A letter from the Head Master
How can you hate me if you do not know me?
That simple question, posed by Daryl Davis, an African American, to the KKK is the theme of this letter, written at a time of anguish, anger and uncertainty throughout the country and the College following the terrible events in Minneapolis on 25th May.
Four weeks ago, as I often do, I spoke to the entire pupil body in my video assembly about prejudice and discrimination. In particular, I spoke about the scourge of racism, the racism directed against African Americans for generations and the racism that condemned black South Africans to the status of second-class citizens in their own country. At the end of my assembly, I called on pupils to engage in the ongoing campaign against all forms of prejudice, specifically exhorting white pupils to campaign against racism as energetically as black pupils do.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about my address. Brighton pupils are used to these sorts of messages. If anything, I suspect that pupils think we talk about these things too much. We talk also about anti-semitism, and found a way three years ago to pay for every Sixth Former to visit Auschwitz to remind them of the ultimate terrible consequences of discrimination – a trip which now takes place annually. We talk about homophobic bullying, still prevalent in England’s schools, and four years ago, we entered our first anti-bullying float in Brighton Pride. We talk about refugees, bringing our Syrian community each week into the College to teach them English. We talk about the rights of the elderly and the disabled, the rights of women and the persecution of members of the LGBT community across the world. In short, we talk about why people hate and why we need to love.
What is different this time is that, days after I spoke to the school about the evils of racism, George Floyd was killed. And now people are finally energised in great numbers to do something. And, like all schools across the country, we are also asking ourselves what more we should be doing to campaign against racism and all forms of prejudice. To that end, we have launched a curriculum review to see what we can do in each and every subject to highlight the contributions of BAME people to human development. I am also keen to strengthen further our links with the academy in East London which we sponsor, where 88% of pupils are from BAME communities. But, above all, I want to encourage each and every pupil to engage actively with one of the many organisations campaigning against prejudice. It is not enough to adopt a hashtag, change one’s Facebook picture, sell cakes or even go on a march. This can easily become tokenism. Real change requires hard work and sustained commitment.
So, as in my letter to pupils of Friday 5th June, I am again listing below details of some of the organisations that you as a family might like to embrace. Most relate to the BAME community; but others link to equally important campaigns which are also seeking to ensure that hatred is called out for what it is, wherever and whenever it appears.