It’s important to start this, I think, by talking about self-fulfilling prophecies.

 

A self-fulfilling prophecy is “a false definition of [a] situation, evoking a behaviour which makes the originally false conception come true.”

 

For me, this happened when my A-level PE teacher nicknamed me Sinker Doswell, because Black people can’t swim. In reality, I was actually a pretty competent swimmer: strong and fast in both front crawl and backstroke. Still, I was used as the example of how not to do it. Later, on being assured of the “science” – that Black people’s bones are more dense, making us less buoyant, with fast twitch muscles that make us excellent sprinters instead – I assumed it was true. Black people really weren’t made for swimming. It wasn’t until this week, 15 years later, that I learned this “science” was made up.

 

And that’s the thing: if someone in a position of authority teaches self-fulfilling prophecies as facts, they’re not just absorbed. They become reality.

 

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