Deconstructing Systemic Racism in Education

by Alistar Charles

Deconstructing Systemic Racism in Education

by Alistar Charles
Alistar Charles
Case Owner
My name is Alistar Charles, and I am crowdfunding to raise funds to support my racial discrimination legal case against my previous employer for whistleblowing discriminatory practices.
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Alistar Charles
Case Owner
My name is Alistar Charles, and I am crowdfunding to raise funds to support my racial discrimination legal case against my previous employer for whistleblowing discriminatory practices.
Pledge now

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Who am I?

My name is Alistar Charles. I was employed as a maths teacher at an Academy in the London Borough of Hackney. I was responsible for a form class, and I also participated in enrichment lessons, which included mindfulness, relaxation and stress management. 

Part of the reason I chose these enrichment lessons was because of the oppressive system the school employed to manage behaviour. Students displayed extremely high levels of anxiety, which on occasion resulted in physical sickness and panic attacks.

Racism in the classroom

Many members of staff and myself witnessed black students being disproportionately punished, most notably in the form of accusations that their hair did not adhere to the school’s policy, perceived obstinacy, and insolence. 

Some of the perceived contraventions to the school’s hair policy by black students were as follows: 

  • Having a shape up
  • Sideburns being too pointy
  • Afro too large and distracting
  • Cornrows deemed ‘too authentic’
  • Braids being too chaotic
  • Having a fade
  • Hair being of differing lengths

There were many more infractions that black students were unfairly sanctioned for. However, one of the most heartbreaking things widely recognised among staff and students about the school’s implementation of its behaviour and hair policy was that it was actively conditioning black students to be passive and docile, and reinforcing the construct of white supremacy. 

A member of staff witnessed a conversation between a black student and a white student. The black student [A] complained to his white peer [B] that it was not fair that he [A] had been sanctioned for his hair when his peer [B] had not. The white student’s hair blatantly contravened the school’s hair policy. The white student responded saying, ‘White privilege.’ Students and staff knew that white students would go unpunished for the same infractions as their black peers.

On another occasion, I had a discussion with the head of maths with regards to set changes. I taught the top set of that particular year. I suggested moving a white student down because she had been struggling for some time and had expressed that she was finding the pace difficult to keep up with. The head of maths responded saying that it would be terrible for her social status in the school. Why the social status of the student was even considered underpins the systemic constructs that rob black and BAME students from thriving, particularly when the social status of black and BAME students is not regarded in the slightest.

How this affected my career

As a black teacher, it was extremely traumatising witnessing and being a part of a construct that systemically strips black and BAME students of their creativity, flair and individuality. When I spoke out against the discriminatory practices, I became the subject of excessive scrutiny and a lack of care. 

When my mother passed away, pressure was put on me to return prematurely, and a smear campaign was launched against me to force me out. I was not considered for promotion despite having an excellent performance record. In and amongst other things, I was stripped of my responsibilities, I was not allowed to teach my classes and I was assigned to cover lessons indefinitely, which gave me no option but to resign.

What action am I taking?

I am in the process of taking my previous employer to court for discrimination and constructive dismissal. I have amassed a large amount of evidence to substantiate my claims. Unfortunately, I have been forced to represent myself with no hired legal representative. The main barrier to me hiring this representation is financial. The costs are high (£25,000 to £50,000+); however, I strongly believe that the cost of inaction and allowing these academies to remain unaccountable for systemic discriminatory practices is far higher.

I firmly believe that my case can be a catalyst for reform and that by contributing and sharing, you can also be a part of enacting positive change. No donation is too small. After all as my mother would say, ‘a single drop of water makes a mighty ocean.’

How can you help?

Thank you for taking the time to read my campaign. If you are unable to donate personally, please share it with anyone that you feel would like to be a part of deconstructing systemic racism. Thank you again!

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