In what ways does E.R. Braithwaite encounter and overcome racial prejudice in To Sir, With Love?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When E.R. Braithwaite, who grew up in Colonial England, British Guinea, and has served in the English air-crew service for six years where he had "forgotten or ignored" his color, comes to London, he faces racial prejudice in hiring. For instance, in Chapters 4 and 5, he relates how he has applied for engineering positions, but has been refused these positions.  One employer is frank with him, associates and I are satisfied with your replies and feel sure that in terms of qualification, ability and experience, you are abundantly suited to the post we have in mind.  But we are faced with a certain difficulty....

He goes on to say that other English employees would resent his hiring. Furthermore, they do not wish to put him in lower positions because he has a high standard of education and ability. Braithwaite admits,

The betrayal I now felt was greater because it had been perpetrated with the greatest of charm and courtesy.

Later, as a teacher, where he is treated as an equal, he again feels the prejudice of others when he is on the subway with the students on a field trip to a museum. The students chatter happily until two woman board and demonstrate their disdain for "shameless young girls and these black men." Meaning to be overheard, they are surprised and embarrassed when Pamela Dare informs them that Mr. Braithwaite is their teacher.

Then, while Braithwaite and his fiancee, Miss Gillian Blanchard celebrate her birthday at a gourmet restaurant, Le Poisson d'Or, where the waiters ignore them or are rude. When they are finally waited on, the waiter spills soup on Braithwaite's lap "with a faint sneer on his face." Gillian tells him, "Let's go." She leads them out with a sneer on her pretty face. Back at her apartment, she is angry with him for not fighting back, but Braithwaite says it never does any good.

It is at the school and in the neighborhoods surrounding it that Braithwaite feels the most comfortable because there he is accepted and respected as the teacher: "That's our Marie's teacher," he overhears one day. 

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To Sir, with Love

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