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LABOUR MPs were left frustrated today after a confrontation with Tories over school curriculums’ lack of diversity and lack of content on the historical enslaving of black people.
Erith and Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare, who secured the debate, joined other MPs in calling for a taskforce to look at “decolonising” the curriculum so that pupils learn more about black history and writers.
Brent Central MP Dawn Butler said that history was sometimes taught in a way that makes “one group of people feel inferior and another group feel superior.”
Intervening, Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch asked: “Could she just expand on which parts of the curriculum she believes make black children feel inferior?”
Ms Butler replied: “You can go through the whole of the GCSE and not have reference to any black authors at all. You can go through history thinking that enslaved people were not part of the uprising.
“You could go through history and not understand the richness of Africa and the Caribbean. You can go through history and not understand all the leaders in the black community.
“I mean, I’m surprised that the minister’s actually asked me that, because it’s so well documented that history needs to be decolonised.”
When Ms Badenoch named other racial groups not often included in the curriculum, Ms Butler replied of black people that “there’s no other group where they’ve been systemically stripped of their humanity throughout history.”
“If the minister takes time to listen, I think I might just teach her a little something,” she said.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also backed “decolonising” the curriculum.
However Ms Badenoch intervened to claim that doing so would distort history.
She warned against “not giving a true picture, not just of the activities of this country but also activities of people who share my skin colour, which were not always as wholesome as people on his side want to make out.”
Mr Corbyn replied that teaching black history would show the reality and brutality of colonialism.
Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan used the debate to warn against “exceptionalisation of Africans,” while referring to North African pirates enslaving Cornish people in the 1600s.
But Ms Butler said that it would be progress if it was acknowledged — especially during Black History Month — that slavery has “a lasting legacy now in our structures, which [it] doesn’t for any other group.”
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