I don’t often do book reviews – I mean, there will obviously be one of my own book The Ladder as we approach its launch in February – but I feel compelled to tell you about this one.
I’ve just read ‘In Black and White’ by Alexandra Wilson. It is the story of a mixed-race young woman from the East London / Essex border and her desire to work in the law profession. It’s a story of working hard, a family tragedy, the absence of support when she was offered an interview at Oxford University and the difficulties and realities of becoming a Barrister as a woman of colour in modern Britain.
It’s highly recommend as part of your careers library, a solid read for your aspirational students and a great book to use as part of #PSHE because it deals not only with Alexandra’s story, but also the stories of many of her (anonymised) clients and their struggles with the vagaries of the Criminal Justice system in the UK.
You would hope that after decades of commissions and laws governing race equalityin employment and fair treatment by public services that a woman of colour would face the same challenges as her white counterparts. Equality legislation should also outlaw discrimination on grounds of sex. Sadly, as this book shows, people of colour and especially women have to work much harder to achieve success – let alone acceptance – in the hallowed professions in British society.
Ms Wilson’s book is not simply a list of grievances she is airing, rather a careful and incisive uncovering of the layers of difficulty she faced at many stages of her career, the educational, cultural and professional hazards she had to navigate without the benefit of the appropriate compass.
As well as her own experiences – which she also shares regularly on her Twitter account @EssexBarrister – she highlights some of the really complex and historical conventions at play within the Criminal Justice system that can affect people not only rightly but also wrongfully accused of crimes. The timescales and availability of Legal Aid can drastically change peoples’ lives as their future is held in limbo.
A fascinating and empowering read and, as I mentioned, a great addition for any school’s careers library and PSHE resources…it also has an excellent bibliography featuring other works which highlight racial and societal inequalities by writers such as Akala, Afua Hirsch and Renni Eddo-Lodge.
It’s available here: https://www.waterstones.com/book/in-black-and-white/alexandra-wilson/9781913068288
Get it on the Christmas list now!
The Commission for Racial Equality was started under a Labour Government in 1976 and was disbanded in 2007 when it was merged into the Equality and Human Rights Commission.