Asian pupils strike out in The School That Tried To End Racism

Asian pupils are segregated into a third focus group in The School That Tried To End Racism as they admit to feeling ‘lumped together and not noticed’ as the focus remains on black issues

  • Pupils from South and East Asian backgrounds are seen being separated into a third focus group on the second episode of The School That Tried To End Racism
  • Year 7 pupil Miyu admits to feeling ‘lumped together, not noticed and left out’
  • Students at Glenthorne High School in South London were separated into ‘affinity groups’ of white and non-white students to discuss race and ethnicity during a three-week experiment in Channel 4’s new documentary
  • Miyu, 11, points out that non-black ethnic minorities are often classed as ‘other’, despite facing different stereotypes and issues when BAME historical and current issues are discussed

Pupils from South and East Asian backgrounds are seen being separated into a third focus group during an experiment on the second episode of The School That Tried To End Racism, after admitting to feeling ‘lumped together and left out’.

Pupils in Year 7 at Glenthorne High School in South London were separated into ‘affinity groups’ of white and non-white students to discuss race and ethnicity during a three-week experiment in Channel 4’s new documentary The School That Tried to End Racism.

However after student Miyu, 11, points out that non-black ethnic minorities are often classed as ‘other’, despite facing different stereotypes and issues when BAME historical and current issues are discussed, a third group is created.

Admitting she ‘doesn’t feel noticed’, Miyu says: ‘When the UK talks about racism they talk about black people being the victims – which they were – their history is really sad. We’re left out as Asians, even though we do get criticism.’

On the second episode of The School That Tried To End Racism, student Miyu, 11, points out that non-black ethnic minorities are often classed as ‘other’, despite facing different stereotypes and issues when BAME historical and current issues were being discussed

Hinting at the ethnic group’s own history of colonisation, she adds: ‘We aren’t noticed.’

She is then seen speaking to other Asian pupils at the school, one of whom is wearing a headscarf, where they agree: ‘It’s not like white people have the same problems and then Asian and African people have the same problems – they’re not the same race.’

Later on Miyu remembers being teased as ‘Chinese’ for the way she looks, and admits going home to her mother and ‘crying about her physical appearance’. 

Elsewhere religious tensions are highlighted, when Muslim pupil Simran admits to being just nine years old when she felt she had to remove her headscarf before entering her school, as she was afraid of being judged. 

Speaking in the group later, the students admit many of the things discussed regarding African issue in the larger BAME group didn’t apply to them, and they faced many other issues.

She is then seen speaking to other Asian pupils at the school, one of whom is wearing a headscarf, where they agree: ‘It’s not like white people have the same problems and then Asian and African people have the same problems – they’re not the same race.’ 

In episode 1, viewers of The School that Tried to End Racism were left in tears after an 11-year-old boy broke down and fled the classroom as he tried to talk about white privilege with his classmates.

Henry, 11, became emotional after being separated from his non-white friends during the first session and, upon being asked to share what he had learnt with the class, broke down in tears and fled the room.

Many of those watching the programme were left in tears over the scene, with one commenting: ‘Henry is an absolute gem, I’m tearing up seeing how upset he gets that he was put in a group based on his race.’

Many of those watching the programme were left in tears over the scene, with one commenting: ‘Henry is an absolute gem, I’m tearing up seeing how upset he gets that he was put in a group based on his race.’

Viewers were left in tears after watching Henry, 11, break down and flee the classroom during Channel 4’s The School That Tried to End Racism yesterday

One commented the sobbing emoji, writing: ‘Omg this ginger boy running out crying when he was grouped with the other white people.’ 

Another wrote: ‘Yep, already cried. 11-year-olds should not have to feel worried about their race and how that will impact their life.’ 

Another added: ‘Watching Henry cry is very emotional.’  

A fourth commented: ‘These kids are amazing. Henry could teach so many adults a lot of things.’

Viewers praised Henry online for his attitude towards race, with many saying the emotional moment had left them sobbing

The class of 11-year-olds in their first year at secondary school volunteered to take part in the three-week programme, aimed at reducing unconscious bias, at the school which has a nearly 50/50 make-up of white and non-white pupils.

The scheme separated children by race into affinity groups, to allow them to have conversations and discussions about race. 

Teachers were trained to run the affinity groups, with Dr Nicola Rollock, an academic who works on race relations, and Professor Rhiannon Turner, joining the school throughout the experiment to observe how the children behaved. 

Dr Nicola explained: ‘The approach to race in this country has been one of colour blindness. We pretend we don’t see race. That approach isn’t working. 

The class of 11-year-olds in their first year at secondary school volunteered to take part in the three-week programme, aimed at reducing unconscious bias, at the school which has a nearly 50/50 make-up of white and non-white pupils.

The scheme separated children by race into affinity groups, to allow them to have conversations and discussions about race.

Teachers were trained to run the affinity groups, with Dr Nicola Rollock, an academic who works on race relations, and Professor Rhiannon Turner, joining the school throughout the experiment to observe how the children behaved.

The first task was a game built by a group of professors at Harvard University, which is now widely accepted as a benchmark for measuring unconscious bias.

After it emerged that 18 out of 24 pupils had an unconscious bias towards white people, Henry revealed to his friend that he ‘felt bad’ about the test 

During the test, students were shown pictures of black faces and white faces with a list of positive and negative words. 

They were told to associate the negative words with black faces and positive words with white faces, and were timed to see how quickly they did it.  

How does the experiment work?  

Inspired by similar experiments by Mariama Richards in the US, for three weeks, 24 Year 7 students, aged 11 and 12 and from diverse ethnic backgrounds, were given a programme of classes to explore their racial heritage and issues around ethnicity.  

The groups were segregated into a white and non-white group for one session a week, for three weeks, and encouraged to discuss race and ethnicity.  

The hope is that by separating children by race, they are able to be more frank and honest about their experiences, without fear of offending or feeling uncomfortable. 

The groups then come back together to discuss all that they have learned. 

The goal of the experiment is to encourage a more honest discussion about race, with the aim that it will break down barriers and increase mutual understanding. 

The aim is that intervening at an early stage can help to change children’s attitudes before they become crystalised with adulthood.

Halfway through, the test changed to match negative words with white faces and positive words with black faces.

After the test, Mr Grant asked the children to tell him their thoughts, with one student called Henry explaining: ‘Personally, I don’t think that there was too much of a problem. People overthink it. 

He added: ‘I don’t think much about race. It’s just not normally something I discuss.’ 

Professor Rhiannon explained: ‘Research shows for 11-year-olds, making friends from different racial groups is easier.

‘But as children get older, there is a process of self segregation where children split off into different racial groups on the basis of their ethnicity. 

‘Intervening at this age if crucial if we are to target and change children’s attitudes before they become crystallised with adulthood.’

After a break, the teacher explained that the results showed there was an unconscious bias, with the majority of the class showing the bias towards white people by completing the task of associating positive words with them more quickly.

Eighteen out of the 24 pupils showed a significant preference towards white people, with two showing a black preference and four showing no bias at all. 

Dr Rhiannon explained: ‘We are exposed at an early age to white people in positions of power, white heroes and heroines. 

‘All of these influences tell us that white people are better than black and ethnic minority people in society.’

Speaking at the water fountain with his friend Bright, Henry admitted: ‘I know they say not to feel bad about it, but you still feel bad about it because you know you’ve done something wrong.’ 

The School That Tried To End Racism airs Thursday at 9pm on Channel 4. 

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