Image by Carine.L (Unsplash.com)
I don’t know much about KSI apart from Prime (the ‘craze’ for the drink was and is nonsensical),
his influence on young people and his recent, offensive use of language. Whether you are personally offended or affected by it or not, it is an offensive term. It is a slur and the semantics of the word hold a great deal of trauma, pain, prejudice, disadvantage, and unfairness for South Asian people (let's give ourselves more credit and not be so naive to think of it as just an abbreviation).
So many people are calling out the slur and quite rightly so. It absolutely needs to be called out and I hope KSI’s break from socials teaches him - and so many other individuals doing the same - to do better. What it yet again highlights is the lack of positive male role models and positive male representation for young people, especially young men, in the media. Yet again it draws our attention to the concerning level of influence and power social media, the algorithms and the online world have on young people.
We can’t normalise discrimination, of course we can’t. We also need to stop normalising the lack of control we have, as care givers, teachers and parents, over the online world young people have access to. This too, needs to be addressed, perhaps not on social media in a finite number of characters, but in person, at home, face to face, in the classroom…in (uncomfortable) conversations. So many schools modelled this with letters to parents, conversation starters for parents and positive influencers young people can ‘follow’ instead. I know the number of parents and caregivers who were grateful for this support. It’s a step in the right direction.
An uncomfortable truth: As someone of Pakistani heritage and of a particular generation in Britain, I’d be fooling myself and the work I do if I (and many others) were to deny the internalised normalisation/usualisation of this term. Some schools of thought call it ‘reclaiming’ an identity; some might say it is a cultural connection; others may say normalisation is a coping mechanism…who knows. It’s can be exhausting to think about confront.
Everyone has their own lived experiences to process and make sense of. Regardless of what this is, these topics don’t just end with calling out and expressing hard hitting opinions on social media - that in itself is problematic.
Online influencers, like KSI, can continue to use the arguments that they are 'only human' and of course young people should not put them on a pedastal. The problem with these arguments are that they do. The very nature of social media, the exposure that social media enables, the validation that it creates means online influencers must acknowledge they are accountable for modelling social and moral responsibility. They can disagree with it until they're blue in the face, but it's a reality (and consequence) of having such a prolific influence. A blessing and a curse, some might say.
After my conversations with students past and present, I’ve been told teens themselves are getting a little bit tired (and anxious) of the perceived perfection so many of us exhibit after events such as this. The danger of call out culture on social media is that it implies (in a generic sense, and bear in mind I’m referring to young people who do not always have the privilege of experience and perspective) there is little room for mistakes, getting things wrong, apology, learning and eventually, forgiveness. That said, it is important to model what is right and what is wrong for young people through platforms that are essential parts of their entire being.
What KSI did was wrong and it’s not ok for any person to have to accept or experience racism in any form. Anger and frustration are totally valid and expected reactions. I hope this encourages all of us to do better, to be more mindful of our language on social media and in face to face interactions. More than anything, I hope we go beyond modelling call out culture to young people. I hope we can teach young people how to protect their own well-being, how to care for each other, to think about context, to consider the implication and meaning of language, and how to correct behaviour like this in a way that is better for society at large.
What is abundantly clear and needed, though, is allyship in young people. Parents and teachers of White children: teach that racism and discrimination are morally and wholly wrong. Please teach and encourage White children to call it out and correct it.
Like with previous examples such as Tate, Molly Mae and even Will Smith, this is another example of why centralising these conversations in classrooms are necessary - it is a safe, professional space; it is a space where young people can ask questions and seek guidance from trusted and knowledgeable sources. It also highlights the absolute necessity of making diversity and inclusion a central piece of CPD for teachers and caregivers.