Black Lives Matter - why educators hold the key to tackling injustice
At St Mary's black lives matter and systemic racism and racial intolerance have no place in our community, a community whose living ethos is based on deep-rooted values and inclusive characteristics such as 'celebrating diversity'.
We have all been moved by recent events, which have led to supporters challenging the status quo. One such event saw the toppling over the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader, in Bristol this weekend. Prevailing wisdom at the time saw him as a philanthropist, who donated to hospitals and schools, but glossed over the provenance of that blood money. Although we do not condone vandalism we must, as a society, more deeply scrutinise and reflect on Britain’s colonial past, and act to rectify examples of historic injustices that are in some cases still glorified today.
The recent protests in the UK and abroad are clearly emotive topics, and we have heard from a number of current students and alumnae regarding this. We support their desire to speak out and act, and we have been in touch with them to convey that. We are keen to continue to listen to our girls’ views and suggestions, and to work with them to ensure that they feel empowered to act in the face of injustice. Already this week, students in year groups across the Senior School, both in lessons and through form prayers, have been exploring the issues raised by the death of George Floyd and looking at ways in which they can make positive changes in their lives.
Lots of our students take part in many activities, from eco activism to fundraising to create a school in Zimbabwe, that aim to make the world a better place, and to reduce inequality. They leave our school with a desire to fight for justice, and to make a positive contribution to society.
As educators, we are well aware that we hold a key role in shaping our children for the future. It is not a responsibility that should be taken lightly, as we have the power to reinforce or challenge the status quo, and to foster, or not, inquisitive minds and the passions of our young people.
We ensure that our girls learn about the persecution of minorities, due to race, sex or religion, in their history and religious studies lessons. From the slave trade to the US civil rights movement, from the Holocaust and the era of apartheid to Saddam Hussein’s policies against the Kurds, our students learn about these injustices and are passionate about challenging oppression and inequality. As a multicultural school, with students from around the world, we celebrate the diversity of our student body and the global outlook that it engenders.
Despite already taking some action to educate and promote the fight against racism, we know that we can do more – we all can. We’ve been listening to our students and we are keen to make positive changes at our school to ensure we are part of the solution to this issue, rather than part of the problem. It is far easier to shout about your successes than shine a light on your faults but when a cause is transformational to so many lives it is essential that we all take the more difficult path.
At St Mary’s, following these events, our pledge is to work with our students to build on the actions we have already taken, and to work together to help make sure George Floyd’s death will not have been in vain.