Boys in Mind Meets...
An Interview with Marvin Richardson-Grubb
By: Kit Cooper-Harrison
My name is Marvin Richardson-Grubb and I’m a secondary school teacher at the Mendip Studio School. I did everything I could to not be a teacher. I knew how stressful it was, underpaid, undervalued, that sort of thing, but everywhere I went everyone said to me “you’d make a great teacher” so it was almost like the world telling me that was what I need to do. I walked in to teach my first class and realised what I was meant to do with the rest of my life. While I was avoiding being a teacher, I was a soldier. I went to the first Gulf War. It affected me quite badly when I got back. A few years after I got back, I started feeling the effects of that.
Education was a way out of poverty for me. I was fed up of being poor all the time. I didn’t see how I could get out of that situation. It was a trap. I got a second chance and grabbed it with both hands. I can’t say that I’m rich but I don’t have to worry about money anymore. I feel as though I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. You can make a real difference to people’s lives. I’m in charge of PSHE which has given me a real opportunity to start embedding BAME issues and LGBT+ issues into education, making sure that the whole child is getting taught. I often do an assembly about how I was one of the naughtiest kids in schools and it left me on minimum wage.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s was so harrowing that just getting through the day without being attacked was a good day. That means verbally or physically attacked because of my colour. It’s very difficult to learn when you are in a constant state of fear. A lot of the racists didn’t really know what mixed race looked like because there weren’t many of us about. They’d always confuse us so I’d get called “Paki” when actually I was part Jamaican. It was absolutely terrifying for me as a child. I’m just glad that things seem to have got better but whether they have actually got better, I don’t know. It was overt racism back in the day but now it’s more covert and I think that is more dangerous.
Racism started when I was 6. I didn’t notice I was different until I was six and a new boy came to school and called me “Black Sambo”. It was in the books back in the 70s that teachers would give you to take home to read. The black people in there would have gigantic bottoms and things like that. I went back home crying and asked my dad “why are they calling me this?”. Once one kid started, they all started. I was the only brown kid in the school and it was just horrific abuse. I remember not being allowed to play with kids. My best friend went home and said to his mum “you never told me that Marvin was brown”.
Children don’t see colour! We are not naturally born to be racist. I remember many times crying myself to sleep, hoping to wake up white. Things started changing in the early 90s. From what I see now, the young generation are absolutely fantastic, they will not have it with racism, they really won’t, it’s wonderful to see. However, there are still some fixed mindsets in there and they won’t budge. I always say to kids “Remember me. When you hear somebody being racist, or saying racist things, if you are at home or with friends or whatever and you hear racist things, just remember me. Brown, mixed race, not black and white. Remember me as a human being because what racists do is try to make you think of people as separate. We’re not separate”.
It took me a long while to work out that if racist people want to hate me without even knowing me then that’s not my problem. My dad was an England boxer so I became a very good boxer to keep myself safe. I had no choice but to learn to stand up for myself because if I didn’t I was going to spend my life getting savaged. I’ve always said to people “if you want to hate me, at least get to know me first”! If you get to know me and can’t stand me, fair enough, this is life, we can’t all like each other but if you’re going to hate me don’t do it just because I’m brown. Hating people you don’t know because they are a different colour to you is madness. Racism is madness. It needs to go away.
I don’t think we are ever going back to a pre-pandemic normal. Anything that has such a vicious effect on the world is going to change it. I’d like to think that we are going to be more loving, caring and supportive of each other. I’d like to think that the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd will make people think and reflect and have those conversations. I’m concerned about mental health. I was concerned about it before the pandemic, especially in children. I’m more concerned now because not all children are having the same lives, not all children are going back to loving, caring homes. In general, I’d like to think we’re going to be kinder. I’ll appreciate standing in a queue or shaking someone’s hand or giving someone a hug! The most painful moments of my life have been when I learned the most. I hope the same will go for the world.