How did E.R. Braithwaite encounter and overcome racial prejudice in "To Sir, with Love"?

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To some extent, E.R. Braithwaite's experiences of prejudice awaken a hitherto unrealized racial consciousness. Prior to his arrival in England, he never really considered himself as an outsider, as the other. He certainly never felt that way when he served in the war. Yet, as soon as he sets foot in England, he realizes that large swathes of the indigenous population treat him differently simply on account of his race. He's actively discriminated against in his search for employment; people look at him strangely on public transport and make snide remarks; he's treated with contempt by waiters at a restaurant, and Gillian's parents strongly disapprove of their daughter dating a black man.

Throughout it all, however, Braithwaite maintains dignity and composure in the face of such systematic prejudice. He's helped to maintain this attitude from the general level of acceptance that he receives at school and in the local neighborhood. This provides him with a haven of calm in which he is respected and from which he gains the necessary strength to deal with the harshness and ignorance of the world outside.

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One way in which Braithwaite encounters racial prejudice is through his experiences in London.  As a man of color at the time, racial prejudice was found both within the school and outside of it.  Some of Braithwaite's colleagues refer to his race in their initial interactions.  Braithwaite's students are adolescents who have already been infected with racial prejudice.  Their encounters with him are examples of the racism he must confront.  In his relationship with Gillian, Braithwaite encounters the fear that racism cause, seen in the trepidations that Mr. Blanchard expresses regarding his daughter's love for a man of color.

In each of these settings, Braithwaite challenges racism and discrimination in never doubting himself.  He challenges the prejudice he encounters by offering himself as a testimony against it.  The manner in which he displays dignity, confidence, and a sense of resolve in refusing to let racism define him becomes his answer to it.  Braithwaite recognizes that prejudice can be overcome when one is willing to face it and withstand its initial discomfort.  In the moments when he faces racial prejudice, Braithwaite does not allow racism and prejudice to define he and his interactions with people.  He asserts his identity to rise above it.

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How did E.R Braithwaite gain respect and love after all the racism and prejudice he endured?

One reason why Braithwaite is able to gain respect and love despite enduring harsh realities of racism and prejudice is because he embodies the lesson that he teaches to his students.  Braithwaite stresses to the kids that they cannot take the form of the world around them.  If they wish to change the world and demonstrate agency to create personal and social change, they must understand the realities of the world and not capitulate to them.  It is for this reason that Braithwaite is able to endure so much of fundamental unfairness that is around him.  He accepts the barbs and insults that the world places upon him because of his commitment to refuse to take the form of the world around him.  It is for this reason that he teaches this lesson with so much in way of authenticity and absolutism to his students. He lives it.  Due to the fact that this is not something that rings hollow with the children, they begin to understand him and the lessons he is teaching them.  His credibility with them is because it becomes clear that he recognizes the importance of the lessons being taught due to his living them.

Braithwaite understands that in order to create lasting social and personal change, one cannot acquiesce to the world around them.  There is racism and prejudice.  There is unfairness.  Yet, Braithwaite teaches the students that to simply respond to these without understanding them and seeking to actively transform them simply repeats the same pattern of self- destruction upon which others before them have embarked.  Braithwaite understands that simply getting angry and being dismissive of the racism and prejudice he has experienced is not going to change these realities. The only chance for transformation lies in the ability to recognize these realities and seek to actively use autonomy and agency to fundamentally change that which is into what can be.

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