Responding to the haunting death of George Floyd we will radically question and revise what we do, informed and challenged by our BAME community, writes headteacher Gary Phillips
When I watched the recent killing of George Floyd I found myself moved to tears. The police officers involved were not, it seemed to me, deaf to George Floyd’s plea to breathe but decided that he did not deserve to breathe. That he was not the equal of them.
The video clip is haunting. It makes me angry. It has also made me feel overwhelmed and numb. That is my response as a white man. For those who are Black Asian and Minority Ethnic I know it must be far worse for it must represent their lived experience and fears. The micro aggression, the over scrutiny of everyday actions, the reduced access to jobs and health provision, the need to do more to succeed at work, structural inequality and the lack of recognition of the role BAME people play in all areas of society. These are just a few of the lived experiences that I am aware of from the outside.
The increased activism we have seen in the last week has been wonderful to see. A movement is growing that will help us create a fairer society. A movement led by those who know and understand the issues because they are a lived experience.
As a white headteacher of a predominately BAME school I feel I am in a privileged position. I hope over the next few weeks, months and years to be able to play a part in our school community coming together to challenge racism within and outside our school.
Our work will be informed and challenged by our BAME staff, students and families and will, I hope, start to radically question all that we do. Through doing this I know we can inspire all of our students and staff to better understand the BAME lived experience and to know how to take real action to improve it inside and outside of school.
Inside the school I want to see our curriculum revised so that we look at the whole range of BAME contribution in all areas. I want to see the books that we read better reflect BAME writers and experience. I want to see more staff question their unconscious biases and question each other, including me and our Governors.
I desperately want to see a better school – a school that responds far better to the lived experience of our BAME students. A school that helps all our students make their community and far further afield a fairer more just place in which racism is all its forms is challenged at all times.
Gary Phillips is Headteacher of Lilian Baylis Technology School