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Racism: Why we should be 'colour blind'

To teach the meaning of racism and challenge the grounds behind such a mindset.

by Vicky Scott

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To teach the meaning of racism and challenge the grounds behind such a mindset.

Preparation and materials

  • Buy a self-tanning towel (about £1 from most chemists) and also bring some sort of cleaning cloth to remove unwanted tan after the experiment. (Although you apply the towel at the beginning of the assembly, it takes a few moments to work, so keep an eye on that arm!).

Assembly

  1. Ask if anyone has been on holiday to a hot place. Ask them whether they got a tan. Ask if anyone in the room has used a tanning product of some sort before. Then get one willing student to come to the front and apply the tanning towel to the back of their hand or their forearm. The tan will take some time to develop, but there should be some change in colour.

    Ask the other students what they notice is different. Point out that even though a person’s skin colour may alter in the sun, or after using tanning products, that the person is exactly the same. Try to highlight how daft it is to treat a person differently simply because they appear different. Just think how strange it would be to alienate someone just because they had returned from their holiday with a tan!
  2. Racial discrimination can be applied to various aspects of life. The most commonly reported form of racism today concerns either the colour of someone’s skin or their religious belief.
  3. Racism is not new. It is apparent from the earliest records in history that particular groups of people have been discriminated against, oppressed and subsequently pushed to the fringes of society. In 1086 over 10 per cent of England’s population were slaves. And between the 16th and 19th centuries well over 1 million Europeans were sold as slaves, captured from their homes by pirates who came from North Africa, called Barbary Corsairs.

    Wars have been fought because of strongly held racist beliefs. For example, Adolf Hitler hated the Jews, gypsies and people with dark skin and eyes. This man’s racist views led him to murder millions of innocent people.
  4. The slave trade was abolished in Britain in 1807. Just two years ago we celebrated the 200th anniversary of that abolition. William Wilberforce (1759–1833), a politician, has been attributed the credit for this radically transforming work. Sadly it took the Americans another 61 years before they prevented the use of existing slaves, as well as the importation of new ones.
  5. Despite the abolition of slavery in the 19th century and the subsequent freedom of many dark-skinned people who had been forced to work on sugar plantations in the Caribbean and USA, segregation between those with light and darker skin has remained an issue for many decades, with dark-skinned people continuing to be treated by some as second-class citizens. In the USA up until the 1960s, dark-skinned people were assigned alternative seating in restaurants, different seats on buses and separate schools. Civil rights pioneers like Martin Luther King Jr and the President of the time John F. Kennedy challenged such thinking and helped to change what white society saw as acceptable attitudes towards people with different coloured skin.
  6. Human skin colour is determined by the amount and type of melanin pigment in the skin. The variation of skin colour is largely due to genetics. Dark skin is better able to protect against ultraviolet light and thus many people who live in tropical regions of the world have dark skins. It is their skin colour that enables them to be more productive in their day-to-day life. Their bodies are better prepared to naturally cope with more extreme weather conditions.

    However, apart from the variation of pigment in their skin, every human is structurally identical. Therefore, whether a person has light or dark skin, we stand on an equal footing. We all deserve to be treated respectfully as human beings, no matter what the colour of our skin.
  7. Likewise, whether someone chooses to put their faith in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, or simply look to themselves for guidance in life, does not mean that they deserve to be treated with any less respect. It has been a mistake down the generations that somehow difference is wrong and deserves to be criticized or discriminated against. Racism quite simply could be defined as an inflated egotism – somehow one person’s particular shade of skin or religious belief is far superior to anyone else’s and therefore gives them the right to persecute anyone who thinks differently. This type of behaviour shows arrogance and ignorance, not intelligence.
  8. It may be that some of you have heard negative comments about people from different racial backgrounds or faiths as you have grown up, and without realizing it you have adopted those views as your own. If that is the case, then perhaps you should question why you believe such things. Can you really look down upon a fellow human simply because they have darker or lighter skin than you do? Imagine what the world would be like if everyone had racist views. I think you would soon see how sad a place it would be. We need to strive to promote unity, not fuel division!
  9. The New Testament in the Bible introduces a new concept to society: that all are equal (one) in God’s sight. People no longer had to belong to a certain group or act in a particular way to earn God’s love, but God saw everyone as equal (Galatians 3.28).

Time for reflection

‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3.28)

Even though most of us wouldn’t see ourselves as racist, we can still find our society making unspoken distinctions between peoples and cultures, faiths and beliefs. Racists have an ‘us and them’ way of thinking. Have you ever discounted others, thinking that they have nothing to contribute to society?

In this Bible verse, Paul points out that for Christians, the worldly classifications no longer apply because Jesus Christ makes us ‘one’. We are all on the same level, there is grace for everybody; whoever you are, no matter what you’ve done.

God the Father in heaven loves you more than you can imagine and that’s enough! God will never show you more favour because you are wealthy, because you are well behaved or because you are from a particular nationality.

God doesn’t care about differences in skin colour or race. We are now brothers and sisters and we should treat each other with the same honour and respect. The wealthy business executive, the homeless person, sporting celebrities such as David Beckham or Lewis Hamilton, the school dinner lady, and the Prime Minister – all have the same access to the Father’s love and salvation.

Prayer

Lord, help us to see each person we meet today with your eyes.

Help us to be ‘colour blind’, treating people who are different from us with respect.

Amen.

Music

‘Black or White’ by Michael Jackson

‘Ebony and Ivory’ by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder

Publication date: July 2009   (Vol.11 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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