When “Antiracists” don’t care about racism and how it affects the debate about exclusions

June 11, 2021

There are actual racists online. Like this one.

He spends his time making comments like these about the relative superiority of races/countries/continents.

He shares a lot of crime reports that he thinks involve black criminals and is preoccupied with “black violence” which he believes is genetic in origin.

The other day I saw him tweeting at the MP Diane Abbot. Racists do this a lot. In an interview, she’d given stop and search polices and school exclusions as examples of racism.

He commented to say:

I have been spending a lot of time looking at the Twitter discourse around school exclusions, and the claim that black pupils are particularly likely to be excluded is very common. But it’s not actually true now for black pupils as a whole. According to the latest figures (2018/2019) the exclusion rate for black students is 5.54% for Fixed Period Exclusions and 0.11% for Permanent Exclusions. This compares with white students where the exclusion rates are 5.80% for Fixed Period Exclusions and 0.10% for Permanent Exclusions. I would say these are about the same. The misconception that black pupils, “black and brown” pupils and BAME pupils are more likely to be excluded is so widespread that I selected the data from the DfE website for Asian, white, black and ethnic minority students as a whole and took a screenshot which I share on Twitter a lot when I see people make any of those claims. (Asian is actually largely irrelevant to most discussions, but I couldn’t be bothered to take another screenshot).

While a lot of those who get this wrong are trying to allege racism by schools, occasionally racists also accept the claim about black pupils being more likely to be excluded and use it to argue that black pupils are worse behaved. I correct anyone, because these stereotypes are potentially harmful regardless of the intentions of those spreading them. So I did this here.

A pseudonymous writer for the Yorkshire Bylines blog saw this and decided to include this exchange in a post about systemic racism. Now, if you know the Yorkshire Bylines blog, you probably know it’s fairly left-wing. Writers would probably call themselves “Antiracists” and others might even call them “woke”. So how would they present an exchange in which a racist falsely implies that schools exclusions show the behaviour of black boys to be bad and is corrected by a teacher?

If you thought it would be to condemn the racist, and praise the teacher for putting them straight, you don’t know social media.

Yep, they appear to have completely missed the actual racist in the exchange, but decided to object to me presenting the facts which show there is no evidence in the latest school exclusion figures that black pupils behave worse than white pupils. And, in this, post “these issues” are issues of systemic racism, so the implication here is that I am supporting systemic racism by correcting a racist.

I wish I could say this is unusual behaviour. Antiracists who are willing to overlook racists in order to attack those who are likely to be more upset by accusations of racism are not rare. This well liked tweet was from a consultant who offers training to schools:

This shouldn’t come as a surprise for anyone familiar with Twitter discourse on race. Those who police Twitter for “inexplicit” racism can detect wrong-think like a shark can detect blood. However, they aren’t as friendly as sharks. If somebody who isn’t white expresses the “wrong” views they are often treated terribly – far worse than when a white person expresses the same views. Sometimes this is in explicitly racist ways; sometimes there is just a concerted effort to marginalise them. Some of the worst racism I have seen on edutwitter has been against @5naureen and all by people who claim to be opposing racism.

Do the antiracists who don’t object to racism matter, or is this just what the Americans call “internet bullshit”? I think it does matter when this affects debate about education and there is one issue where choices have to be made about confronting real and explicit racism. That issue is exclusions as schools have to choose how to deal with incidents of racism. In the most recent exclusion figures for England there were 4889 fixed period exclusions for racist abuse. LBC reported that there were 1,987 hate-related incidents in schools reported to police in 2018 and 71% of these were described as racist. The Guardian reported over 60000 racist incidents reported in schools in the UK over a 5 year period, using a methodology that would.have missed out a large number of schools. There are tens of thousands of schools in England (and obviously in the UK as a whole), so I don’t want to imply that these incidents happen every day in every school but these are not insignificant numbers, and we know schools are often reluctant to exclude and understandably reluctant to involve the police in disciplinary matters.

Schools need to be able to act against racist behaviour. While some of that response will be to educate students about the unacceptability and seriousness of their actions and to change attitudes, much of that response, particularly with older children, should be disciplinary. What schools permit, they promote. If racist abuse is not punished, a message is sent that it is acceptable. Exclusions, both fixed term and permanent, are very much part of that.

If all children are to feel safe in school, those who are deliberately racist to others need to be punished, not given therapeutic interventions or asked what “unmet needs” made them do it. Use of fixed term exclusions or internal exclusion as a sanction shows that racist abuse is far more serious than forgetting to do homework, and will not be tolerated. The very least schools can do is ensure that any recidivist racist bully should be removed from their victims permanently. You can’t be serious about tackling racism if you aren’t willing to exclude. Scotland’s attempts to eliminate permanent exclusions has noticeably not worked in this respect. That’s not to say England is necessarily getting it right either, exclusion figures only show 15 permanent exclusions for “racist abuse” in the latest figures.

Now while I, a teacher, might say that explicit racism is a problem in schools and that exclusions are needed to deal with it, this is not what I hear from “Antiracists” commenting on the issue of exclusions. No doubt it depends on your cache, but if you Google “school exclusions racism” and you will predominantly find opinions about how school exclusions are racist, not information about racists being excluded. (I get only one link about racists being excluded on the first page.)

I’m not going to discuss why those who claim exclusions are racist are wrong (as I’ve already done that here, here and here). However, I do suspect that the national debate on school exclusions has been massively distorted by the bizarre phenomenon of self-proclaimed “Antiracists” who want to reduce the ability of schools to stop racist behaviour. And I think this is because so much of the posturing about racism we see is from people who really don’t care about confronting explicit, demonstrable incidents of racism involving actual racists. Those who do care, support schools having the right, and duty, to exclude.



  1. I can’t fathom what she thought was ‘misleading’ in your post. These people literally cannot think.

  2. It may just me, my old age, mental decrepitude or whatever, but I have found that those that go around declaring themselves as being anti-racist are almost certainly racist to the core.

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