Members of the Barnsley Council-led anti-racist reading group reflect on their experiences of being part of the group. 

OK, so, uh, what has been your learning as part of the anti racism reading group? Oh, I think, um, no, it's made a really big impact on me, actually through lockdown. Um, I think, um, I've always thought of myself as an anti racist person. Um, but I think, um, So being part of the group and and learning through the book we've been reading has just really made me reflect on kind of all of the different elements to structural racism that exists in society that I wasn't even aware of. So, for example, you know how the education system, um, and justice as well as employment practises have those kind of ingrained prejudices built in against against black people and people of colour applying for jobs and, you know, stuff that historically existed

And then the way history is taught in schools all has a really fundamental impact on both individuals and society. Yeah, so So I guess it's kind of maybe made you, um, look back on your own thinking or reflect on your own thinking that you had before. Absolutely

Yeah. And and just things like, you know, reflect back on my own experience of education when there was virtually no black kids in my school and we didn't really learn any black history apart from a little tiny bit about, um, the slave trade and civil rights movement in America. So it's kind of that wider if I didn't have that wider context, and now I'm trying to learn it

It it just makes you realise that most people don't have that wider if they're white. Um, so I think it's just been it's just been really useful thinking about that and then reflect maybe what might have been underlying ingrain prejudices both within yourself or within society that you might not have realised. I think, um, one of the really great things has been learning a bit more about kind of intersectionality

So about that interplay between the race and also class and and, um, kind of gender issues and feminism as well. So I've always thought of myself as a feminist and kind of been really inspired by the women of the kind of first generation wave of feminism, Um, and kind of reading a few of the books through this both lodge, um and then also the the kind of picture book. Um, by Bernardine Everist

Um, girl, woman other has just made me think about how kind of white a lot of the voices were certainly in this country in that movement and that, um, you know, maybe the movement did it unintentionally. Mostly, I think unintentionally but at times intentionally black people from that movement, and that was really kind of a positive thought and similarly kind of looking at race. And it's been really interesting to see how, um the the the the that, uh, you know how important those two work together

But how kind of politicians have used, like, language like work white working class is a trope to try and divide and rule, um, and and kind of stop with the working class, both black and white, from working together, um, and and kind of plain to be sticking up for white working class people. And in actual fact, um, you know it. It's just kind of rhetoric to use to kind of not improve things, um, for the benefit of kind of creating greater equality within society and improving everyone's lifetimes

So, um, yeah, I think it's been really interesting. I think, um, it's really reinforced for me the importance of trying to more actively, um, address and tackle racism through our programme. Um, and just kind of raise awareness of black history as well

So it it kind of made me think a bit more about how we can do that for fancy museums. Um, I think as well One of the really great things about the group is that it introduced me and us to other people within, um Barnsley who are working on on similar things and exploring anti-racism and and and trying to be good allies themselves as well. So colleagues from within the council and the equalities team within, um, other organisations The Theatre Civic, um, and teaching that Northern College

So it's been really good how, you know, a lot of us have perspectives and are working towards similar things. So hopefully kind of by work, we'll be able to come up with ways that we can be stronger and think about how anti-racism initiatives work across Barnsley. Fantastic

Yeah, I think I I guess just one other thing that I would add is, um, personally for me. I found it really helpful The when you feel so powerless in the face of the current situation, with lockdown, with not being able to go out and see people and do things, not meeting a lot of the audiences that we would usually interact with at work. Being part of the group has felt like we we are doing something by using the the time to kind of productively to kind of educate ourselves and, you know, reflect on our own thinking and then make plans for the future

It it's been kind of that's been something that's kind of helped my well being as well as you know, thinking about Yeah, because I can think more positive. I don't feel as useless. I think, um, I feel like, you know, just, I guess, humbled by everything that I've read

And it makes me want to kind of try and educate myself more and think about how I can be a better ally by kind of reading more about race and, uh, intersectional issues and and kind of thinking about how I can continue to kind of listen and learn. I guess those three points, Yeah, I completely agree with all of that real.

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