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Big Saturday Read: Confronting Institutional Biases and Prejudices

Alex T. Magaisa


Glorious Convergence

The response to Cyclone Idai, which devastated the eastern part of Zimbabwe, taking hundreds of lives and burying villages and livelihoods demonstrated an amazing convergence of love and compassion across the nation and beyond. Generous contributions came from people of all over the country, Zimbabweans coordinating brilliantly both in virtual and physical spaces, to assist their fellow counterparts in dire-straits.

A conspicuous feature of the gigantic relief effort was the convergence of people across race, ethnicity, class, gender, religious persuasion and culture. It was a near-perfect advertisement of an ideal Zimbabwe, in which indices of distinction and division were set aside to achieve a common objective. This glorious convergence gave us a glimpse of how a nation can transcend its divisions and work for a common purpose.

Controversy

However, not long after this remarkable show of unity, we were once again reminded that the nation-building exercise remains an on-going project and there are latent fault lines that still need attention. Earlier this week, a social media brouhaha emanated from an unlikely source. It was an image which was casually posted on the social media pages of an elite private school just outside Marondera.

Whoever administers the school’s Twitter handle is unlikely to have anticipated the mighty storm that followed. There was a deluge of comments, most of them highly critical. Indeed, the reaction might have shocked and overwhelmed the administrator on account of its intensity, but if so, that too, as I argue in this article, is indicative of the depth of a problem. It should never have been a surprise if the authorities had carefully applied their mind before posting the image.

What then was this controversial image that triggered a gigantic debate?

The Controversial Image

I have agonised over whether or not to post the image: on the one hand, it is not right to give publicity to something that I’m critical of, but at the same time, the reader who has not seen would find it useful as a point of reference. I decided against posting it and that I would simply describe it and hope that the words paint the picture for the reader.

The image depicts a group of young half-naked black boys wielding traditional war shields and spears in a battle scene. They appear to be attacking each other. Indeed, one of them is already lying prostrate on the ground, presumably dead or at least mortally wounded.

Resting against the stem of a tree and adjacent to the lifeless black body and underneath the menacing glare of another black boy aiming a spear at him is a young white boy, deeply and calmly absorbed in a book. In the midst of the human chaos and savagery, the white boy is calm, serene and unperturbed.

The trouble with the image

Stripped bare of the historical aspects, it appears like a perfect fit for the “Extreme Reading Challenge”, which was ostensibly the intended purpose of the project, namely that one can still read even under the most extreme of challenges. In this case, meeting this “extreme challenge” is a white boy reading his book in the middle of a vicious war between spear-wielding African boys.

But it is impossible, and it would be dishonest, to divorce the image from history, because that is precisely what it is: a representation of a historical moment. They deliberately chose a historical moment to portray their “Extreme Reading Challenge”. The problem is that while they only thought it delivered a single message, it turned out to be more complex and more nuanced than that. The choice they made is not amenable to over-simplification, which explains why it attracted a great deal of attention.

In the paraphernalia of teaching and learning, the image represents symbolism which communicates multiple messages both about the generators and to the audience. The biggest problem, for many critics, is that the image represents a narrative, myths and justifications which have been repeated for generations regarding encounters between Europeans and Africans. These myths were used at in the late 19th century to justify the colonial project.

One of these narratives was the myth of “civilising” the uncivilised black African. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness immediately comes to mind as a classic representation of this narrative. The first female member of the Rhodesian Legislative Assembly, Ethel Tawse Jollie is quoted by Martin Loney in his book Rhodesia: White Racism & Imperial Response as saying in 1927,

“There is only one way to force him [the African] to play his part in the economic life of the country; that is by civilising him”.

To critical readers of history, the mission of “civilising the African” screams from that image and yet it has always been contested and has been challenged and debunked in scholarship. To the extent that the image forms a symbol of a historical narrative, it over-simplifies and falsifies what was, in reality, was quite complex and dynamic encounter; what in fact remains a complex and dynamic relationship.

The “civilisation” mission was, in fact, brutal and inhumane in many ways. Just this week, Belgium issued an official apology for the barbaric acts of taking away mixed-race children from their African mothers and shipping them off to Belgium. King Lobengula had long avoided war with the Europeans before he was forced into it by the war-mongering Leader Starr Jameson in 1893.

But even then, as he retreated from his seat of power at Bulawayo, while he burnt it as part of a scorched earth military strategy, he had nevertheless made sure that none of the white men stationed there was harmed. He could have been vindictive. By contrast, his conquerors were, according to Loney, “dynamiting the caves where they [Africans] were hidden, young and old, women and children”, let alone looting cattle through the agency of the menacingly named Loot Committee. There were also summary executions of chiefs and spirit mediums accused of leading the rebellions in 1896-7.

It is these complexities of the story that causes outrage when people see over-simplified images and symbols of history which are not only dangerously misleading but are also disrespectful. To the uninitiated eye, such an image is innocuous and responses to it are wont to be regarded as an overreaction. But to an eye that appreciates historical nuance and is conscious of history’s complexities, such images are devoid of innocence. They matter because they propagate and reinforce a partial and falsified version of history.

Indeed, the view that the particular image had nothing to do with history might be submitted in defence, but it would be disingenuous and dishonest. Whatever thought-process went into creating and posting that image, it was obviously inspired and motivated by a perspective of history, albeit one of a very limited, uncritical and dangerously narrow variety. This is why it is deserving of attention and ought to be challenged.

Two responses

There were two sets of responses to the image: those that condemned the image as insensitive and racially prejudiced and another group which saw nothing wrong with the image and thought those complaining about it were being too sensitive. Such arguments are not untypical whenever charges of racial prejudice are made. They are all too often dismissed as an overreaction. Just this week, a senior Italian footballer accused his own black team-mate of being fifty per cent responsible for his own racist abuse. The tendency to blame victims of racism and to trivialise their narratives of abuse is not uncommon. It is part of the assertions of supremacy which silences the victims of racism.

One argument was that if people felt racially discriminated in certain spaces, such as schools, they had the option to simply avoid them. Others did not find this line of reasoning appealing, arguing that it failed to grasp the nuance of racial prejudice and discrimination. This BSR tries to explain the origins of such arguments.

All this generated a lot of debate on social media, with alumni of private schools chiming in with their experiences at such institutions. It left me in no doubt, as I had always believed, that the “nation” has unresolved issues and that is probably true of similarly placed countries like South Africa and Namibia. It reminded me of Raftopolous and Mlambo’s thesis in an introduction to their edited volume, Becoming Zimbabwe (2008) namely that as a nation Zimbabwe is still very much in the process of becoming. In other words, it is still in the process of nation-building.

Against that background, we can either bury our heads in the sand, pretending that there is no issue or we can summon the courage and face the beast in the face. I choose the latter because I believe it is healthy and progressive.

I hasten to add that the critical issue in all this is not as much about individuals as it is about institutions. What concerns me most is what happens at the institutional rather than individual level. One can argue with an individual and at the end they can shake hands, having understood or misunderstood each other. Institutional biases and prejudices, however, are more latent and insidious; they are more difficult to detect and deal with because to those within and those who have internalised them, they seem normal. As will become evident, this BSR has implications beyond the immediate issue of race that prompted it. Similar concerns, questions and arguments arise over issues regarding sexism, ethnic discrimination, elitism, and other indices of divisions.

Some say how we see and interpret images is a reflection not of the image but of who we are. That is true indeed, but that is precisely because we are products of particular histories and who we are cannot be severed from that historical context.

Making amends

After a few hours and when the furore spread, the private school removed the image from its social media page and, without any further explanation replaced it with another picture. The new image portrayed young black boys sitting in a pool of water, reading. It was presumably meant to be an improvement; a more positive portrayal of black boys. However, this revision did little to assuage the critics. Instead, it looked like a cheap attempt at switching the narrative without acknowledging a previous error of judgment and that they understood why people thought it was wrong. The new picture appeared compensatory as if to say here is a new picture to prove we are not racially prejudiced.

Those who defended the image had argued that it was subject to many interpretations. This is true, except that they did not seem to acknowledge that the dominant interpretation formed by many observers was one of them and that it was deeply unpleasant. One even suggested that among the alumni of the college the image was not an issue at all. In other words, in the world inhabited by students and former students of the private school, the racial connotations being raised by outsiders were a non-event. It read like an elitist and arrogant call for outsiders to shut up because it was none of their business if the school community – past and present – was comfortable with it.

It is difficult to verify the accuracy of the claim that the schools’ past and present community was happy with it but the irony is that even if it were true, it only serves to illustrate one of the fundamental points raised by critics, which is examined in this article: that sometimes racial prejudice becomes so institutionalised and internalised to the point that those affected by it, the immediate victims, are not even aware of its effect upon them. If anything, they might even defend it and refuse to be rescued from their situation.

Likewise, a second fundamental point made in this article is that those engaging in acts of racial prejudice might not even be doing it consciously. They might even be surprised should someone tell them that their statement or conduct is racist.

Institutional Racism

As I have already suggested, giving the school the benefit of the doubt, it is arguable that it, or the individuals behind the project, were not aware that the image they were generating and sharing with the world would yield a racist interpretation and would also be regarded as perpetuating negative historical myths which have long been challenged and debunked in critical scholarship. There may have been no bad faith and it may be attributed to incompetence.

But incompetence cannot be a sufficient account for it. How could education professionals and students who are supposed to be well-versed in the history they are using to portray their Extreme Reading Challenge not have considered the historical meanings and nuances of that image? How could they have been so casual about a matter that has commanded great scholarly attention by eminent historians including Terence Ranger, who did much in the sixties to debunk colonial myths that were generated to justify the colonial project?

They might wish to add Ranger’s Revolt in Southern Rhodesia 1896-7, essential reading covering those early years or a later work on peasant consciousness in the liberation struggle. A more recent addition to that literature is Becoming Zimbabwe: A History from the Pre-colonial Period to 2008 edited by eminent Zimbabwean scholars, Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo. Another is Do ‘Zimbabweans’ Exist? Trajectories of Nationalism, National Identity Formation and Crisis in a Postcolonial State by Sabelo Gatsheni-Ndlovu.

Even if one affords the private school authorities the benefit of the doubt, it is arguable that they were reckless and careless in that they did not apply their minds to the consequences of their actions. They used the image because it made sense to them as a piece of history which illustrated their point, but they did not pause to consider the negative narratives and symbolism which is also portrayed. Why and how they could have been so reckless, careless and thoughtless?

The answer, it seems, may be found in the notion of institutional racism, an important concept which brings important nuances to the problem of racism. It goes beyond the individual and instead, is concerned with the organisation in which the individual is located. This is very important in helping us understand what may have happened in this case and may indeed be happening on a wider scale in other organisations.

The most famous and definitive statement regarding institutional racism was made by Sir William MacPherson in his 1999 report into the police investigation of a case in which a young black young man was murdered in London. Sir MacPherson conducted an inquiry into how the police had handled the investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence following a campaign for justice by his parents who felt the police had not done enough to bring the killers to account.

Sir MacPherson’s report was a big indictment on the police. He concluded that the police’s response to the killing of Stephen Lawrence had been “institutionally racist”. It encapsulated the unwitting prejudice and racial stereotyping which had led to police indifference in the conduct of the investigation. A finding that Britain’s biggest police force was institutionally racist was an important wake–up call after years of complacency. The use of this characterisation did not end with the police force but over the years it has extended to other institutions.

Sir MacPherson defined institutional racism in these circumstances as “The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”

Ambalavaner Sivanandan, who was Director of the Institute of Race Relations and for a long time the editor of the journal, Race and Class, defined it as “that which, covertly or overtly, resides in the policies, procedures, operations and culture of public or private institutions – reinforcing individual prejudices and being reinforced by them in turn.”

An amalgamation of the two tells us that an organisation might have a change of personnel or leadership but if its “policies, procedures, operations and culture” are racist, there will still be “unwitting prejudice, ignorance thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping” in relation to a specific race. More importantly, these aspects are often latent and therefore silent to those within the organisations. Since the policies, procedures and practices are part of the organisation’s culture, they are considered normal. The might not even know that what they are doing is racist.

Not limited to race

Let me hasten to add that the phenomenon that I have described is not limited to race. It can be applied, with equal force to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class and other indices of differentiation. Therefore, it is perfectly possible for a public or private organisation to be institutionally sexist in that its policies, procedures and culture routinely prejudice women on account of their gender. This remains a problem across the world and one of the reasons why the problem of gender pay-gap is a key site of struggle in both public and private organisations.

It is also possible for an organisation to be institutionally-biased against an ethnic group. This means its policies, procedures and cultures are designed in a way that they are prejudicial to members of that ethnic group. Such institutional biases have led to genocide in countries like Rwanda and Bosnia. At home, Gukurahundi is a stark reminder of such institutional prejudices. It is arguable that this is still a major problem in the country. Therefore, while individuals might protest that they are not tribalist, and they would probably be right, but they forget that it is the institutions they serve or run that might be institutionally tribalist.

It is also possible for an organisation to be institutionally homophobic, in that its culture is prejudiced against gay people or institutionally ageist in that it is biased against either older or younger people.

It is also possible for an organisation to be institutionally elitist, in that it favours individuals from a higher social class and is biased against people from lower social classes. One’s speech accent, name or home address might be a cause for qualification or disqualification in some institutions. This is because some organisations are institutionally prejudiced against people from certain areas, classes or ethnicity. That’s why some people end up changing their names or trying very hard to transform their accents.

As is evident from these passages, these problems are not location-specific. They are as true in Zimbabwe as they are in South Africa, India, Britain or Brazil.

Returning to the matter discussed in this article, the same argument might be applied to what happened. The school, teachers and students might not have been conscious of the fact that what they were doing would be regarded as racist. That is because the policies, procedures and culture at the school consider such conduct to be normal and they have conditioned them to believe that there is nothing untoward. The school’s pedagogical culture has not prepared both staff and students to read and understand history in a critical way. If it did, they would have easily spotted the folly and inappropriateness of such casual, false and insensitive representations of history.

But let me hasten to add the school is not alone in that predicament. Others that are similarly placed – not just in terms of race but also class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, etc – can also draw lessons from this incident.

The notion of institutional racism helps us understand why, in a country like Zimbabwe, a school which is now predominantly black might still be regarded as institutionally racist. It is the acts that matter, not the actors. If an organisation is institutionally racist, it doesn’t matter that the CEO or the head teacher is black. Likewise, an organisation can be institutionally sexist even though the CEO is a woman. Institutional racism is concerned with the racist nature of the acts, not with the race or colour of the actors. There are parallels in critical gender studies, where it is now well established that some females can be the most important agents of patriarchy. In other words, one doesn’t have to be a man to promote a patriarchal culture which prejudices other women.

The fact that there are people who defended the image does not necessarily make them racist. Those who authored the project are also not necessarily racist in their disposition. The racist consequences of their acts might have stemmed from the institutional culture of the organisation. As the UK’s Commission for Racial Equality has previously stated, “If racist consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs or practices, that institution is racist whether or not the individuals maintaining those practices have racial intentions.”

In fact, the individuals at the school and the alumni could be considered victims of a culture of institutional racism. They too need help to overcome the burden. That’s why to adapt Paulo Freire description of the process of liberation, decolonisation may be cast as a process of humanisation in which both the colonised and the coloniser must be reborn. This did not happen sufficiently well in 1980 or afterwards. Rather, this process of “becoming Zimbabwe” – a nation – is an on-going process and as Raftopolous and Mlambo argue in Becoming Zimbabwe. This process cannot afford casual, simplistic and falsified representations of history in the nation’s sites of teaching and learning.

Becoming Institutionalised

There is another concept, linked to the above but deserving separate treatment. It might help us explain and understand the behaviour of individuals who fail and/or refuse to see the existence of racism (or indeed, to extend the analysis, sexism, tribalism, elitism, etc) despite the abundance of evidence. It is the notion of becoming “institutionalised”, as drawn from its representation Frank Darabont legendary film, Shawshank Redemption.

Shawshank portrays a number of themes and one of them is how individuals can become institutionalised when they spend so much time in a specific situation. It is best illustrated by the story of Brooks, who after spending fifty years in prison was finally given parole. However, Brooks did not want to leave prison. When he got what should have been good news, he was heartbroken. He hatched a plan to stay in prison. He was restrained with a knife on a fellow prisoner’s throat. He thought if he killed an inmate, the authorities would keep him in jail.

Heywood, the inmate who was attacked is furious. However, Red, the narrator and putative head of the group tries to explain and rationalise Brooks’ behaviour asking Heywood to be more understanding. He says,

“The man’s been in here fifty years, Heywood. Fifty years! This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man. He’s an educated man. Outside, he’s nothing! Just a used up con with arthritis in both hands … couldn’t even get a library card if he applied. You see what I’m saying?”

Brooks had been the prison librarian and he had become so used to his role and status that what ought to be prison had become his home.

“These walls are funny,” adds Red. “First, you hate them, then you get used to them. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalised”

Shawshank Redemption is a reminder of how long imprisonment can impact a person to the point that what should be an alien and hostile place becomes home. The impact can be so deep that one’s identity is intimately tied to the institution. It becomes the only life that one knows so that if they were given another and better option, they would actually reject it.

Indeed, when Brooks does eventually leave he does not last outside prison. He commits suicide by hanging. But he lives a poignant suicide note for his mates in prison, in which he expresses his frustrations. Part of it reads, “Sometimes it takes me a while to remember where I am. Maybe I should get me a gun and rob the Foodway so they’d send me home. I could shoot the manager while I was at it, sort of like a bonus. I guess I’m too old for that sort of nonsense any more. I don’t like it here. I’m tired of being afraid all the time. I’ve decided not to stay.”

“Send me home” meant a return to the prison, itself a reaffirmation of how he had become so institutionalised that even when he was a free man, he did not believe he was free. He preferred to be in jail because that is the life he was used to.

Likewise, people who have spent a long time in institutionally racist organisations might find themselves defending those institutions and refusing to challenge them because in fact they really do not see anything wrong with them. Like Brooks, if someone showed them a different option, they would reject it, preferring to the only way of seeing the world they were conditioned to see. Just as Brooks did not see prison as a place of restriction, these individuals do not see institutionally racist organisations as a problem. They choose to see the brighter side. It is probable that there is a psychological term for it, but this is beyond my intellectual boundaries.

For Brooks, it was the experience of incarceration, but for us, it was the experience of colonialism and its legacy. It is important to understand why some refuse to leave its confines just as Brooks refused to leave Shawshank.

The Colonial Experience

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the celebrated Kenyan writer and intellectual gave us a wonderful book which should essential reading be on the reading lists of African schools and colleges, whatever degree or diploma path they have chosen. It’s called Decolonising the Mind. His main thesis centres on how language was an instrument of colonisation and that therefore the decolonisation process requires a revolution in the use of language. He challenges the dominance of colonial languages over the local ones. For his part, as part of that mission, he goes back to write his literature in Gikuyu, his mother tongue.

Ngugi reminds us that colonialism is not an event or merely a process but a condition. You might declare independence but you could still be still being afflicted by the colonial bug. He argues that apart from military conquest and political dictatorship, the most important area of colonial domination was the “mental universe of the colonised”. This was achieved through “the control, through culture, of how people perceived themselves and their relationship with the world”.

This helps us understand the process by which the incarceration of the colonial experience conditioned individuals to accept their fate. Since English was the epitome of achievement, celebrated and rewarded by the system, we were conditioned to believe that the ability to speak and write in English was the height of achievement and passport to higher opportunities.

This is why we are probably the only peoples in this world who laugh at one of our own when they cannot speak “proper English”. We have actually become the gatekeepers of the English language. The Japanese, Chinese, Polish can speak “crooked English” and we don’t mind, but if one of our own does the same, we condemn and laugh at them. What we do not realise is that we have also become “institutionalised” even though we do not know it.

Critical Education

One problem is that the colonial system of education was functional, never critical. It was what Paulo Freire called the “banking system” of education in which “knowledge is bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing”. In such a system, the teacher deposits, while the students “patiently receive, memorise and repeat” knowledge. There is no critical engagement.

In his book, Rhodesia: White Racism & Imperial Response, Martin Loney echoes the views of educationists who have argued that the colonial education system established for blacks was specifically designed to provide a pool of labour for the white settler economy. He refers to the 1903 Educational Ordinance which stated that the object of African education was that “pupils are taught industrial work, receive a sufficient knowledge of English and are trained in habits of discipline and cleanliness”

This was a functional system designed to mould a worker who was supposed to be disciplined and efficient, with basic English speaking skills. Ironically, more than a century later, and 40 years after independence, the pre-eminence of English is still evident in the education system.

Critical education which opened up minds to alternative ways of knowing was discouraged. Loney describes the rejection of an application by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which had US roots and sought entry into Rhodesia in 1903 to establish a mission. The application was opposed by the established churches with the then Anglican Bishop of Mashonaland arguing that the new church “would appear to have aroused in the minds of a considerable section of the natives of South Africa political and social aspirations … It advocates “higher” education, makes comparison between the political and social position of the American Negro and the African native”.

This was frowned upon. The new church’s mission was inconsistent with the work that was expected from the established missionaries.

It is hardly surprising then, that decades of colonial education produced a culturally captured mindset. The negative images which portrayed Africans and their culture in negative light became internalised until some rejected their own culture and identity. These early experiences are brilliantly captured by Chinua Achebe in his novels, Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God. The mental anguish faced by the African in the middle of a collision between two cultures is examined with brilliant eloquence by Tsitsi Dangarembga in the all-time classic Nervous Conditions.

All these books must be essential reading in the school and college curriculum because they give a more complete picture of the struggles that are part of building nations. Nations are not built through ignorance and superficial treatment of history. They are constructed on firm foundations of knowledge, respect, tolerance and deference.

Critical education gives students the courage to challenge what is presented to them by their teachers. A student with critical skills and a nuanced understanding of history would have challenged the performance portrayed in that image because it feeds into negative narratives that promote myths and symbols that have long been debunked. A student or teacher who has read the work of Ranger, Gatsheni-Ndlovu, Gerald Mazarire and other critical scholars of history would have questioned an exercise which reinforces negative symbolism.

Conclusions

Some may argue that too much is made of a single image. If there is a silver lining in the cloud, it is that it has generated an important debate. That may not have been the intention but it is a healthy path. Some have already used the opportunity to share their stories. I’m certain there are many more such stories – experiences within institutions where old legacies and practices are in need of reform. It is very difficult to confront institutional biases and prejudices because they are woven into the culture and identity of the institutions and they seem normal to their inhabitants. Those who practice such biases and prejudices may not even appreciate the impact of their acts because these things are normal to them. Those who are affected by such biases and prejudices may not resist because they have been bent and lost the will or courage to resist. Indeed, they probably see no other life besides one that they are used to and they would even defend it.

On social media, I drew from Game of Thrones, a popular television series, where a young man called Theon Greyjoy is taken into captivity by Ramsay Snow, a terribly cruel and sadistic man. Brutally tortured and dismembered, Theon is assigned a new, derogatory name by Ramsay. He calls him Reek and subjects him to torrid conditions. Theon is truly bent to the point of accepting his new name. When his sister, Yara comes and tries to rescue him from captivity, Theon bluntly refuses to take his chance to freedom. He won’t leave. “I’m Reek!” he protests when she calls him by his real name. The young man had been tortured not only into subservience but also into losing his identity.

The theme is also important in explaining some behaviours in life, when people refuse to be rescued, preferring instead to not only remain in captivity but also to even defend those who would have placed them there. The legacy of colonialism was particularly invasive and devastating on the mind as Ngugi argued. Such legacies transcend generations.

Some may argue that it is a matter of choice whether or not to enter institutionally racist spaces. Inherent in this is that if you choose to enter such spaces it’s because you do or must accept the racism. In other words, once you take the choice to enter racist spaces, you lose the right to challenge it. This is not sound. It justifies rather than challenges the existence of racist spaces. If it were sound reasoning, campaigns against domestic violence would be pointless since marriage is a choice. It would trivialise challenges by black footballers on the grounds that they made a choice to play in European leagues. The fact is racism must be fought in whatever space it exists. Matters of race and class are too important to be dismissed on grounds of choice.

There are many things that can be done but I think education is a critical part of the solutions:

• Our education system must be more critical in its approach. It should not be about a teacher depositing knowledge in students, but a dynamic process in which students engage critically with what is presented in books and by teachers. They must be allowed the courage to critically examine narratives.

• Critical education is not only for students studying the arts and social sciences. It is also fundamental for students in the sciences and commercial pathways. A brief history of ideas and the world and more specifically, Africa and Zimbabwe will help broaden awareness.

• Institutional biases are the residue that remains even after individuals declare that they are independent and unprejudiced. These vices include institutional racism, institutional sexism, institutional elitism, etc. It does not matter that the organisation has more women, if institutional sexism is not broken down, there will still be sexism. The same argument applies to racism.

• Public and private organisations must consider diversity awareness policies and procedures to ensure that institutional biases are tackled at the root.

• People should be free and open to sharing their experiences. These narratives reveal more that is often hidden in the closet. They educate those who fail to appreciate the institutional biases and prejudices of their organisations – both public and private.

Article taken from Alex T. Magaisa’s blog www.bigsr.co.uk