Race 3

The room of silence

The room of silence a personal and emotional place of recognition of the student experiences I only know too well. What black person or person of colour has not been through the similar experiences? A Latino student in the video mentions how she counts the number of students of colour that are in prominently white places. How many black people or person of colour have walked into many higher educational establishments and counted how many black people are occupying those spaces?

There is so much to be said about this video. For each of the student experiences highlighted in the video I could give many accounts to experiences (those that are my own or of other people) influenced my teaching practice. It’s all cliché to use regurgitate words I have heard educational establishments use to promote themselves so many times of being ‘student centred’ if not all students and their needs are considered.  For a start teacher must invest the time to find out about their students and their communities. The importance of respectfully addressing the student by name and making time to find out and share the student interests. A poignant comment from a student describes his treatment of his teacher continuously not bothering to address him by his correct name and the fellow students highlighting the fact.

“How I exist in my space will affect how I perform and will directly affect my grade.”

I identify from watching the video how the students were made to feel invisible and therefore isolated.  This isolation, no representation, mentor or guide that understand the student and supports their need leads to poor attainment and the widening of the gap.

It made me consider in my practice the importance to show care and understanding for all students from the basics of sharing with them their interests. As a black member of staff this is something I have always done as a teacher. I use current topics of interest to engage all students and support learning and to develop good relationships. These students have invested their time, energy and money to not receive a lesser experience!

It is important not to tolerate and form of discrimination and abuse. This video I would show to students and staff to be ground rules set out from the beginning.

In brief here are highlighted issues for me that teachers need to be aware and address in their practice to facilitate their students.

  • Student feedback is important it helps you to find ways to help the student in return.
  • Students from the start should be encouraged to share information ideas about themselves and their interests. This will inform and teach each other as well as the teacher.
  • Take the time to research topics that students are interested in to support, you will learn something.
  • There need to be a wider mentoring program for students to receive guidance and support from

The classroom crit is a place of power and oppression.
The room of silence screams of the ignorance that white teachers, those coming from a place of privilege have no interests, in not finding it necessary to even begin to relate, investigate or understand BAME students. The isolation of the crit, the stripping of ones identity to not talk about artist themes that relate to race, gender, sexuality, disability and faith can mentally and physically castrating thus damaging. Wanting to silence those students who have valuable contributions. Their right to freedom of expression that is not offensive to others denied. Its seen a confrontational, where a student wishes to assert their art with confidence is taken as aggressive or shut down or ignored. This bears similarities to Tappers piece a psychological mind game with subconscious and mindful intent.

I have been in that place where I have produced artwork and presented at a class crit to be denied and classed as too political or not quite fitting the brief. My sister who had gone through the same experience had warned me after I came home feeling deflated from a crit. “The moment you mention the subject of your identity and race it will affect how the teachers treat you and have an on your place on the course and impact on your grade”. She had said that through her own place of pain having decided that after the first year to leave the fashion course and pursue writing instead. This was over thirty years ago and still this classroom conflict continues! Did my sisters comment suggest that to survive higher education a non-white student not reference their own identity? To strip away heritage and culture and belief to thrive and survive in these white spaces within the institution? There seems to be that expectation of refusal to address issues of identity and race for being too uncomfortable. There is no more room to extend the comfort zone. By ignoring the issue doesn’t mean it’s going away.

Important to watch

Decolonising the Institution #2 | Shades of Noir

Related reads

‘Black Faces in White Spaces’: Spotlight on Rhian Spencer

Peekaboo We See You Whiteness


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