So, who is the ethnic minority?

Last week I was listening to a debate on the radio about the worryingly increasing amount of teenage murders happening in London at the moment, this was on the back of a fifteen year old who was knifed to death on the previous weekend. The gentleman caller was asking for help to put an end to this problem, its solution he believed, lay in looking in a number of different areas like poverty, education and social issues. One important area he did touch upon, and one that I hadn’t heard in a long time, was history. For kids to understand and know where they come, enabling them to have pride in their past, will reflect on their behaviour and therefore their future. A long shot perhaps but in a world where nothing is for certain, many other things have been tried…and have all failed.

This got me to thinking about how the perception of ourselves, and thus our own importance, is reinforced, good or bad by what happens in the wider world around us. History is a case in point as when I was at school we learned all about Roman, Egyptian and Greek history. We also learned about British history and briefly, very briefly, touched upon slavery, and that was a mere paragraph in my text book, (thank you William Wilberforce!).  So in five years of studying history at the most important time of my life, in a Grammar school, the only thing I learned about black people was that we were slaves. The fact that I knew there must have been more to it was largely irrelevant, as was the fact that my dad was a constant source of knowledge about my own family’s long history. The simple fact was it didn’t get much respect in my wider world of the school classroom and so that feeling of being marginalised and unimportant was readily accepted from a very young age, and worst of all was done unwittingly.

But it is not only in history class where a young black boy can feel unimportant, Geography is perhaps a much clearer one. The map that most of us know and recognise from school is called the Mercator map, famous for its blatant inconsistencies that somehow managed to be overlooked by the ruling powers for almost 400 years. The map, first produced in 1569 was racially and geographically biased, most notably in its reduced sizing of continents like Africa and South America against Europe and Britain in particular. Obviously in those days information was scarce and knowledge of the wider world was limited in fact, most ‘learned’ English scholars believed in their being mythical beasts and monsters in these far off lands populated by a darker race of people. Zounds! No problem with any of that, but when the same map is still being used when I was at school over 400 years later…something is fucked up!
How important do you think black kids would feel if they realised just how big the continent of Africa was?, and if this truth was backed up everywhere, in school atlases, on news reports in McDonalds happy meals promotions! After all, in this day and age nothing is real until it is plastered over everything.

Interestingly, in 1974, a German historian and cartographer by the name of Dr Arno Peters produced a map that was not racially biased and was area accurate, that is, it showed the continents to be of a truer and  more proportional size. But this map was condemned from the start and was not widely published, why, because over educated scholars of the time decided against it. Just what were they afraid of?

Conspiracy theories abound and to be honest, the actual reasons I am not interested in. It is the effect of these illegal acts of knowledge falsification that I have a major issue with because the end result may just be a disassociated youth who has no interest in the world that he is in. To deny people the correct information must surely be wrong as it allows for the continued racial biases that we find in most areas of modern society today and allows for the continuation of such a system that is at its heart racially unfair. It is then, way too easy for terms like ‘ethnic minority’ to be banded about acquiring more meaning and relevance than they should have in the first place.

Looking at the Peters map, just who is the ethnic minority anyway?

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