I live in a leafy village where almost everyone is white; my kids attend schools where the majority of the children and almost all of the teaching staff are white.
Like you, I’ve held my breath in horror and disbelief, watching the footage of the brutal treatment of George Floyd. My 12 year old son has looked to me for answers and I’ve been lost for words.
I haven’t posted about this because I’m scared of saying the wrong thing.
I wanted to stay silent and to let others take this on. But we know from history that whenever injustice and oppression have occurred, it has been due to the complicit silence of the majority.
In the last few days I’ve felt my fear- based brain scanning for ways to justify staying silent. But I’m white, and privileged, I’m educated; I have an audience to speak to and this means I have a responsibility to speak out.
I have learned from Brene Brown to allow myself to be vulnerable and to choose courage over comfort, even when that feels really hard.
Why does this matter now?
It matters now, not only because of what is happening in the US.
It matters now because it also highlights what is happening in the UK.
The corona virus has shone a spotlight on racial inequality by the higher death rate in ethnic minority communities and that this is at least in part due to low paid high risk jobs- particularly our care workers and bus drivers being dominated by people from ethic minority backgrounds.
As the economic impact of corona takes hold, social inequality will increase. This doesn’t only affect the most vulnerable- it affects us all.
So what can I do? I can only start with what I know. These alone feel inadequate but they may be a start.
1 Talk about it- online and IRL- what can we do individually and collectively? We can listen and allow ourselves to be educated. This might be a good starting point.
2 Challenge media coverage- is the representation fair and accurate? And if it’s not let’s challenge it.
3 Challenge the education system. In 18 years of teaching, I never worked in a school with a senior leader from a BAME background.
In 2014 Michael Gove as education secretary removed American texts from the curriculum and replaced them with traditional canonical English texts (which often carry the racist attitudes of the past). The American texts- notably Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird opened up conversations and educated kids about the impact of racism, at an age where they haven’t yet made their minds up. I’ve seen Black History month marked in schools but I’m sure there’s far more that can be done in creating a diverse and representative curriculum. Schools are busy now planning for the next academic year: write to them and ask what they are doing to make BlackLivesMatter integral to their curriculum and culture.
I’ve given you what I feel and what I know. But I know there’s more so please comment, challenge and share. Together we can be the change we wish to see in the world.
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