yEvry Bouake draws on 15 years of experience as a secondary school teacher to tackle racism and inequality in UK schools. His experience, like the book, is a mixed bag. For every black student who thrives on attention and encouragement, there are instances of overt bigotry and hate speech from other students, passive aggression, and smiling defiance from peers and classmates. For every small victory there is a frustrating realization, for every apparent victory there is toxic sabotage. Every time Boakye congratulates himself, there are plenty of nagging doubts and reservations: “I’ve wandered through the schools and signs of wisdom bounce around every corner. Scientific fairs of famous scholars of history without a single face other than white. Literary timelines are guilty of the same.”
Bouaki’s conversational tone is pleasant and slightly humorous; It is a major achievement, while themes of race, class, gender and cultural dominance are woven into everyday anecdotes in the classroom. He occasionally goes on to be outrageously selfish—and sometimes weird—: “Depending on how long you’ve been following my moves, you may or may not know that my Twitter name was @unseenflirt… But when the book shows I come, I had to think again . ”However, any ostentation, humble boasting, and self-belief soon permeates Boakye’s actual experiences in class and by acknowledgment of his relative smallness in the system.
I heard what you said It fades towards the end. One cannot help but feel that the short, concise first-person classes would have worked better as YouTube videos or face-to-face interviews to provide an introduction to the issues of everyday racism, cultural and historical blind spots, and equality in the school system. The book would have been a deeper dive into the agonizing, stubborn roots of prejudice within the school’s walls, the isolationism of the country’s mainstream curriculum, and the sheer rigidity of many practical and cultural educational conventions.
But then there is an interesting dichotomy throughout the book: every black Briton who has ever taught or lectured in Britain, or was actually a student at any level, will have experienced or seen all of the cases described by Bouake. In fact, we dismiss many of these states as “nothing” – part of the daily fuss of negative assumptions, prejudices, and stereotypes that we have to deal with all day, every day. However, for many other readers, even small examples would be shocking and disturbing at worst, or at best something they had never seen or thought of before. So every idea must be hatched. This is the line that Boakye must walk as an author on this book and as a teacher in the world: is he an insider or an outsider, an intruder, a crook, a sign or a rescuer, a pet or a threat? His openness to dealing with these dilemmas gives this book a unique touch.