AT a predominantly white rural school in the East of Scotland, our first exposure to a book about racism was To Kill a Mockingbird, a widely-taught American classic.

There can be no denying the genius of Harper Lee and her words still resonate with many today - but how effective is this first exposure if it is the only text we remember teaching us about racism?

How effective is it, when America is made out to be a racially divided country but ours is not?

Stories resonate with children, teenagers, students and adults alike. If we aren’t being given stories in school, university, and day-to-day life that emphasise just how racially divided our country is, then what do we expect when we see an outpouring of ignorance in response to Black Lives Matter protests?

My time studying English Literature at the University of Glasgow was extremely beneficial, I thrived in that environment. However, maybe I only thrived because the majority of our texts spoke to whiteness and white privilege, so there was no challenge.

Many choose to study English in order to broaden their reading and understanding of the world we live in. The texts we studied just enhanced our reading of a world we already knew – a white world.

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From the collective memory of myself and friends, one of the only mandatory texts written by a Black author that was featured pre-honours was Things Fall Apart (1958) by Chinua Achebe.

It is an iconic Nigerian novel about Okonkwo, a character who tries to protect his community against the forces of British empire and colonialism: “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion.

“We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us.”

I realized that I was one of those savages jumping up and down on the beach … And once that kind of enlightenment comes to you, you realize that someone has to write a different story.

This book was my first introduction to the British empire and the destructive effects of colonialism in Africa. It was disturbing that we had not been taught about any of this prior to university in mainstream education.

However, even in university this was the one of the only mandatory books through which we learned about colonialism from the side of the native populations who were brutalised, murdered and enslaved.

In an interview, Achebe confirmed how unconscious white bias can be: “When I had been younger, I had read these adventure books about the good white man, you know, wandering into the jungle or into danger, and the savages were after him. And I would instinctively be on the side of the white man.

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“This is what fiction can do.”

In this pre-honours course, we also studied Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

This text is still highly praised by academics and taught in universities worldwide. However, Conrad’s frankly demoralising description of black people was sickening.

Some may argue that it is essential to read these texts to understand how deplorable and savage colonists were. They may claim that Conrad shines a true light onto our colonial history. However, if that is the case, then why are we only given one more text to refute this white narrative and to educate us about the victims of colonialism?

Achebe himself spoke of the change in his own point of view: “I realized that I was one of those savages jumping up and down on the beach … And once that kind of enlightenment comes to you, you realize that someone has to write a different story.”

These are stories we need to read, stories that tell the other side of our colonial history and the destructive legacy that persists.

Although I know that Things Fall Apart resonates so well because Achebe is a gifted writer, it also stuck in my mind because he was one of the only Black authors we studied across the first two years.

If we had read the rest of his trilogy, for example – No Longer At Ease (1960) and Arrow of God (1964) – then students may have been more willing to choose optional courses that featured more ethnic minority authors.

The majority of the texts we were introduced to in the first two years were written by white authors, and so they never challenged us about our whiteness or white supremacy.

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It seemed natural for us to read books written by white authors, as that is what we are brought up with.

If students are introduced to a wider variety of authors from all ethnicities, this would challenge and change our thinking. Students, or “world-changers”, as the University of Glasgow deems us, could then go on to challenge white supremacy and be effective allies in the future with the tools they have acquired from English Literature.

Most importantly, having an equally diverse curriculum could encourage more ethnic minority students to study the subject.

The University of Glasgow is making progress and I am greatly encouraged by this. However, there is undoubtedly more work to be done.

I hope other universities follow the same path of decolonizing the curriculum and assessing how their institutions can become more accessible for all, because failing to recognise these issues means we cannot move forward.

The University of Glasgow is hosting a session online about “Complexities of Commemorating Difficult Heritage” for the Glasgow Open Doors Festival.

A charity called The Black Curriculum is campaigning for black history and Britain’s true colonial history to become mandatory in schools, so please visit their website and donate if you can.