful voice,” one of the senior teachers commented, ” and we are all going to miss you.” It was a sweet bitter to swallow. I thoroughly missed the children and maybe the children still wondered what happened to me?

I felt that the local board at that Sure Start centre wanted to send a strong message to my agency that probably if they had sent a white person to their school, things might have been different with them. Where does the equal opportunity and inclusion of diversity apply here? The children from black community they also need a role model. Someone whom they can relate to. Identity is very crucial it models children better as they grew up.

Just to clarify to some what is institutional racism? Institutional racism is distinguished from racial bigotry by the existence of institutional systemic policies, practices and economic and political structures which place non-white racial and ethnic groups at a disadvantage in relation to an institution’s white members. After reading my story do you think my topic was relevant to what I have written? Pour your thoughts on my blog by leaving your comments. I would appreciate your thoughts of the day.

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