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Friday, January 22, 1999 Published at 12:59 GMT


Boy withdrawn over 'racist' song

Elliott's school: Anti-racism idea is said to have backfired

A mother has withdrawn her son from primary school, saying that - as the only black pupil - he is suffering when other children chant a song they learned in a talk about racism.

See what Elliott himself has to say
Elaine Ramsay, 33, from Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, said she caught her son, Elliott Stephens, trying to scrub his skin in an apparent attempt to change its colour.

[ image: Elliott:
Elliott: "I just don't think it's right"
The song, Black, Brown and White, is a heavily ironic 1930s number from the American Deep South - a black man's account of the prejudices he faced. It has the refrain: "If you're white, that's all right, if you're brown stick around but if you are black, buddy get back, get back."

It has been sung at Radcliffe Junior School for the past three years, since the children were given a 10-minute talk on racism.

"The mother has taken it completely out of context," said the headteacher, George Purcell. "My intention was the reverse of what I have been accused of."

'Wrong message'

Miss Ramsay thinks the song is no longer relevant.

"School should be a secure and safe environment for children, not somewhere they are frightened to go," she said.

[ image: Elaine Ramsey:
Elaine Ramsey: "It's out of place"
"I think any kind of anti-racist message is good - but what happened 50 years ago doesn't apply now.

"It's saying that all white people are racist, but I have never encountered any problems.

"Were the children who have bullied Elliott thinking like that before the song? Or has the seed been planted by the song?"

A spokesman for Bury Education Authority said they were looking into the matter and had arranged to meet Miss Ramsay on Monday, after which they would be speaking to the headteacher. Until then they were unable to comment further.

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