This week I produced a video assembly for students on the theme of anti-racism. Over the course of lockdown, the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent surge of support for the Black Lives Matter movement has caused all of us – myself included – to examine this issue afresh. There is no doubt that racism is a deep and systemic problem in our country and our society. Centuries of discrimination, based on lies, have left us with an enormous legacy of injustice to overturn. It’s a big, difficult problem – there are no easy answers. But I am hopeful and determined that we can be part of the solution, and must start right here in the Academy. Because we know that racism is out there in our country, and in our community – and that is why we need to fight it here in our Academy.
In my assembly, I started by explaining to all students exactly where we stand on this issue, and what is and is not acceptable here at Churchill. What follows here is the script I used for my assembly.
Everyone is welcome
Firstly, everybody is welcome here at Churchill. No matter the colour of our skin, the language we speak at home, where our families come from, our religious beliefs, our cultural background, or where we have lived before: we are all members of this community, students and staff together, and we are all welcome here. Nobody – and I mean nobody – has the right to make anyone feel upset, discriminated against or excluded from this community for any reason. If you make somebody feel upset because of the colour of their skin, the language they speak at home, where their families come from, their religious beliefs, their cultural background, or where they have lived before – that is racist behaviour, pure and simple, and it has no place in our Academy. It simply must not happen.
I need to make their completely clear to every single student in the Academy – there are no excuses for racist behaviour in our school.
- “I didn’t know that word was racist” – doesn’t matter. Don’t use the words if you don’t know what they mean.
- “But they’re my friend – it was just a bit of banter” – doesn’t matter. Racist behaviour is racist behaviour, whether between the best of friends of the worst of enemies. It has no place here.
- “I didn’t mean to upset anyone.” – doesn’t matter. Racist behaviour is racist behaviour. It has no place here.
- “I just wasn’t thinking.” – that’s not good enough. Engage your brain before you engage your mouth. You must take responsibility for your actions.
- “I was only joking.” – doesn’t matter. The systematic oppression of entire groups is not something you can joke about. Racist behaviour is racist behaviour. It has no place here.
- “I’m really sorry, I’ll apologise.” – good, I’m glad – that’s the right thing to do. It will help, but it won’t undo what you’ve done and you will still face a serious consequence.
I need to be completely clear – there is never any excuse for racist behaviour in our community. It will not be tolerated.
Be the change you want to see in the world
As a community, we must all work together to solve this problem. It is you, the young people in the school, who will go on to build a more inclusive, more tolerant, society. But it is not enough for us all to just not be racist- we must all be actively anti-racist. If your friend is saying or doing something that makes you uncomfortable, if they are expressing opinions which are not okay – call them out on it. Tell them “that’s not okay…you can’t say that.” Tell a member of staff what you have seen or heard – you are not grassing up your friend, you are helping to build a better, more inclusive, more welcoming school. Our first Academy value is kindness. We have to live that value if we are going to solve this problem. And it starts with you – each and every one of you. I know I can rely on you all to do the right thing. So let’s start today.
You can view the assembly below