Change begins gradually and it starts with us
For most students, academia being “male, pale, and stale” is not a new concept. Our society is heavily influenced by outdated Eurocentrism due to decades of global colonialism. These outdated concepts no longer reflect the world we live and work in, which is why we must eliminate them from our classrooms. The Inclusive Practice Partnership (IPP) Scheme is the University of Brighton’s way to recognise and commit to decolonising the curriculum, teaching and higher education as a whole.
Why is the IPP work so important?
The general idea of IPP is to challenge the longstanding biases and Eurocentric lens we filter our information through, as well as to broaden our scope to include a wider range of perspectives that have largely been pushed aside and ignored. It’s not about eliminating white people from the curriculum, but to reconsider our reinforcement of who is seen as an intellectual authority and who deserves our attention.
To challenge these power relations, students of colour need to be able to see themselves reflected in their curricula as valid inventors of knowledge because of the longstanding history of rejection and exclusion we have faced. Anti-racism asks for more than just diversity, and the university’s commitment to meaningful change through decolonisation in all of its schools should be welcomed by staff and students. Overlooking this ignores the large role colonialism played in the development of systemic racism that haunts minorities every day.
Incorporating IPP into my curriculum and future
As a Canadian-Pakistani Muslim woman, I am no stranger to racism and the structural biases I have to deal with every day of my life. As a pharmacy student, I understand and have experienced the ways in which racism in healthcare disproportionately affects people of colour and women. Using my lived experiences, I joined the IPP scheme hoping to shine a light on unconscious medical racism so that our curriculum can be reflective of the population our graduates will serve. For example, small but meaningful changes such as including a range of skin tones when showing the clinical presentation of different skin conditions, and teaching students about traditional medicines practices.
My work as an IPP allowed me to reconsider my own actions and thinking, confronting my unconscious bias so that I can be a better student and pharmacist for my patients. Having a better understanding of the lived experiences of my patients helps me connect and provide them with greater treatment. For example, learning about atrocities such as the Tuskegee Syphilis study shone a new light on why certain communities are highly hesitant to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Understanding that fear allows me to work on a solution, rather than automatically undermining their hesitancy.
We are making a difference
Decolonising the curriculum allows us all to think more critically about the narratives being told, and whose voices are deemed trustworthy while others are sidelined. I highly encourage everyone to critically think about their own lives and recognise the ways in which they may be unconsciously reinforcing these ideals. It is a large and complex issue, but the change begins gradually, and it starts with us.