To Sir, with Love highlights the issue of racial prejudice. Comment on this statement and show how far it is true.
Address how he interacts with the teachers of Greenslade Secondary School, and the problems he faced before getting accepted to work in the school. How difficult was it to get a job because of his skin colour?
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The book To Sir, With Love clearly highlights the issue of racial prejudice through the experiences of the central character, Rick Braithwaite. Braithwaite, who had not had problems related to the color of his skin while he was serving in the RAF, had been led to believe that he would have no trouble finding employment as a civilian after his demobilization. To his chagrin, however, potential employers one after another find reasons not to hire Braithwaite, and he soon realizes that the bottom line to all the rejections is the same - he is too black. Feeling rightfully angry and betrayed, Braithwaite comes to the realization that racism in Britain is all the more hurtful because it is "perpetrated with the greatest of charm and courtesy". Britons do not admit to "anti-Negro prejudice...it is even generally believed that no such thing exists" there, but, as evidenced by Braithwaite's inability to find employment, it is quite clear that discrimination is deeply embedded in English social structure.
Braithwaite encounters racial prejudice in almost all aspects of his life. In the teachers' coffee room, he must deal with Weston's snide innuendoes targeting his race, and in his relationship with Miss Blanchard, who is white, he must be prepared to face the censure of society at large. Women on the train are uncomfortable with the sight of him as a black teacher chaperoning white students on a fieldtrip, and his students themselves are unwilling to take flowers to a black students' home after that student's mother has died, because they know that people will gossip disparagingly about them for doing so.
Although racial prejudice is a central theme of the novel, it is by no means the only type of discrimination that is addressed. The idea that prejudice is a problem in far more areas of life than just as it concerns race is brought home to Braithwaite when he speaks to Mr. Florian about the students' refusal to take flowers to their black classmate's home. Mr. Florian stresses to the frustrated teacher that
"This is a community with many strong racial and religious tensions and prejudices, most of them long standing" (Chapter 20).
Braithwaite realizes that, just as he would like society to accept him for whom he is without regard to the color of his skin, he must also learn to accept his students for whom they are without holding them to his own preconceived notions of what he thinks they should be.
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