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The Case of Andrea Mair: A Call to Address Racism in Education

The case of Andrea Mair has been discussed in every staff room from Nursery to Post 16.

It's disheartening to hear about incidents of racism and micro-aggressions in any workplace, including schools. It's particularly concerning when it involves a primary teacher like Andrea Mair. 

Problematic language and attitudes can have a significant impact on students, especially those who are part of marginalized communities. So the fact that she pointed out things that could be an issue such as a visiting magician calling students “little monkeys” or a black student wearing a sticker that said “blackcurrant”. These small things can be easily overlooked by people who are not members of minorities, but the impact they can have on impressionable minds is innumerable.

How, you may ask? The little boy with the sticker may think that the word ‘blackcurrant’ was deliberately given to him, making him question how welcome he is in class. Or perhaps a young student, who had already been called a monkey in a derogatory manner [not an unusual occurrence unfortunately] may be triggered and become upset rather than enjoy the treat organised by the school.

Now, the issue isn’t that Mair did anything wrong - the issue was with the co-workers who found that when she pointed out the problematic things that could be misconstrued, they felt so fragile that they demanded she be fired. The only reason you would be upset at a black woman highlighting potentially offensive things is if you do not want to change your behaviour. A normal person, when asked not to call students monkeys, would probably say “Oh cool, my bad!” and the conversation is done.

I will concede, that the school banning the word ‘monkey’ completely went to an extreme and did not help the situation - but that was not Mair’s fault! Yet the white staff members decided that she would be the one to be removed, instead of asking for mediation and having common ground reached.

Ethnic minorities in the workplace are constantly asked to highlight when things can be seen as racially offensive, but when they do, they are seen as making things uncomfortable. 

SOMEONE will always be uncomfortable if honest and open dialogue is not practised in the workplace.

I will be honest, I work in a very diverse and multicultural workplace - yet questions and conversations are asked daily, comfortably, because the SLT have made it a safe and welcoming place.

This case with ms Mair has highlighted that even in 2024, in a country as culturally diverse as England, some things are still problematic and some people will be upset at even being shown that what they’re saying can be viewed as racially insensitive. 

Be open to someone making an observation or pointing out issues without taking it personally!

What do you think about this?

Until next time.

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