Students Celebrate Diversity Week
Students across the Stamford Endowed Schools have celebrated School Diversity Week 2020, which was held virtually from 22-26 June.
We wanted to share some of the highlights of their work with you below; please scroll down to explore some of their pieces. We begin with Year 9 Philosophy and Ethics students at Stamford High School, who have created a virtual diversity exhibition.
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Taking a stand by taking a knee – OS Ellie Longbone
On Saturday 20th June 2020, Stamford town centre played host to a peaceful protest to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Before hand, I had no idea what to expect from a small town that is predominantly white but I couldn’t have been more proud of my town and everyone who turned out to support this movement. I have lived in Stamford my whole life, I have attended two secondary schools in the area including Stamford High School for 5 years and I have witnessed racism from all kinds of backgrounds. However, I have never seen so much solidarity in such a peaceful way in Stamford and this gives me hope that we are making the town a more welcome and inclusive place, for this generation and the next. There were plenty of children at the protest, including my own two boys and I was so happy to see that they are growing up to witness this movement spread to places like Stamford.
The protest began in Sheepmarket square where people began to gather displaying their signs supporting BLM. People stood up to address the crowd and to talk about important matters, such as their own experiences of racism. I felt this was so important because there is such a need for white people to listen and learn from the experiences of black people. We can be quick to shut those experiences down with cries of ‘well I’m not racist!’ or ‘all lives matter!’ but actually, as much as we consciously try to not be racist, we will not get very far without listening to the voices of those who actually experience racism. As a white woman, I intend to use any privilege that I have to help amplify the voices of black people instead of shutting them down. This is why I decided to face my anxiety about public speaking to share a message at the protest that is very important to me. I am starting my midwifery degree in September and I have been a birth worker for 2 years. Last year, I read the MBRRACE-UK report and I was shocked to see that black women are 5 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. I learnt that in the UK, we have a huge problem with institutionalised racism, which can explain the statistics. This is something that must be shared and addressed.
After the talks, we then marched through the High Street and back again with chants of ‘no justice, no peace’ and ‘black lives matter’. When we retuned to the square, we took the knee in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This is not derived from Game of Thrones, as certain politicians may have you believe. This is the amount of time the police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck, resulting in his death. The gesture is not only to pay respect and show solidarity, it is to demonstrate how uncomfortable kneeling in that position for that long is, showing how determined the police officer was.
June has been an incredible month for activism. At a local level, Stamford Anti-Racism Group has been founded. There is a Facebook group and I would encourage anyone who wants to take part in the fight against racism to join. There have been many important conversations taking place globally this month; Pride has also taken place and even though we haven’t been able to attend any physical celebrations, I have seen so much love and acceptance taking place. The transgender community is one of the most marginalised in our society but there has been a real push for transgender rights and acceptance this Pride. After all, one of the original instigators of Pride was a black transgender woman called Marsha P. Johnson. As a bisexual woman, June is a very important month to me as there is still a lot of ignorance and oppression out there so to see all the love and displays of pride for the LGBTQIA+ community fills me with joy.
The momentum for BLM and Pride is starting to slow down now but I really hope the messages we have learnt and the fight against injustice doesn’t. Keep speaking up and fighting for your rights and acceptance and if you have any kind of privilege, use it to help those who don’t.
What is white privilege? – Clemmie Hitcham, Year 12
Ask yourself: would you consider yourself to be ‘not racist’ or ‘actively anti-racist’. If you can’t decide, ask yourself: do you understand the key difference between them?
What is it to be ‘not racist’? – you personally don’t attack and oppress people based on their race; you don’t add to the issue of racism. But at the same time you don’t do anything to prevent racism, you don’t speak up or out against it, you don’t go out of your way to minimalize racism. You’re silent and numb to the issue, you don’t add to it, but you don’t subtract from it.
It’s not enough anymore to be not racist, for too long it’s been acceptable to not be racist, and while it’s not wrong and its appreciated, it should not be viewed as an achievement, this should be a basic standard. To not be racist evidently isn’t enough, as this is such a deep-rooted issue, it takes everyone, to the best of their abilities and resources, to be actively anti-racist.
What is it to be anti-racist? You personally aren’t racist and on top of this, you speak out against racists, you aren’t silent when it matters, you try and make change to the systematic oppression of people of a race other than your own, you give the oppressed races a voice and platform to express their own voices, because through the system, still dominated by white people, they’re oppressed. You accept that with your whiteness comes a privilege, and with this acceptance, comes action – you use your white privilege to be actively anti-racist.
What is white privilege?
White privilege is understanding that of all the struggles that everyone faces on a daily basis and throughout life, the colour of your skin hasn’t been one of them. The state, for your whiteness, does carry out its main function – to protect and keep you safe. Never in your life have you had to question that, due to your race; ever. For other races, they question that every day, the state is something to be feared for them and a ‘luck’ basis if it does carry out its supposed function. And why?
The oppression stems from the lack of understanding and mutual respect of our ancestors towards black people, dehumanising them based purely on the colour of their skin. The racist stereotypes that the white people have inflicted upon the black race have continued the oppression into our modern-day society, and these stereotypes? These stereotypes stem from the history of oppression from white people to black people, and the black peoples rightful attempts of escaping the wrongful grasp that white privilege holds. These exaggerated stereotypes of aggression, danger, disrespect etc have been driven and generated by white people. If the white people wrongfully treat a race, it should expect a wrongful reaction.
White privilege is realising that we are the problem, that we started the race war centuries ago, no race would start a race war against their own. White privilege is realising that only we have the voice and platform efficient enough to make the systematic change we need to see. As we are the ones who created it, we must be the ones to stop it. White privilege is not being naive and dismissive and offended by our history of racism, why hide from it? We can’t change what’s happened in the past, but we can use history to learn how to change what will happen in the future. Both the past and future are inevitable, the past comes with experience, example and lessons, but the future? The future comes with choices, flexibility and rationality – opportunity. This gift of opportunity to change, should be embraced, taken advantage of, worn thin and tired, until generations to follow us no longer should feel ashamed for the systematic oppression and oppression based on race doesn’t exist. Instead we should use the history; don’t forget about the past, use it: to disprove the stereotypes, prove a marker of change, to understand why it’s come this far, why it’s our fault it began and been driven and embedded to continue and how it’s our responsibility to end it.
The oppressed race cannot win the war against their own race, that the white people inflicted onto them and embedded into our society, without the help of white privilege.
White privilege doesn’t automatically label you as racist personally, or that the white race doesn’t have examples and evidence of being non or anti-racist. It instead means that your ancestors, or people of the same race as you have inflicted the oppression and for every good deed the white race has done, there is a bad deed targeted to the oppressed race.
The term ‘white privilege’ is not labelling all white people bad or evil. White privilege applies regardless of whether or not you personally are racist (you may not take advantage of the privilege, but the system, state and stereotypes GIVE you the privileges, without you being aware).
White privilege is the ability to be blissfully unaware.
If you don’t like the label, use your white privilege, change it so it becomes a symbol of ability and willingness to impose change rather than a symbol of Centuries, of both purposeful and non-purposeful oppression.
Understand and grasp that in this case it’s likely that racists, will only consider listening to those with the same whiteness as you. Understand that people’s willingness to listen to your voice peacefully and contently is a privilege in itself. Understand that white privilege is having to educate yourself on oppression, rather than be exposed to it and learn it first-hand.
USE your white privilege, don’t be ashamed of it or deny it, accept it as a driving force that if taken advantage of and used correctly, has the power to give all races the equality and privilege they deserve. So one day it’s not a privilege, instead it’s a basic standard offered to ALL regardless of race.
To conclude, white privilege is not saying that white women haven’t suffered oppression, that white homosexuals haven’t suffered oppression, that white transsexuals haven’t suffered oppression, that white men haven’t suffered hard ships such as war and poverty, that white people haven’t suffered poor mental health etc. White privilege is instead suggesting that on top of, being a women, a homosexual, a transsexual, fighting a war, suffering from bad mental health and hardship, that your race, the colour of your skin, which is beyond anyone’s controls, hasn’t ever amplified those issues.
Being an Ally and actively anti-racist – Miss Docherty
I recently had a ‘discussion’ with a relative of mine, someone who I have challenged repeatedly over the years over her intolerant views. In our most recent crossing of words, she said many things that were racist (which I won’t dignify by typing out here) that I challenged throughout our discussion, by pointing out the racist background of Britain and current examples of racism today. It culminated in her asking: ‘well if you don’t like it, why don’t you leave?’
This stunned me – I should just leave a country I was born and raised in because there are things that should be changed about it? This is a comment that was also made to Afua Hirsch by Nick Ferarri in 2018 on The Pledge when she raised the subject of whether statues dedicated to people who had links to racism should be removed, a clip which has resurfaced recently. Why is that an option that anyone would feel is sensible to suggest? “If people don’t like systemic and institutionalised racism, just up and leave.” This really drilled home to me the ‘logic’ of racists – they would rather people leave the country than allow themselves to acknowledge and confront racism in the UK and that of its past. The difference between my experience and that of Afua Hirsch is that this is a daily reality she deals with as a prominent black woman in the UK – and this is not acceptable.
Another issue I reflected on is that I had no idea about that clip in 2018. I hadn’t seen the broadcast and I don’t recall any media furore over it. It came to my attention because it was reposted on Instagram in 2020. Why were we not discussing it then? Why have racist comments made on a national broadcasting channel passed over our heads? I include myself in this – and this is part of what I have been reflecting on the last few weeks.
The recent protests for Black Lives Matter have made me reflect on my passivity in previous years when other examples of police brutality and institutionalised racism were publicised. It has made me challenge my understanding of what it means to be anti-racist. I have always challenged members of my family or friends who express racist sentiments or slurs and have done for years. I had felt as though I was doing my part and comforted myself that this was enough. But it is not enough to simply acknowledge that racism is wrong and challenge it in our own immediate circles; we need to be allies and actively anti-racist. We need to educate ourselves more fully about the history of the country we live in and consider the structures we are part of which have allowed racism to continue and what we can do to change this.
It can be uncomfortable for us to reflect inwardly and consider the role we each may have played in the institutionalisation of racism in the UK. For me it was that in the past I have been too passive – I have been shocked and outraged at many things I have seen or heard in the media, but I didn’t do much to act upon it. I was embarrassed that when the statue of Edward Coulson was toppled, it was the first time I considered that there are many statues in the UK are of people who were racist and expressed racist views. Why did I not think about this before? The answer is because of my privilege and passivity – it isn’t something that directly affected me, therefore I did not think about it. There are so many more examples of things like this in our history that I am learning about and my ignorance of the country I am part of has staggered me and led to a change in how I choose to act as an ally.
We need to tackle our shared history no matter how uncomfortable it makes us because that is what is required to be actively anti-racist. I have ignored my privilege for too long and need to confront my own passivity and turn that into action, however small it might be, so that I am an ally rather than a bystander.
I would then ask you do the same: be an advocate for change and be an ally. Acknowledge your bias and privilege (Harvard has a project called Project Implicit where you can do a series of questionnaires to find out your unconscious biases). Read and educate yourself. Watch documentaries. Listen to podcasts. Sign petitions. Go to protests (due to Covid-19, some of these are even being held virtually!). Donate to charities that help black communities. Actively listen. Check on the mental health of friends. Lift each other up.
Final note from me: have courage and be kind.
Words matter! – Ms Aziz-Khan
Where are you from, is a question I get asked on a fairly regular basis and if I am honest, I do steel myself for what is to come. Why? Mainly because it is a loaded question and not as straightforward as it might first appear. On the surface it is harmless curiosity about my heritage and if it was as simple as that, I would welcome the question and (now that I am in my forties) answer it proudly. My flippant and honest answer that I am from Birmingham, that I am a proud brummie who is glad I don’t have the accent, is more times than not met with a flicker of confusion and the inevitable: ‘no, but where are you really from?’ The moment this follow up question is asked, a subtle but definitive wall goes up for me – it’s instinctive and comes from years of experiencing unpleasantness. It isn’t always easy to explain but there is a difference between genuine, relevant curiosity and a desire to place me in the ‘other’ category. If it is genuine curiosity, it is asked at a point in the conversation or relationship where it just makes sense. So when the question comes at a point that is at odds with the context, it builds a wall; by asking me that question, I am being reminded that I am not fully seen as British. I think of myself as being British but if I am asked where I am really from, I am essentially being told that Britain is for white people and I’m clearly not white.
This might not be the conscious intentional meaning of the asker, and I totally accept that but let’s break the follow up question down. It usually starts with ‘No, but’ these both negate my answer, I am being told ‘no, you are not from Birmingham, you might think that by being born there and growing up there, you are a brummie but you are clearly not from Birmingham’. And then there is the adverb ‘really’’ and this instructs me that there is some other far away place that better fits my skin tone and so that must be where I am from. I might be accused of being over sensitive in this matter and that I know what is truly meant and to such accusations, I refer you to my point above, it purely depends on the context and this is the point, my race or cultural heritage is a part of me that is out of my control, it is what it is in the same way that I am as tall as I am or as old as I am, and as such is no one else’s business.
There is one situation, where I break this rule of not discussing my heritage with strangers and that is in my classroom. The questions from my students are always prefaced with ‘I don’t mean to be racist but’ as if somehow even talking about race is somehow offensive. While some may feel that it is a sad world we live in where young people are afraid to ask questions for fear of causing offence, I say we can turn this around and be totally proud of our young people, because they care and don’t want to cause offence. It is hard to know how to word such questions about culture, race, religion and identity and this brilliant generation are fully aware of the power of their words and they choose to be kind. This does not mean however, that adults, who should know better, can get away with telling a racist joke or make a racist comment just by prefacing it with ‘I don’t mean to be racist but…’ Again, it comes down to context. With the young people in my classroom (and other classrooms around the country) it is about exploring and learning the correct way to navigate the diverse society we live in.
For what it is worth, I genuinely encourage my students to ask me such questions, however clumsily phrased – it is better they ask me than them walking around with any misconceptions. I see this as much a part of my role as a teacher as teaching them about Shakespeare.
If these discussions about the language we use to talk about race and cultural heritage are not had, we will continue to have situations where someone’s ability to teach English at a British school is questioned because of the colour of their skin or a situation where someone is foolishly asked what their breed is, or worse still where someone of a different colour is simply told to ‘go back to where you came from.’ All three are experiences I have had with adults during the last three years living in Stamford.
So if our classrooms are safe places for students to discuss and ask questions about race and identity, and people like me don’t want to talk about my race with strangers, what is the best forum for adults to learn about multicultural Britain? The answer is the same: by learning and having an open mind. Have these conversations with your friends and colleagues who are of diverse backgrounds. Just because I don’t want to talk about my race to a stranger in the queue at the bank or at a parents’ evening, doesn’t mean I don’t talk about it, it comes back to context and picking the right moment. Talk to your children who have perhaps had conversations about diversity issues already. And just be aware that these are sensitive issues and people do get hurt by the words used. When I have stopped someone to correct the language they might have used when talking about diversity issues, I have inevitably been faced with the age old ‘we can’t say anything today with the political correctness police about.’ And in my mind this is far worse than the initial comment might have been, because it screams ‘I have made up my mind and want to say what I want, how I want.’ There is no room in this way of thought for reflection and considering that perhaps our language may need adjusting.
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me is a total lie. Bones can heal, but emotional scars are far harder to soothe. Words matter. The language we use to explain ourselves, shapes the perception people have of us. Words shape our thoughts and by extension they shape the world we live in. With any cultural or societal reform, there are explosive moments where something triggers a demonstration or protest, there is the initial flurry of media coverage, with calling out bad behaviour or the changing of icons to raise awareness and then, just like it started, it appears to all go away. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t really. This is when the next stage, some would argue the hardest stage of the revolution is fought. What it does is then permeate our thinking process and the new way of looking at things becomes part of our vernacular and slowly but surely ideas shift and slowly but surely we wake up one day to find the world has shifted and changed for the better. In this beautiful colourful country of ours, this is the battle going on around diversity right now, a gentle but strong battle to shift people’s mindsets to recognise that the language we use has far bigger impact than we might think. As the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne said: “Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
Good intentions, bad results – Mr Sekhar
I recall a moment in the late 1980s being told by two boys posting flyers for the ‘Scouts’, at the front gate of my parent’s house, while playing Star Wars with my neighbour, stating that ‘Pakis can’t come to Scouts, but your mate can!’. It was the first time that I realised my skin colour made some people judge me and my white neighbour differently. I could not image the same happening to my son in the 2020s as our society, media and parliament have worked tirelessly over the last 40+ years to tackle discrimination based on race. In Britain, we has seen a huge change in our attitudes towards racist and discriminatory behaviour, to the extent that race is no longer seen as a noticeable difference between people in social, work and day-to-day interactions. We should be hugely proud of the progress we have made; however, I sense regression in our drive to be seen as progressive.
Are we now caught up in a wave of identity politics which looks to undo the anti-racism work of the last few decades? I sense we are being steered towards focusing on our racial differences once again. I sense we are being divided by our racial differences. Are we being told that ‘Black Lives Matter’ isn’t racist but ‘White Lives Matter’ is racist? Are we now actively being encouraged to be racist to tackle racism? This doesn’t make sense to someone who was educated to not judge people based on their race and to not treat people differently because of their race. The reaction to the ‘White Live Matter’ banner at a Football match in June will work to drive some people toward far-right echo chambers as open discussion and dialogue are shunned by social and mainstream media. The fear is that the polarising of our society based on race drives both extremes of the political spectrum. Would a balanced reaction to ‘White Live Matter’ have been to agree and promote that in fact ‘All Live Matter Regardless of Race’?
So, how do we deal with terrible events like those which led to the death of George Floyd? Is it solely a racial issue or are there other issues also at hand? Should we be calling for an improvement in police funding, training, psychological analysis and accountability? Should we work to education people on ‘How to be arrested’, as to reverse the increase in violence towards our law enforcement which has in return driven an increase use of force, in what are highly stressful and emotional situations? Should we be honest and open about crime statistics and strive for contextually awareness? Should we encourage reasoned discussion and debate with a pivot away from emotional reactions and virtue signalling induced silencing of opposition?
My overarching concern with the scenarios seen in the recent social unrest; the lack of multi-polar debate, the at times violent shutting down of opposing opinions and thoughts (regardless of how abhorrent or ill thought-out) and the attempts to rewrite/deny context from history, is that certain thoughts and ideas fester and pressurise underground – at some point these burst out with likely violent and harmful consequences. Should we rather, allow pressure out of the system by actively engaging in reasoned discussion and debate from all parts of the spectrum, allowing the weakest and most poorly thought-out ideas to be challenged and discredited thereby allowing the most logical, evidenced and reasoned ideas to flourish?
Reviews and recommendations
As this week is Diversity Week, the Prefects at Stamford High School came together to write reviews about lots of the different forms of the creative arts which express diversity in many ways; for example, race and the LGBTQ+ community. This exercise was both informative and interesting as these reviews highlight the importance of diversity within our community today, because how boring would the world be if everyone was the same! These reviews also give detailed ways in which we can educate ourselves – a key step to take in order to help society as a whole improve for the better.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela
By Eloise Quetglas-Peach
‘Why I am no longer talking to white people about race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge – a really eye opening book about the links on gender and race. It explains how it is being a person of colour in Britain today.
By Lillie Barton
‘Noughts and Crosses’ by Malorie Blackman – Within ‘Noughts and Crosses’ we see a world where the roles are reversed in society in comparison to the real world. Here, there is a white underclass which is in conflict with a specific subset of ruling black people. The population within the story is split into white Noughts who are deemed to be second class citizens, whilst the black Crosses are seen as the superior race. The story shows true love and friendship following the relationship between 15-year-old Callum who is a Nought and his friend Sephy who is not only a Cross, but her father is also an influential politician in the country leading to the testing of their own strength and the strength they share.
The relationship shared between Sephy and Callum is looked down on upon society and we see the discrimination they face as a result of this. The reversal of racial stereotypes is a very clever way of showing the racial prejudice from a different perspective that we would not normally see in our daily lives.
This is one of my favourite books to enjoy and also learn from the thought- provoking exploration of the futile prejudice society has put into place over time. I would 10/10 recommend this book to anyone. Blackman’s writing is so easy to pick up and engross yourself in.
By Sophie Newport
‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson – I read The Art of Being Normal a few years ago and remember being amazed by the story and the message it spread. The novel tells the story of two transgender teenagers through a dual narrative and exposes their struggles while educating readers and indirectly encouraging them to become more accepting of all kinds of people, no matter how they identify. Although at times it is heart-breaking, the story is hopeful and engaging and has a very good message which I think more people need to hear.
By Poppy Fleming
‘Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela’ – This book is something I read a while ago, but I found it to be uplifting, emotive and compelling. Nelson Mandela’s story is, of course, a very well-known one which is told through his autobiography, highlighting the trials and tribulations which he endured both publically and privately for a cause greater than himself, for his community, and for justice. I found that the book shed a lot of insight on Mandela’s thoughts, sense of discrimination, his fight for freedom and equality which is incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking. He owns his mistakes and failures as readily as his successes which besides the obvious messages from this book, is something we can all take something from. Mandela is the embodiment of strength and resilience, and I recommend the book for anyone looking to learn how to make a difference in the world!
By Nayana Mould
‘Hidden Figures’ by Margot Lee Shetterly – ‘Hidden Figures’ is an eye opening novel about three African-American women, who are great mathematicians. They are discriminated against in the man-dominated NASA, but in fact were the ones who ensured the astronaut’s safe and successful launch into orbit, after many difficulties. The story is truly empowering, and one that needs to be read if you have not already!
By Emily Cox
‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Tomas – It tells the story of teenager, Starr Carter, who witnesses her unarmed black friend be fatally shot by a police officer. This book is extremely relevant to current events going on in the world as Tomas addresses a large number of issues which are seen every day within the black community. The main theme of racial injustice is shown throughout as she clearly depicts the damaging and lethal impact racism has on our society. The correlation to recent events is clear in more than one aspect, not only through the loss of a black life but how the media paints the picture that the death of these men was their own fault. The book clearly shows that it is everyone’s responsibility to influence change and that to quietly disagree is not enough.
By Eliza Jones
‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Tomas – ‘The Hate U Give’ shows how each character has an importance in repressing diversity and a part of modern day society. It reflects how strong your voice is and how strength as well as family is so important. It represented how voice and action can change the lives of black youth when presented with police brutality with only a single voice, some loyalty and resilience. In addition, the good you can promote around the world with white privileges in order to support black people which may be more vulnerable. It clearly emphasises the movement of Black Lives Matter.
By Josie Rule
‘The Help’ by Kathyrn Stockett – ‘The Help’ is a novel based on a woman called Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan and her journey to become a successful journalist during the Civil Rights Movement. She decided to write a book from the viewpoint of the black maids which exposed the racism they faced every day. It is a very empowering novel for women, specifically women of colour, because of the way the black maids stand up for themselves and other black women against their white bosses. This novel is very heart-warming and shows how strong these women truly are.
By Molly Fowler
‘Un Secret’ by Philippe Grimbert – This is the book I am studying for my French A Level and it is very eye opening into the lives of Jews living in France during the Second World War. The book talks of how the main family, who have a Jewish second name, had to change their last name and flee Paris during the war to avoid being captured by the Nazis. I think it is very important that stories like this are shared to show the awful discrimination different groups of society have suffered so that it can be avoided at all costs in the future.
By Erin Andrews
‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ by Florence Given – I recently purchased the book ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ by Florence Given, and even after seeing the first page, I knew it was going to be an incredible read! Unlike anything I have read before, it is directed solely at women. Not just heterosexual cis women; all women. It focuses on feminism in a fresh light. What it means to be a woman, a feminist, and even yourself.
A message on the back reads “Warning: contains explicit content (and a load of uncomfortable truths)” and this is a brilliant summary of what I’ve read so far. In the first chapter Given discusses how Feminism is going to “ruin your life” (but in the best way, of course). It means more than a group of people with the hunch that women deserve the same rights as men, it means destabilising myths that have literally controlled the lives of millions of women for hundreds of years, and once you have started to unpick the carefully woven reel of lies that binds society into its one-size-fits-all cage, you won’t be able to look at the world with from the same angle ever again. One chapter titled “Maybe it’s a girl crush, maybe you’re queer” discusses the damage caused by assumed heterosexuality, and the fact that often when people choose to come out as LGBTQ+, they’re often degraded and treated like children, with comments such as “you’ve never been with a girl, how would you know?” or “but you don’t look queer”. This is, frankly, nobody else’s business. Furthermore, Given speaks of her first-hand experiences dating women, and the fact that lesbian couples are sexualised and seen as some kind of novelty, whilst gay men are placed into the “gay best friend” category – yet another double standard.
Another important theme of the book is the fact that we can succeed without pulling each other down. “There is enough room for all women to be whole without tearing each other down”, Given quotes. In our society often the hate we receive as women comes directly from other women, which most of the time happens without us even noticing, or caring. As Given stated on the back cover, this is an uncomfortable truth that must be addressed in order for women to progress. Since ordering the book, a lot of my friends have also purchased it, and the response from every single one of them has been overwhelming. I would hands down recommend this to every woman in the world, and will certainly be lending it to any of my male friends looking to see the world from a different perspective. For more information, amazing illustrations and inspirational quotes, follow @florencegiven on Instagram.
By Caitlin Brown
‘12 Years A Slave’ directed by Steve McQueen – this adaptation of 1853 slave memoir written by Solomon Northup is probably one of the most hard-hitting films that I have ever watched. It clearly encapsulates the excruciatingly brutal injustice and the inhumane discrimination that many black people experienced in the years before the American Civil War. The film follows the story of a very well-educated black violinist who was kidnapped by two conmen and sold into slavery, despite being born a free man in the state of New York.
The film is truly moving and shocking as it vividly depicts what life was like as a slave in the southern states of America; the constant punishment of being whipped and beaten, the constant racist insults, and the constant state of living in such severe fear that makes suicide seems like a far better option than living in a world of inhumanity and injustice.
After watching this film, I learnt a lot about the level of brutality African Americans faced while being tortured under slavery. I also learnt that one small good deed can have such a beneficial impact on someone’s life; so I feel that one of the morals of the film was to ensure you stand up for what you believe in and then help others in order to successfully make a positive change to society.
By Eloise Quetglas-Peach
‘The Hate U Give’ directed by George Tillman Jr. – ‘What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be.’
This is one of my favourite films and books, because it truly opened my eyes on the discrimination that the black community endure daily. It is heart-breaking but the power, which Starr yields, is one that should be an inspiration for the whole of humanity.
Angie Thomas’ novel, turned block-buster film, ‘The Hate U Give’, is a story of strength, unity and power against the injustice and discrimination in America against the black community. Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl, is torn between two communities when she experiences her best friend, Khalil, being shot by a policeman. She faces her friend’s racism towards her community every day, justifying their comments by saying ‘You’re different, Starr.’ She experiences her father being targeted by police officers. She sees her little brother living in a world in which he will have to face this police brutality. She does not stay silent. ‘The Hate U Give’ inspires the thought that every member of the human race should be treated equally, regardless of the representation they receive in the media and regardless of the unjust perception others may have.
“Everybody wants to talk about how Khalil died, but this isn’t about how Khalil died. It’s about the fact that he lived. His life mattered. Khalil lived!’ I look at the cops again. ‘You hear me? Khalil lived!” – Starr Carter.
By Amba Tilney
‘Schindler’s List’ directed by Steven Spielberg – The movie ‘Schindler’s List’ is taken from a true story which was to do with the discriminatory act of the Holocaust which killed 6 million people, mainly Jews. ‘Schindler’s List’ is about a man who saved 1,100 Jewish lives by making his factory a refuge for them. This awful event happened over 75 years ago but similar actions are still taking place today. Consequently, this shows that the world still hasn’t learnt from its very harsh lesson of the Holocaust, and has forgotten that diversity is essential in life.
By Annabel Dallas
‘Hidden Figures’ – ‘Hidden Figures’ is a film based on a true story about three African American women who worked at NASA in 1961, when discrimination was still very much apparent. These three women (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Monae and Mary Jackson) helped NASA to achieve their goal of launching an astronaut (John Glenn) into orbit whilst still having to cope with racial and gender discrimination at work. During the film, Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji Henson) gives a speech about why she leaves the office for an hour a day and it is because there are no toilets in the building for her to use because of the colour of her skin. As a result of this, NASA got rid of colour segregated toilets and this is just one of the many examples of what these amazing women overcame when trying to do the impossible of getting someone into space. I would really recommend that you watch this with your family as it is such an eye opening and thought-provoking film.
By Sophie Mihill
‘Bend It Like Beckham’ directed by Gurinda Chadha – This movie is so inspiring as it teaches the audience to really fight for their dreams despite of the circumstances. It also shows a realistic view of a typical Asian family as well as exploring other paths of diversity and how teenagers are both accepting and unaccepting of them. Although this film may be outdated, it truly is timeless in the messages that it portrays.
By Grace Kendall
‘Hamilton’ directed by Thomas Kail – Hamilton the musical, written by Lin Manuel Miranda in 2015, shows a high amount of diversity in the production. The cast of Hamilton has a wide range of cultures playing the characters which were historically white and yet are played by all different races in the show. Hamilton also shows a theme of the rise in diversity at the time that this was set. Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant who moved to New York and made his way up the political scale to run the Treasury Department of Congress and also wrote a lot of the Constitution of America. The whole point of the different races playing the characters is not the concept of casting actors in colour blindness but how they present it to a modern audience and make it relevant to the 21st Century. The director of Hamilton, Thomas Kail said: ‘In the stubbornly white world of British theatre, which remains a long way off from regularly casting black and minority ethnic actors in roles long-played by their white counterparts, Hamilton makes a powerful statement.’
Another example of a play that casts different races compared to the original idea is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child who has Hermione being played by a black actress rather than an actress who looks like Emma Watson. Hamilton is a show about overcoming adversity and especially in the current climate of the Black Lives Matter movement, casting actors who are usually turned down for parts because of the colour of their skin can help progress the West End and Broadway to take a step of changing an industry that historically has been very heavily Caucasian casted. Having these actors perform the parts, shows the talent and understanding of the musical better and why Lin Manuel Miranda wrote about this underrated founding father.
By Alice Patterson
‘Queer Eye’ created by David Collins – What I really love about ‘Queer Eye’ is how it celebrates diversity and the differences between people whilst helping people to become the best version of themselves. ‘Queer eye’ has told the stories of people of different genders, races and sexualities, the fab five able to relate having experienced discrimination and prejudice themselves. They offer limitless acceptance and love and help people find this also within themselves. It tackles difficult issues with grace in the context of wholesome and enjoyable content.
By Charlotte Bender
‘13 Reasons Why’ based on the novel by Jay Asher – While it’s a controversial show, it does raise a lot of important concerns regarding lack of diversity in America. It highlights the police brutality against black people, the breaking up of families due to immigration, how white privilege protects in the court room and it shows lots of different sexualities and the acceptance of all the differences. The cast itself both in their characters and not, come from of variety of backgrounds, and show a diversity of sexualities and races in a positive light. It is a good example of how we should embrace differences with acceptance and understanding.
By Clemmie Hitcham
‘Pose’ created by Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy – ‘Pose’ is a BBC series set in 1987 New York amidst the bustling LGBTQ+ Ball culture. It tells the story of Blanca, a black transgender woman, who starts her own house after leaving her previous House: House of Abundance. Ball culture is an underground LGBT subculture that originated in the United States in which people compete in houses for glory at the events known as Balls. Houses serve as alternative families that are meant to provide shelter and safety for those who have been kicked out of their own families for being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. It is an uplifting series that follows the House of Evangelista on their journey to becoming the best house. The whole series celebrates other races and people of the LGBTQ+ community, whilst also showing the hardships and reality of the racism and transphobia people receive for being “different”.
By Kate Smith
‘Sex Education’ created by Laurie Nunn – ‘Sex Education’ is a Netflix series which incorporates racial diversity and LGBTQ+ representation through its use of character choices, in particularly Erik, a black male who is gay. Other important topics that are included in an attempt to be normalised are: mental health, female masturbation, non-toxic male friendships, consent, gender fluidity, asexuality, interracial relationships and feminism. This is a very powerful series because diversity is considered the norm and those issues are no longer debated – they’re addressed.
By Emily Ferguson
‘When they see us’ directed by Ava DuVernay on Netflix – This series is a necessity to watch. Not only is it the most moving thing I’ve ever watched, it made me realise I must be actively researching and educating myself on injustice and systematic racism.
The 4 part series directed by Ava DuVernay harrowingly depicts the true story of the Central Park 5, who were children at the time they were imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. The series shows you the protagonists when they are children and adults and it’s heart-breaking to see the lack of change in the oppressive system over this long stretch of time. These kids’ lives were destroyed by the people supposed to protect them. The things that were allowed to happen to these friends solely based on their skin colour and ethnicity shouldn’t happen to any human, let alone innocent kids.
It’s by far my favourite series I’ve ever watched, based upon the impact that it made in my life (although it sounds cheesy it’s true). After watching, I was compelled and moved to research the people behind the characters. Korey Wise is a name that will stick with me for life, as he served the harshest and longest sentence despite only tagging along to the police station to support his accused friend. They have all managed to rebuild their lives and I saw on Instagram Korey attending the George Floyd protests. The strength of these 5 is inspirational.
Although these events took place in the 80s and 90s, a man who took out a full page article to call for the death penalty for the innocent boys (purely because of the prejudice he held against Black and Latino peoples) is currently President of the USA. Even once they were exonerated, he publicly refused to admit any remorse. This is terrifying and not isolated to America. Over the time since watching this series a year ago, yet more black lives have been cruelly taken. People we love and know still experience racism. If we are not actively living anti-racist lives, our inaction is responsible for a system where this can happen. Through recognising privilege and bias, self-education, donating, having tough conversations and speaking up when things aren’t right; we must fix this.
By Millie Murison
‘Brooklyn 99’ created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur – A TV show which I believe to be quite inclusive is Brooklyn 99. Despite being a comedy series, it deals with many uncomfortable issues that are often ignored. One such example is that in an episode called ‘Moo Moo’, where Detective Jeffords, a black man, experiences racial profiling. It was very upsetting to see such an honourable man nearly arrested, if not for his employment within the police force, simply for searching for his daughter’s toy outside his neighbourhood in the evening. It really brings into light how discrimination and social injustice can affect anybody, and that you really cannot judge a book by its cover.
By Katy McCarthy
‘13th’ directed by Ava DuVernay – The Black Lives Matter movement has become increasingly prominent over the last month or so. As I became more aware of the importance of understanding the history of Black lives, I decided to explore resources. I watched ‘13th’ with the hope that I would learn a little more about the history of Black people and what I could do to help stop discrimination. I came out of watching the documentary with so many facts, opinions, statistics and thoughts running through my head. I was most definitely overwhelmed. I highly recommend watching ‘13th’. I would go as far as to say that everyone should watch the documentary.
‘13th’ begins with the alarming statistic: one in three African-American males will serve prison time at one point or another in their lives whereas only one in seventeen white men will. The documentary goes on to explain how the loophole in the 13th amendment converted slavery from a legal business model to an equally legal method of punishment for criminals. ‘13th’ both shocked and angered me. It made me question the respect I had for American Presidents and the country which calls itself ‘the land of the free’.
I believe watching this documentary is vital to educating ourselves about the horrifying history of Black lives and why more than ever we need to stand up for them.
By Evie Armes
“The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety”- W. Somerset Maugham – To me, this shows how beautiful the world could be if the differences which exist in society are accepted by everyone. Diversity is a part of life to be celebrated and no one person is the same. If we accept these differences and act as a united front, many would feel more accepted and integrated into the community; creating a better quality of life for all.
By Melissa Nelson
‘Caged Bird’ by Maya Angelou – After being given the book of poems ‘And Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou, I thought it was only appropriate to analyse one of her poems in aid of Diversity Week. Maya Angelou has faced a lot of prejudice in her time as a black woman and grew up in an unsafe household with her mother’s abusive boyfriend. The odds were against her as, due to previous traumatic experiences, she didn’t speak for several years. Luckily for us she found her voice again. ‘Caged bird’ is such a powerful poem as she describes her experiences of oppression and racism through the eyes of an imprisoned bird. The metaphor not only highlights the maltreatment of black people but also the emotional and physical restraint it puts on them. When she wrote “the caged bird sings of freedom” she is referencing the yearning of the oppressed to be set free, and live life no longer in fear. I recommend Maya Angelou’s poetry to all as it opens your eyes to wider problems and struggles that people face on a daily basis. One doesn’t realise how privileged they are until they imagine life, as a caged bird.
By Pippa Bradshaw
Black Lives Matter Protest – On the 20th of June, I went to a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Hyde Park, London. It was extremely empowering to hear people speak their frustration in person rather than on social media. It was also amazing to see the diverse range of people that attended to show support!
By Chloe Tinton
‘Where is the love?’ by The Black Eyes Peas – Most people believe this song is about the war in Iraq. However, the true meaning of this song is the fight against racism that takes place all over the world, but particularly in America. It is basically calling out all of the hatred that takes place in today’s society as it exaggerates the theme regarding human rights, through the relationship between the individual and society. Overall, their song exemplifies their desire to return to a world with fairness, equality, and humanity.
By Niamh Peters
‘Red Table Talks’ by Willow Smith – In a red table talk, Willow Smith spoke of the difficulties of “cancel culture”. The episode, which highlighted the current black lives matter protests, also spoke of the dangers of not allowing people to make mistakes. I think that this is something to think about during Diversity Week. How, in a society where we are expected to empathise with people from different backgrounds rather than “cancel” a person for a misunderstanding of a micro-aggression, can we give them the benefit of tolerance and lead them to a path of learning. This gives people the opportunity to understand why their actions were wrong and change their attitudes rather than being bombarded with hate. Only through education, listening and having open conversations can we overcome systematic racism which is ingrained deep within our society.
By Megan Gunther
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