“Unfortunately we are governed by white spaces…we’re expected to use language in a certain way as well. And when I say language, I don’t just mean English. The language has been colonized to mean something [in these white spaces], and is still only available to a certain class of people.”
On this week’s TMV Podcast, Salim and Rukshana, our European Regional Editor, sit down with Dr. Suriyah Bi, an academic, CEO of the Equality Act Review, and founder of the Journal of British Muslim Studies to speak on the topics of social mobility, systematic Islamophobia, and economic discrimination that remains rampant in Britain today.
To listen to the full podcast, click below:
Speaking of her own journey of experiencing social mobility (while being expected by wider society to almost automatically have economic mobility as well), Dr. Bi explains that for so many BAME people today, socio-economic discrimination is the reality of life in places like the UK. Even for incredibly talented people like herself, having graduated from Oxford with the highest levels of academic achievements, the struggles of economic mobility were still there – on top of the shocking reality of Islamophobia and racism that continues to plague our wider society today.
No matter how educated you are, at the end of the day, I have experienced only being judged by the 2-yard cloth wrapped around my head and that is what defines me.”
Having experienced Islamophobic discrimination herself, Dr. Bi even went to court after this major life-changing experience of Islamophobia – and even while in court, she received almost no legal representation because of her supposed high-level academic background at Oxford, despite needing economic assistance.
Dr. Bi goes on to explain that deep fault lines of inequality and discrimination continue to thrive in British society today, despite the illusion of social mobility for all.
When people look at me they don’t see the Oxford graduate, they don’t see I’ve got a PhD, they don’t see anything but my headscarf…and I think that is inescapable.”
Movements to better implement diversity and inclusion are needed, but continue to fail in tackling deep-seated stereotypes and unconscious biases, Dr. Bi explains. At the end of the day, even something like the Equality Act fails to address the structural levels of discrimination in all parts of society today.
Coming onto the topic of the changes in grading systems and the controversial algorithm procedures schools were attempting to move forward with during COVID lockdowns, Dr. Bi explains the severe dangers in letting teachers decide the potential of students before these very students could prove themselves. With the additional reality of unconscious biases and deep-seated discrimination towards students from lower economic backgrounds, Dr. Bi stated:
This lack of expectation for BAME students is rife…it is rife today in disadvantaged areas, teachers definitely expect less of those students from those specific areas [of lower income families].”
These unconscious biases only reinforce the reality of living in white spaces – which Dr. Bi explains stops so many from BAME backgrounds from exceeding in life at the same pace their white peers would.
“Unfortunately,” Dr. Bi says, “we are governed by white spaces…we’re expected to use language in a certain way as well. And when I say language, I don’t just mean English. The language has been colonized to mean something [in these white spaces], and is still only available to a certain class of people.”
To listen to the rest of this fascinating podcast, click below: