Footballer Troy Deeney has said teachers are hesitant to discuss racism with pupils over fears of being cancelled.
The Birmingham City captain, whose Channel 4 documentary about the teaching of the history and experiences of black, Asian and ethnic minorities airs on Monday, told BBC Breakfast that teachers did want to speak to pupils about race and racism but feared the consequences of this “polarising” conversation.
“First and foremost, teachers do want to talk about it (racism),” he said.
“We live in a world, as you guys know, that if you say the wrong thing, you can be cancelled and you can be thrown out.”
Mr Deeney said teachers could be “demonised” as “talking about it, it’s so polarising, and you can’t really have an opinion and you can’t get something wrong”.
He said teachers did have a “great understanding” of the issue and that organisations such as the Black Curriculum, which visits schools to promote the teaching of black history, helped teachers to “have those awkward conversations with the right tone”.
Mr Deeney told the BBC that the responsibility of teaching children about race and black and Asian history should not just fall on parents, referring to his 12-year-old son, who was learning computer coding, as an example of how education has moved on in other areas.
“That is where the world has moved to, where coding is part of schooling, yet we’re still so far behind in our narrative of how black and Asian people are represented in the schooling curriculum,” he said.
He said he had “definitely” been surprised by how outdated school curricula were and said he had carried out a survey showing that most teachers “don’t feel that they have the empowerment to talk to kids and speak about difficult situations because we have to be honest, racism and history is a very difficult subject”.
Mr Deeney said representations of black people when he was younger frequently focused on slavery and that the curriculum had not moved with the times.
He said that “any lesson regarding black people” from a young age “is slavery, is depicted in a way that we are less than”.
“When we’re in school, and we are maybe one or two of the black kids… and you’re watching Roots, and everyone in that class turns round and looks at you, like ‘Is that you? Is that your uncle? Is that your dad?’
“Like you’re expected to understand that, and it’s really difficult to understand if you’ve never been in that situation but… you’re taught that that’s all you can become.
“That’s the best you can see. Unless you do music, because we’ll teach you about Bob Marley, unless you do football, because we’ll show you about Ian Wright, unless you do athletics, because we’ll show you about Linford Christie, other than that you don’t see anything that is about empowering.
“You don’t see anything about young black women in science for example. I’ve got two daughters and we don’t see anything about women in the time period.”
He said schooling needed to include “more books, better books so that kids can engage and open their mind”.
In April, Mr Deeney published an open letter to the Government and launched a petition to make the teaching of black, Asian and ethnic minority history mandatory.
It has received more than 60,000 signatures and his efforts quickly attracted the attention of Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.
Mr Zahawi immediately replied to Deeney’s open letter on social media and thanked the footballer for raising the issue while revealing his intention to get together for a meeting.
The pair held a meeting which has been captured by Channel 4 for the documentary Troy Deeney – Where’s My History.