When I was at school, I was under the impression that by the time I graduated, or at the very least by the time I left university, I would be a fully-formed, fully-educated human being.
I thought that adults knew everything.
That at school I would learn all the information I could possibly need in life.
And, of course, that all that information would be accurate.
I just assumed that I’d know everything there was to know about history, for example, and be taught it objectively.
It didn’t take me long to realise that, in fact, learning wasn’t just going to stop when I graduated.
There wasn’t suddenly going to come a day when I was officially an adult, and knew everything there was to know.
But it’s only very recently, with the murder of George Floyd and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, that I’ve realised just how many horrendous gaps in my eduction and my historical knowledge there are.
That rather than revisiting the Tudors for the third time and trying to decide whether it was religious fervour or the way Anne Boleyn looked in her gowns that caused Henry VIII to break from the Catholic Church, we should’ve been taking a long, uncomfortable look at a lot of less palatable aspects of the history of the United Kingdom, and the world as a whole.
It was this Tweet the other day that really made me realise that some of that time spent learning about the Gunpowder Plot could’ve been far better spent studying some of these events, which, barring the Indian Rebellion, I’d never even heard of.
And once I googled some of these terms, I disappeared down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and realised that this list could be as long as my arm, and I’d still only be scratching the surface. Many of these events even happened in living memory but haven’t even rippled the surface of public consciousness in the UK.
To a certain extent, we can blame the system for all the things we don’t know. But that’s not an excuse. It doesn’t mean we can throw our hands up in the air, moan about the severely flawed educations we were given, and then do nothing to right that wrong.
The curriculum in the UK needs to be changed drastically for generations to come, but we’re responsible for the life-long process of educating ourselves about the past and present of racial injustice.
As they have for so many, the last few weeks have been a huge wake-up call for me.
A realisation that I wasn’t doing anywhere near enough, and that if I didn’t actively and persistently make the effort to change that, then I’ll only continue to be part of a problem that kills.
Sure, these things were never presented to me as part of my education, but it shouldn’t have to be handed to me on a plate.
It’s my responsibility to find the information I need to know, and not shy away from it when it gets uncomfortable or confronting, which it most certainly will.
I won’t list all the amazing resources I’ve come across, as there are so many people collating lists of all the fantastic materials by black creators that can help us do better, and I’m sure you’ve already got a list of your own to work through.
This is a marathon, not a sprint, but I’ve begun this process with the beautifully produced podcast 1619 and the audiobooks of I Am Not Your Baby Mother and Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race (which I’d bought months ago and only got halfway through, to my shame). All incredible, revelatory, important and highly recommended.
Wherever you personally choose to start, just make sure you do. And once you’ve started, never stop.
May we never stop learning.