Dear Staff, Parents / Carers,
This is not the usual Friday update – I, like all of you have been deeply troubled seeing the shocking scenes unfold in the USA following the tragic murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests. There are clearly many factors in place in America that have led to the ferocity of the protests. A pandemic that disproportionately impacts on the BAME community, the economic difficulties the pandemic brings which disproportionately impact on the BAME community and finally, but most significantly, a political structure and systems that disadvantage people of colour.
It is too easy to look at the situation in America and dismiss the issues as not being relevant to people in the UK but sadly, we know it is. Our society is built upon white supremacy. On hearing this term our minds immediately jump to the Klu Klux Klan and Nazis. However, white supremacy is much subtler than this. In many instances it is the unidentified bias that sits within the majority of us that white people are superior to people of colour. The world’s systems and structures are built on this bias and this therefore creates White Privilege. As a school we have been working on unconscious bias and attempting to decolonise our curriculum but we know we have more to do.
I realise that as a white woman I too have to constantly check and challenge myself. When I moved to Hackney over 20 years ago I came with a perception that racism was simple, black and white, but my understanding has changed and I realise that it is much deeper than that. Hackney is a successful Borough, but the price of that success has a down side. Too many young Black children, Turkish children and Asian children are being failed by a system that tries to impose a form of education on our children that represents a small elite. Since the onset of the Coronavirus we have also seen subtle racism displayed towards our Chinese and Vietnamese Community.
As a school, in a wonderfully diverse Borough like Hackney, we have a huge responsibility to ensure that children of all races recognise the existence of white privilege and white supremacy. The curriculum we deliver and class discussions we have, carefully attempt to do this at an age appropriate level. We are constantly evolving our curriculum as we better understand how to celebrate diversity. We aim to educate children so that they are able to make the small adjustments to their own actions which will erode, and ultimately remove, both white privilege and white supremacy. I know that at times I have been guilty of letting things go, of not calling out racist language and behaviour when I encounter it, letting it slide rather than challenging it, thinking I can’t change people’s views so it is better to keep quiet. From now on I know it is time to be braver, to make a stand and call it out whenever I come across it.
I am privileged to be the Head teacher of Randal Cremer and I am making you a promise – we are already starting the work we need to do to ensure children leaving Randal Cremer are able to challenge, question, refuse to accept things should remain the way they are. This is why we do all we can to help your children learn to read – to recognise what is fake news and where reports come from. It is why we focus so much on vocabulary and language – we want our young children to be able to hold their own with anyone.
In normal circumstances we would be holding our own Anti Racist march – in fact we had one planned for this Summer as a response to the increase in racism as a result of Brexit, but these are not normal times. I am attaching a flyer about an Anti Racist Walk in Hackney but please be careful if you attend. The need for physical distancing, hygiene, has not gone away. In fact, the increased risk to the BAME community through this virus means extra care should be taken if you do attend.
I am also attaching a poem I received from Suweyda in Year 5 which is a starting point (please see below).
However, we cannot do this alone. All teachers know that before you can support a child to understand something you must ensure you understand it yourself. We need parents, carers and staff to talk about diversity with our children. Below are a series of links, these will be added to the school website and be updated regularly. They are an excellent starting point to recognise the unidentified biases we all have. During this unusual time the majority of you will have more opportunity than ever to talk to your children. The terrible situation in America can be turned into a positive if it becomes the catalyst for an honest and open conversation with your children. It may be uncomfortable and they will have questions. You don’t need to have all the answers, but opening the dialogue is something we can all do.
It is not ok to just say you don’t see colour, it is not ok to aim to just not be racist. You must be, and our children must be, anti-racist.
Finally – I am also attaching a PDF of a slogan I saw on a T-Shirt recently and it really resonated.
The links below are not suitable for children – they are to help us educate ourselves and start having the discussions and conversations we all need to have.
Finally, I will be sending out a parent’s guide to wider reopening of school later today – and then Rose will begin ringing Year 6 parents from next week so that we know how many children will return from the 15th.
Keep safe everyone,
A poem about Racism
Racism affects people, big or small,
Black or white, you can get affected,
It happens around the world,
And no-one enjoys it.
Black people get arrested, shot,
While some people don’t care
Why is this happening?
And who started it?
Fight back for yourself and others,
In a good way,
As this shouldn’t be happening,
The questions live on.
Everyone shouldn’t do this
It breaks our heart
To see all this happen
Especially at this time.
Let’s hope it flies away,
As it affects everyone,
Even as a child,
It hurts me and everyone badly.
Suweyda Mohamed – Year 5