What's in a Name, Austin? Our Names Signify the Ambition Our Parents Have For Us

The naming of your child is such a memorable event that you can relay this precious story time and time again. Wrapped up in the final decision would have been years of history and an ambition for your child that often only we as parents know.

We wanted to name our child - Rachel, if it was a girl and John Paul - a combination of my name and my husband's name - just before the birth. Then it all changed. We wanted him, if it was a him, this is prior to the accuracy of scans, to have his own name, his own identity and not one tied to us, as he was already a part of us.

Being a parent is hard, a joy, but hard and anyone will tell you, including Scott Peck in A Road Less Travelled, your role as a parent is to shoot them like arrows into the world with all the tools for a healthy survival. If they have no disabilities, additional needs or mental health concerns, they should be able to live this healthy life independent of you, but holding onto the values and the general ambitions you have bestowed onto them. Of course they will return, and if you are lucky, with offspring, and then the rules of the game are very different, with a lot more wins and told you so smiles.

So we pondered for the next few months on what to call this precious bundle who we believed would set the world on fire. Setting the world on fire would require a unique name, one filled with reverence. We looked at several naming books and each time a name was called out it was vetoed. Such was the importance of getting this decision right that it took until October, the due month of his birth, for us to make a final decision, so that when I sat on that bed, that birthing bed, that seemed far too small to wriggle all over when I was giving birth, this baby would be born with an immediate identity and ambition.

So we started at the beginning of the book. The book in alphabetical order and this is how the conversation went, I remember it even 36 years later... Ok this baby is going to be special, full of reverence, full of light and hope. He or she, and I think it is a he, is going to grow up and set the world on fire. They are going to travel, be independent, be progressive, be my teacher, be a gift to the world. He needs a special name to take into that world, so people will remember him. When that name jumps out, I say to my husband, say you like it. Aaron, Adam and Ashley were vetoed for being too popular at the time. Andrew, Anthony and Alexander were struck off because they could be shortened and we wanted him to own his whole name always. Hated Adrian, I grew up knowing an Adrian. Archer and Aston I liked, but John didn't. Then we came to Austin, you can see how far down the alphabetical list we went. We loved it. We loved it. Austin was chosen. The only Austins I knew, and I had only encountered one or two in my life, were good honest people. It was a rare name, a name that would hold you and make you think. For me it was a name that was indeed unique and had ambition. A name that held meaning, reverence and above all love. It was a name good enough for our boy. He was to be called Austin. We, and I believe he, haven't looked back since. The name suits him; he has worn it, made it fit him, like a hero's cloak. What's in a name, Austin?

The name your parents afford you doesn't define totally who you are, but it does start your journey into who you define yourself to be as Austin Channing Brown testifies.

Augustus is a masculine given name derived from Augustus, meaning "majestic," "the increaser," or "venerable". Many of its descended forms are August, Augusto, Austin, Agustin and Augustine. The Greek translation of the title Augustus was Sebastos, from which the name Sebastian descends.The name Austin is of English origin and means "great. magnificent". It's the medieval contracted form of Augustine. Austin name meanings is Exalted. From the Hebrew name הֶבֶל (Hevel) meaning "breath".

A Story

I was living in the US, Austin was 19 and was living in Bath, UK. I was in a large department store and I heard someone calling 'Austin Austin!' Austin, is he here? I thought. He can't be. Hearing someone call Austin in the UK is very rare. Hearing someone call Austin in the US, which was at the time the 14th most common name, therefore was quite common.

Imprisoned by a System - LOSING NINETEEN

JudgeLynn.com » Losing 19

https://www.instagram.com/tv/B78yDG2pPyJ/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link 

I wrote this while I was a judge in Cleveland Heights:  One of my Fans on Facebook asked to see it.  So here it is:

LOSING NINETEEN

BY JUDGE LYNN C.  TOLER

I lost Nineteen again today.  Abandoning himself to that wasteland we offhandedly call ‘the system’, he just walked away – casually  – like it was no big deal.  Some claim I shouldn’t say I lost him, though, considering what I do.  While I am a Black woman, I am also the person appointed to balance the books, which means, that, on this particular day, I am the one sending Nineteen to jail.

I am a judge in an inner-ring suburb, a place where middle-class stability stands in the shadow of urban distractions.  Here, Black, male and Nineteen is required to face the same dilemma every day; “Do I work and wait like momma said, or join the party down the street?”  Forced to choose before the calm sets in, Nineteen picks the wrong one.  Next thing you know, he’s standing before me, wondering what all the fuss is about.

It’s important to know that I am a municipal judge. Handling minor matters, I deal with assault, drug possession and carrying a concealed weapon charges.  Unfortunately, the size of the cases I see occasionally confuses Nineteen.  He views his mistake as a little thing that doesn’t warrant much concern.  I, on the other hand, see it as a small down payment on an incredible cultural cost.  “What’s with making me look for a job?” he asks.  “Why do I have to go back to school in order to stay out of jail?”  I’m fighting to keep the boy from becoming a statistic, and he doesn’t even care. So I plead, not for Nineteen to obey the law, but for him to do right by me.

“You owe every Black woman who cares for you an obligation you won’t be able to repay if you’re working off some ill-gotten debt to a society you don’t owe,’ I tell him. Some listen.  Most don’t.  My successes are few; I decide to give up at least once a week.  But I keep pressing because I don’t want to leave stranded the few I do manage to help. Those wins notwithstanding, my frustrations remain.

Just yesterday, one asked me to stop bothering him.  “You’re not my mother,” he said. “Why are you messing with me?  Just let me do my time.” Lots of them, in fact, ask me to leave them alone.  They tell me, “It ain’t no thing.”  But, more often than not, the phrase that I hear is the chilling “I can jail.”

Of course, I know I only see the problems.  Nineteen represents himself, well, in large numbers everywhere.  I have seven I claim outright, you know – not currently Nineteen – but Black and male.  One I married; four came with him, and two I produced on my own.  The older ones have already been Nineteen.  They’ve had their troubles, but they’re all okay now.  The ones I made myself, however, are still young; they have a lot to learn.

Living well in a world that does not always see your clearly is a difficult thing to do.  My boys must be able to ignore those who ridicule their efforts to do well in school while remaining strong even among those who find that strength intimidating.  Tough lessons, these, but they must learn them if they are going to do Nineteen the right way.  I don’t want them standing before some judge who may see them as a statistic.  If they mess around and get before the wrong guy, then where will they be?

Jail, of course, is the answer to that question.  The very same place that I wound up sending Nineteen today.  Frustrated because I can’t fix the world, and Nineteen won’t let me help him live better in it, I

shake my head, but must move on.  I have thirty more cases to hear.

“To jail or not to jail?” that is the question.  How hard am I supposed to try without his help? Doesn’t he see how so much of the harm he causes lands right in some sister’s lap? That is why I told Nineteen he owed me. “Consider the sisters in your life,” I say.  “It isn’t always about you”.  Then I remind him that, whether or not he understands it, when you jail, we do to.

‘Culture War’ in Education Report - The Guardian

Conservative-dominated committee says schools could be breaking the law by promoting terms such as ‘white privilege’

White working-class pupils have been let down by decades of neglect in the English education system, according to a controversial MPs’ report which says schools could be breaking the law by promoting “divisive” terminology such as “white privilege”.

MPs on the Conservative-dominated Commons education committee examined why poor white children underperform compared with other disadvantaged groups, and rejected the government’s view that poverty is solely to blame.

Their report, published on Tuesday, claims that “an industry” has emerged to support disadvantaged non-white pupils but the same is not available to white pupils on free school meals, who underperform at every level of the education system from early years through to higher education.

The MPs say terms such as white privilege – defined as white people benefiting from particular advantages in society – may have contributed towards systemic neglect of white disadvantaged communities. They accuse the government of muddled thinking and sweeping the problem under the carpet.

The report faced immediate opposition, including from among the committee’s own members. Kim Johnson, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside and a member of the committee, said she disowned the report and had submitted her own alternative version, which was voted down by the Tory majority.

“I’m not happy with quite a lot of information contained in it,” she told the Guardian. “I’m not happy about the whole section on white privilege. The inquiry cherrypicked data. I think they were trying to create a bit of a culture war.”

Asked whether she had considered resigning from the committee, she said it had crossed her mind but she wanted to improve educational attainment for all working-class children in disadvantaged communities, adding: “You have to be in it to win it.”

Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the committee, said that the concept of “white privilege” would feel alien to many children. “We … desperately need to move away from dealing with racial disparity by using divisive concepts like white privilege that pits one group against another. Disadvantaged white children feel anything but privileged when it comes to education,” he said.

“Privilege is the very opposite to what disadvantaged white children enjoy or benefit from in an education system which is now leaving far too many behind.”

The report, called “The Forgotten: How White Working-class Pupils Have Been Let Down, and How to Change It”, highlights that in 2018-19, 53% of disadvantaged white British pupils – those eligible for free school meals – met the expected standard of development at the end of the early years foundation stage, one of the lowest proportions of any disadvantaged ethnic group.

At GCSE, meanwhile, 17.7% of disadvantaged white British pupils achieved grade 5 or above in English and maths, compared with 22.5% of all pupils eligible for free school meals. White working-class pupils are also the least likely group to go into higher education of any ethnic group other than traveller of Irish heritage and Gypsies/Roma.

As well as terminology like white privilege, the report identified persistent multigenerational disadvantage, regional underinvestment, family experience of education and disengagement from the curriculum as factors which may combine to put white-working class pupils at a disadvantage.

Halfon accused ministers of failing to recognise the problem. “If the government is serious about closing the overall attainment gap, then the problems faced by the biggest group of disadvantaged pupils can no longer be swept under the carpet,” he said.

“Never again should we lazily put the gap down to poverty alone, given that we know free school meal eligible pupils from other ethnic groups consistently outperform their white British peers.”

He added: “For decades now white working-class pupils have been let down and neglected by an education system that condemns them to falling behind their peers every step of the way.

“White working-class pupils underperform significantly compared to other ethnic groups, but there has been muddled thinking from all governments and a lack of attention and care to help these disadvantaged white pupils in towns across our country.”

Maurice Mcleod, chief executive of the thinktank Race on the Agenda, rejected the report’s conclusions. “Today’s education committee report is just the latest government salvo in the culture war it seems hellbent on stoking,” he said.

“Instead of honestly accepting that children from all backgrounds have been badly let down by decades of neglect, this report attempts to create unhelpful divides between children based on their race.”

Published in the wake of the widely criticised Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, the education committee report also urged schools to consider whether the promotion of politically controversial terminology, including white privilege, is consistent with their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

“The Department [for Education] should take steps to ensure that young people are not inadvertently being inducted into political movements when what is required is balanced, age-appropriate discussion and a curriculum that equips young people to thrive in diverse and multicultural communities throughout their lives and work.”

Last year Kemi Badenoch, the women and equalities minister, warned that schools that teach pupils that white privilege is an uncontested fact are breaking the law.

The MPs made a series of recommendations to government in the new report, including finding “a better way to talk about racial disparities” to avoid pitting different groups against each other. It also recommended the introduction of a strong network of family hubs across the country to encourage parental engagement and mitigate the effects of multi-generational disadvantage.

The report also suggested funding should be tailor-made at local level, with initiatives to focus on attracting good teachers to challenging areas, and promotion of vocational and apprenticeship opportunities.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, questioned why the committee had chosen to enter the debate about the term white privilege.

“This does not seem helpful and is likely to divert attention from the rest of the report,” he said. “We have to do better for all disadvantaged pupils – from all ethnic backgrounds … Many communities suffer from multigenerational poverty, insecure employment and lack of opportunity, and it is extremely hard to raise attainment when children and families experience such factors.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This government is focused on levelling up opportunity so that no young person is left behind.

“That’s why we are providing the biggest uplift to school funding in a decade – £14bn over three years – investing in early years education and targeting our ambitious recovery funding, worth £3bn to date, to support disadvantaged pupils aged two to 19 with their attainment.

“The pupil premium is expected to increase to more than £2.5bn this year, through which schools can support pupils with extra teaching, academic support or activities like breakfast clubs or educational trips. Alongside this we are investing in family hubs, transforming technical education and strengthening teacher training in areas that need it most, including our opportunity areas, so that every pupil can go to an excellent school.”

Bigotry is Rare

I think many think it is. My experiences are different to white people. Once we can acknowledge this, then we can be in a position to honestly consider and discuss why.  I remain cognisant that I continue to learn too, I do not have all the answers. I aim to get it right, not be right. I am here to listen and discuss, but I so rarely get the opportunity to do this with people who have different experiences to me.

A friend recently mentioned, a black in a position of authority in a local government office, with 95%+ white workers, said it so well, the noise around trying to be or understand antiracist is silent. 

The work of antiracism, is about becoming a better person to other people. When we understand this, and can begin to accept the uncomfortable feelings that either party may feel, then the work can begin. But when the opportunity arises to discuss racism, particularly the reality and the impact of structural racism, it seems that someone is the problem, and more often than not, society suggests that problem is me.

The burden of leading and defending my position on racism and the hope for a better world for all, lies with me. 'I am not racist.' I hear often, less so now, but I still hear it. I have also written about how it is not for you to decide if you are racist, just as it is not for me to decide if I am kind, others will make their own decision. I will try not be be unkind and others will try to be antiracist, but the description of yourself is not owned by you but by others because of the actions that you do.  I have previously written about cognitive dissonance, a set of behaviours that allows people to protect their ego and prevent the conversation to reach the apex of change. With cognitive dissonance in tow, nothing changes and we continue to listen to our voice while our own ego gives us a wry smile. 

Brene Brown often discusses ego, as does the well known author, Eckhart Tolle. Brene says the ego is not our friend and makes us worse people as we seek to protect ourselves and our beliefs, values and behaviours. Some are worth protecting, but wanting to protect a stance on racism or a stance that denies structural racism exists prevents change and keeps people in chains and tears.

This goes for blacks and browns too. Just because they may not have experienced a level of racism that others have, it is wrong to deny racism exists or the extent to which it may exist for them. As someone who pushes boundaries and sits round tables mainly whites sit at, I know racism exists. When I didn't push boundaries and sat around tables many white  and a few black or brown people sat around I too could have denied experiences of racism, but as I tried to climb on the steps of my ambition, I was constantly pushed back down and I could no longer deny racism existed at those tables or on those steps.  One reason why I travel extensively is because I want to see it and feel it for myself. Confuscius 'I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.' I want to understand how to be a better person. I really do. I can and will never deny that the majority of people I encounter are wonderful, helpful, kind, promote social injustice and equity, but there are those out there who do not understand and do not want to understand and it is to those that I want to talk with, to better understand. Because I currently do not understand why. 

Trying to reach for the same heights your white peers and aiming for the same golden apple, but being repeatedly denied the helping hand and worse, feeling that you have been spat at, stamped on and laughed at, only seeks to remind you that structural racism exists. Structural racism is full of shame, hatred and a drive to protect the legacy of white supremacy and privilege and equity is nowhere in sight.

Remember fighting for equality for women a few decades ago?  While women were trying to reach for the same heights as their male peers and aiming for the same golden apple, but being repeatedly denied the helping hand and worse, feeling that they had been spat at, stamped on and laughed at, only sought to remind them that  the patriarchy existed. If women displayed behaviours such as assertiveness, confidence, competiveness and ambition in the work place or in the gym or in the pub or in the sparring ring, traditionally male dominated spaces, they were labelled aggressive or trouble making or nasty or belligerent, yet if a man displayed those behaviours, that was natural and acceptable! I used to do Tae Kwon Do and was often labelled aggressive. I would like to share a conversation with others on how women can win fighting championships and remain non-competitive and reserved, and even discuss should they? 

The work behind becoming a better person is hard. Entering into those lessons voluntarily often throws us in the midst of owning our embarrassment, our ignorance, our shame and our lack of intelligence. Our ego will do anything to help us protect ourselves from those feelings. It protects us from feeling pain like we have never known before. Why do we want to enter onto a journey where we cry rivers of guilt, shame, pity and anger. Why? Because without this journey we continue to hide behide our doors of shame and ignorance.

As humans we are designed to connect. Mental health issues have been on the rise recently during the pandemic as many have felt isolated, disconnected and undervalued. So let's connect and begin to recognise the importance and the need to dismantle structural racism. Let's start by talking. I will be there to listen and I will try to be a better person. 

Alan Shearer and Ian Wright Discuss Life, Loves and the Challenges of Both

Ian Wright and His Daily Encounter With Racism

Common - Be - Music Video

The Term Racist Should Only be Attached to Deranged, Mean-Spirited Bad People. Yes??

Tackling Racism is About More Than Curriculum

Tackling racism is about more than curriculum (schoolsweek.co.uk)

Education is key to tackling racism, says Jeffery Quaye. But what obstacles have school leaders and teachers had to overcome when it comes to race and what does the future hold?

The senseless and horrific killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has ignited a global discussion about racism and the need for change. It has also brought into sharp focus the traumatic prejudice I and other black people in this country have experienced.

The killing and protests dominate the political arena. Boris Johnson has said that ‘‘racism and racist violence have no place in our society’’. But it should not take an unlawful public execution to stun the consciousness of the British people.

Sajid Javid, the former chancellor, has called for the government to set ‘’a new ambition for breaking down’’ racial barriers. Meanwhile, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has been forced to defend the diversity of the government after critics pointed out that there are no black members of the Cabinet. He also claimed the UK is not a racist country, yet black people in British society continue to experience racism.

As a black teacher and leader in education, I see the transformational power of education to eradicate racism in our society. Huge strides have been made over the past two decades to tackle institutional and structural racism within education and to promote diversity and inclusion. Schools have championed this work with a focus on educating pupils about multicultural Britain. The introduction of British values has raised the expectations for mutual respect and schools are tackling racism when it manifests in pupil behaviour.

However, there are still disparities in the experience of black teachers that we need to have honest conversations about. I have faced obstacles because of my race since I started teaching in 2003. At Aspirations Academies Trust, race is not a barrier to development and career progression, but elsewhere others appear to have wanted to make teaching difficult for me. From being given incredibly challenging classes to lack of leadership support, my awareness of the covert racism people of BAME background face in schools has been sharpened over the years.

As a classroom teacher I encountered many situations in which white colleagues were not performing at the required standards,  but schools leaders did not raise any concerns. However, the expectations set for my work remained high, even when the conditions did not enable me to reach such goals. I experienced a deafening silence among white colleagues when black staff were treated unfairly by their leaders.

I found my leadership role in one school to be lonely – and one where I felt pressure to work ten times harder to be recognised. We still have a disproportionately low number of school leaders from a BAME background because education does not always actively encourage and promote black leaders into senior management. Consequently, the senior leadership can be entirely white in a school that serves predominantly black pupils.

The dominant worldview is that black leaders are not up to the role of leadership or not of equal value as their white colleagues. This can create spaces where minority ethnic teachers feel uncomfortable in their job.

While we are inspiring the next generation and raising the aspirations of all pupils, black teachers and education leaders experience an institutional racism that manifests in many subtle forms, such as schools not providing the same level of recognition or opportunities to black teachers and negative perceptions of black colleagues going unchallenged. To tackle that structural racism, teachers need to be educated about unconscious bias, and internalised negative views of black people need to be challenged with an alternative worldview.

It can be done. The working model Aspirations uses gives black teachers equal value through a collegial working environment. Steve and Paula Kenning, the trust’s chief executives, ensure all teachers and staff are made to feel equal and valued and black staff have good representation in decision-making processes.

Education should be an equaliser of all men and women, regardless of race. But eradicating racism can’t simply be the work of curriculum. It is about changing our practices too.

Disparities in the Education of Black Children Remain Decades On

The black children wrongly sent to 'special' schools in the 1970s - BBC News 

In 1971, a book called "How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School System", proved instrumental in shifting the opinion of black parents. The author, Grenadan writer and teacher Bernard Coard, taught in an ESN school and had noticed the high number of Caribbean children there. When a group of concerned parents asked him to look into the issue, he wrote the book in record time.

He argued that ESN schools were being used by the education authorities as a "dumping ground" for black children, and that teachers were mistaking the trauma caused by immigration for a lack of intelligence.

Bernard Coard's seminal work led to positive action, and a sharp rise in black supplementary schools. These were Saturday schools set up by black parents with the aim of raising the educational attainment of black children. They would teach curriculum subjects alongside black history, to raise the self-esteem of children, to help them gain qualifications and prepare them for employment.

Following years of pressure and campaigning, the 1981 Education Act enshrined inclusivity in law and the term "educationally subnormal" was abolished as a defining category.

A government enquiry into the education of children from ethnic minority groups published in 1985 found that the low average IQ scores of West Indian children were not a significant factor in their low academic performance. Instead, racial prejudice in society at large was found to play a crucial role in their academic underachievement.

Despite significant progress since then, disparities in the education of black children remain. "The concerns we used to have about ESN are still very much with us now in terms of the number of black children being put into pupil referral units," says Gus John.

Pupil referral units were set up in 1993 to teach children excluded from mainstream school. But black pupils are disproportionately hit with fixed-term exclusions in England - by three times as many in some places.

As Prof Gus John considers the long-term impact of ESN schools, his biggest regret is that "a whole generation were dissuaded from dreaming big".

Blacks Labelled as Educationally Subnormal in the 60s and 70s - its legacy thrives today

In 1960s and 70s Britain, hundreds of black children were labelled as "educationally subnormal", and wrongly sent to schools for pupils who were deemed to have low intelligence. For the first time, some former pupils have spoken about their experiences for a new BBC documentary.

In the 1970s, at the age of six, Noel Gordon was sent to what was known at the time as an "educationally subnormal" (ESN) boarding school, 15 miles (24km) from his home. 

"That school was hell," says Noel. "I spent 10 years there, and when I left at 16, I couldn't even get a job because I couldn't spell or fill out a job application."

About a year before joining the ESN school, Noel had been admitted to hospital to have a tooth removed. He was given an anaesthetic, but it transpired that Noel had undiagnosed sickle cell anaemia, and the anaesthetic triggered a serious reaction. 

Noel says the resulting health issues led to him being perceived as having learning disabilities and being recommended for a "special school". Yet no evidence or explanation of his disability was ever given to him or his parents. 

"Someone came and said they'd found "a special boarding school with a matron where they'd take care of my medical needs", says Noel. 

During that conversation they also said Noel was "a dunce. Stupid."

But Noel's parents were not made aware that his new school was for the so-called educationally subnormal. They had moved to England from Jamaica in the early '60s and had high expectations for their son's education. 

During his first night at the boarding school, six-year-old Noel lay alone in bed, crying for his mum. The school felt cold and institutional.

"I can still smell the old wooden flip desks. Oh, and being racially abused on my first day," he says. 

A student hurled racial slurs at him in the classroom but wasn't reprimanded - the teacher simply told him to sit down. 

The school didn't teach a curriculum. Although Noel was given a book to write in by a teacher, he was never taught basic grammar or how to spell. He did some basic addition and subtraction but during classes, he mainly did crafts and played games.

 

 

Noel’s Story

 

His parents only realised what kind of school it was when Noel, then seven, was punched by a 15-year-old boy, and his father visited for the first time. 

Noel recalls his father saying to the headmaster, "This is a school for handicapped children" - using an outdated term. He says the headmaster replied, "Yeah, but we don't like to use that word, we call them slow learners." 

The realisation was devastating, but Noel's father felt powerless to change things. 

Noel wasn't given the chance to take exams and get qualifications. On reflection, he says being labelled educationally subnormal made him feel inferior for the rest of his life, and gave him a lot of psychological problems. 

"Leaving school without any qualifications is one thing, but leaving school thinking you're stupid is a different ball game altogether. It knocks your confidence," he says.

The Legacy of Labeling

Maisie says that the decision to send her to an ESN school was a mistake that ruined her life chances. Like Noel, she wasn't taught a curriculum.

"We played games, had discos… I call it a 'free school' because the education was so basic and we played a lot more than we worked," she says.

It was only in her 30s, decades after being sent to the ESN school, that Maisie was diagnosed with dyslexia.

"Rather than help me with my learning difficulties, I was simply dismissed as stupid. Teachers never took the time to find out why I struggled with learning. That messed up my confidence," she says.

"I was slow, but a teacher should have taken the time to help me learn."

According to Maisie, the lack of learning and support was only part of the problem.

"I went to a school that was a racist institution," she says.

 

Both Noel and Maisie were eventually offered the chance to attend mainstream schools. By then however, it was too little too late.

In Noel's case, he went to a local secondary school on a part-time basis from the age of 12 and spent the rest of the week at the ESN school.

"At the part-time secondary school, I would truant because of the intimidation of not having friends and not being able to read," says Noel.

Maisie left her ESN school at the age of 13 and started at mainstream secondary school.

"My mum put me in touch with a black social worker who, after assessing me, said that I was intelligent and suggested that I was placed in the ESN school because of racism," says Maisie.

By then, however, unable to read or write, Maisie found secondary school extremely challenging and she left with no qualifications.

Initially, many Caribbeans who migrated to the UK during the 1960s and '70s, had a favourable view of ESN schools. Often referred to as "special schools" by teachers, Caribbean parents, with little understanding of the British education system, thought these schools would provide better support and learning for their children.

"When my mother was told that I'd been recommended for a special school, I remember her smiling. She thought that a special school meant a better school," says Maisie.

This presumption about "special" schools was also informed by Caribbeans' experiences of schools back home.

"British education was seen as a route to social mobility and the aspirations of parents were very high," says Gus John. "Teachers had a high profile in Caribbean communities, and parents initially trusted British teachers. It was a shock to find out that their children were being defined as subnormal."

However, concerns soon developed among Caribbean parents. As they witnessed their children struggle with the basics of reading and writing, parent and action groups emerged.

For example in 1970, after discovering that there was a disproportionately high number of black children in ESN schools in north London, a group called the North London West Indian Association formally complained to the Race Relations Board - alleging discrimination under the 1968 Race Relations Act.

Gus John, activist and academic, Describes the Illusion of the Educationally Subnormal Black Child

The term "educationally subnormal" derived from the 1944 Education Act and was used to define those thought to have limited intellectual ability. 

"That label made children feel inferior," says education campaigner Prof Gus John, who came to the UK from Grenada in 1964 as a student, and soon became aware of the issue. 

"Students from ESN schools wouldn't go on to college or university. If they were lucky, they'd become a labourer. The term was paralysing and killed any sense of self-confidence and ambition."

Primary and secondary ESN schools categorised children as having moderate learning disabilities, severe learning disabilities or being "un-teachable". 

These categories were broad and when students were recommended for ESN schools, robust reasons weren't always given by teachers and psychologists. 

While some ESN schools did have good examples of teaching, for many pupils, their needs were overlooked. 

Black students were sent to these schools in significantly higher proportions. The documentary makers have seen a 1967 report from the now-defunct Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), which showed that the proportion of black immigrant children in ESN schools (28%) was double that of those in mainstream schools (15%).

"The percentage of black children in ESN schools relative to black students in normal schools was scandalous," says Gus John.

But why were so many black children defined as subnormal? 

Figures from the 1960s and '70s show that on average, the academic performance of black children was lower than their white counterparts. This fuelled a widespread belief that black children were intellectually inferior to white people.

Biased and Flawed Education

A leaked local authority report in 1969, written by a head teacher called Alfred Doulton, argued that West Indian children in general had lower IQs. This claim was based on the results of IQ tests that were commonly taken by primary school children at the time.

One of the key proponents of such theories was Hans Eysenck, a former professor at the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. He believed intelligence was genetically determined and cited a US study that seemed to show that the IQ of black children fell, on average, 12 points below white children. 

As Gus John says in the documentary: "When people like Eysenck wrote about race and intelligence, what they were actually doing was justifying all those tropes that had been floating around throughout the period of enslavement, where people believed that not only were black people sub-human... but they can't be expected to perform or to be as intelligent as white people."

Many teachers saw black children as intellectually inferior, and feared that too many black pupils in a class would depress the attainment of white pupils. 

Following a protest by white parents in Southall, west London, in June 1965 the government issued guidance which underlined the social, language and possible medical needs of immigrant children, and suggested maintaining a limit of about 30% of immigrants in any one school.

Consequently Children Were Bussed to Schools Outside of Their Area

As a consequence, many local authorities adopted the policy of bussing - sending immigrant children to schools outside their local area in an attempt to limit the number of ethnic minorities in schools. The practice finally ended in 1980. 

"The education system fuelled and legitimised the idea that black Caribbean children were less intelligent than other children. This was why so many of them ended up at ESN schools. It was rampant racism," says Gus John. 

Many wrongly equated race with intellectual ability. But as the late educational psychologist Mollie Hunte argued, the generally poor attainment of black students wasn't because of their intellectual ability. Instead, the tests used to assess pupils at the time were culturally biased

As Gus John explains, the tests used references and vocabulary that newly-arrived Caribbean children were unfamiliar with.

"A key element was language," says Prof John. "If you grew up in a Jamaican household, you'd use Jamaican English - patois or creole. The problem most Caribbean students had was that because it was a derivative of standard English, nobody believed that black students needed language support."

As a result, they were not given the extra help other immigrant children, who spoke no English before they arrived, received. 

According to Prof John, teachers didn't try to understand the cultural barriers black children faced, and the assessments didn't consider their domestic and socioeconomic circumstances - or the impact of migration. Many children would travel to the UK only once their parents had settled in. They arrived in an unfamiliar country to live with virtual strangers, who they had not seen for years. 

"This displacement and movement caused a lot of trauma," says Prof John. "There was grief and bereavement. Those children would often not see their grandparents again." 

According to the education campaigner, there was a culture of low expectations among teachers. Learning difficulties were mistaken as learning disabilities and black children were simply "written off" and sent to ESN schools. 

That is what happened to Maisie Barrett from Leeds, who was sent to an ESN school at the age of seven in the 1960s. 

"I initially went to a mainstream school. There, a teacher told my mother that I was 'backwards' and couldn't learn. We were told that I'd be better off at a special school."

Maisie and Noel - Happy Ever After????

For both Noel and Maisie, the impact from their time at ESN schools remains.

"The ESN label crippled my confidence. I could have been anybody - but I was never given the tools to be the person I was born to be," says Maisie.

Despite writing two books and gaining four degrees after leaving school - including in Caribbean studies and creative writing - Maisie has struggled to find work over the years. Currently unemployed with two adult children, she did work as a dyslexic support worker but was made redundant a few years ago.

Maisie feels as if she has spent her life "catching up", ever since leaving the ESN school.

Noel discovered he actually likes learning and has accumulated a number of impressive qualifications as an adult, including a degree in computing. His wall at home in Tottenham is covered in certificates. Nevertheless, he still struggles with his reading and writing.

"That ESN school has messed me up," says Noel.

Regardless of Where Racism is Not Welcome; it is not a competition to be won, everyone loses when racism exists

Viewpoint: Why racism in US is worse than in Europe - BBC News Barrett Holmes Pitner is a writer and journalist based in Washington, DC.

News stories emerge almost daily in the US (2018) about police being called over black Americans doing nothing more than being black. Writer Barrett Holmes Pitner explains why he thinks American racism is unique.

Last week in California, three black people - a Jamaican, a Canadian of Nigerian descent, and a London native - were confronted by seven police cars as they checked out of their Airbnb because a white American thought they were robbing the house.

Though they were not American, they were still subjected to racist American stereotypes - and being confronted with tense, potentially life-threatening altercations with police without ever committing a crime.

I've travelled a fair amount around the world, but America's racist status quo remains unique and alarmingly oppressive. American racism is entirely complexion-based and monolithic. One's nationality is immaterial.

Years ago during one of my trips to France, a woman at La Poste refused to sell me stamps because she thought I was African.

When she learned that I was American, she apologised and sold me the stamps. The racism I experienced in France is totally unacceptable, but it provided an escape not afforded last week to these three visitors to America.

In France, nationality usurped race, and while that can have its own problems, it was still very different from the racism back home.

When I was in London, I lived in Bethnal Green during the 2011 riots, which started after London police officers killed Mark Duggan, a black man.

As teenage vandals looted and set my neighbourhood ablaze, I remember casually walking down the street during the chaos and having a London police officer politely ask me to return to my flat. There was no tense exchange, I was not arrested, and I never feared for my life.

During the week of the riots, Londoners openly discussed how black people might receive different treatment from law enforcement, but conversations focused on analysing policing techniques, discussing ways to keep teenagers off of the streets during the summer when they do not have school, and catching looters via CCTV.

In the American discourse, a supposedly inherent danger or criminality of black bodies would have been used to justify the police's killing of Duggan and present the riots as an inevitable by-product of a "culture of crime". The killing of Michael Brown and the riots in Ferguson followed this all-too-familiar American script.

Racism towards black people in America has largely nothing to do with immigration or nationality. There is no home country for African-Americans to connect to. Instead it is essentially a status quo of domestic alienation, dehumanisation, criminalisation, and terror. European racism is bad, but it was still more welcoming than America's.

America's systemic racism starts with slavery and the various slave codes - state or federal laws created that codified the inhumane practice of chattel slavery into law. The American South was a "slave society", not merely a society with slaves. However, following the abolition of slavery, laws similar to the slave codes continued to oppress black people.

Following the Civil War, these "black codes" had the explicit purpose of depriving newly freed black Americans of the rights they had won. Black codes varied from state to state, but their legal foundation centred on vagrancy laws that allowed for an African American to be arrested if he was unemployed or homeless. They applied to countless blacks because housing and employment opportunities for freed blacks in the South were almost non-existent after the war.

Supporters of Virginia's Vagrancy Act of 1866, one of these measures, stated that it would reinstitute "slavery in all but its name".

White Southerners would report blacks for vagrancy, and law enforcement would arrest them and sentence African-Americans to up three months of forced labour on public or private lands.

The federal government fought against black codes during Reconstruction by electing former abolitionists and freed blacks to public office, and creating laws and adding amendments to the US Constitution to protect the rights of black Americans.

But following the collapse of Reconstruction in 1877, Southern states brought them back. Black codes became the bedrock of state constitutions. Poll taxes and literacy exams to prevent African Americans from voting soon became the norm. Jim Crow and racial segregation, which governed the South until the 1960s, are outgrowths of those laws.

As black families fled the South in the 20th Century during the Great Migration, black codes followed them to Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and elsewhere. Black Americans - who were domestic refugees fleeing state-funded terrorism - allegedly brought crime, unemployment, vagrancy, and drugs. Police departments across America responded with more black codes and aggressive policing of black communities.

Black life has always been criminalised and dehumanised in America. During Barack Obama's presidency, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and countless other unarmed African-Americans were killed by police, but with a black president many Americans felt progress was attainable. Social media raised awareness of these injustices and helped create the Black Lives Matter movement.

Under President Donald Trump, we have the same type of violence that America has always had, but now we have, at best, an indifferent federal government, and at worst a racist president. Due to this change, more white Americans are emboldened to re-employ black codes.

Under Obama, social media championed our desire for progress, and today it documents our obvious regression.

Last week in New York City, a black lawyer and her 19-year-old daughter were handcuffed and detained by police after being falsely accused of shoplifting. During the same week, the police were called by a white student at Yale University because a black Yale student was sleeping in the common area in their dormitory. In late April, an African-American family had the police called on them by a white woman for having a cookout in a public park.

Following the arrest of two black men for sitting in a Starbucks, and the increased awareness of similar injustices, the world can more clearly see the racist applications of the law that black people constantly face in America. Their arrest was black codes in 2018, but without the three months of forced labour.

Trump's presidency has exacerbated the problem and social media has raised awareness, but employing black codes and masquerading oppression against black people as democratic justice and fair law enforcement has sadly always been America's status quo.