Dear student,

We are sure many of you are aware of the devastating events occurring in the United States of America at this moment. Some of you have been in contact about this, keen to discuss what you have seen. We wanted to write a meaningful message to you to acknowledge this. One of the things that have been an inevitable outcome of this lockdown is the missed opportunities to answer your questions, to understand and discuss what we are witnessing. It also gave us pause to reflect on what we can do to ensure our school is as inclusive and welcoming as it can be for all.

We, like many of you, were shocked and appalled to see the video of a black man in America gasp for breath and beg for his life whilst the knee of a police officer was pressing on his neck. This is an image that have stuck with us; in particular, those three words ‘I can’t breathe’. It also reminded us of previous events seen on the news about this before and names such as Mike Brown and Sandra Bland will now be joined by the name George Floyd. Following this, the response from Americans across the country has been one of hurt, betrayal and anger. We have seen these emotions expressed through protests, sit ins and riots across many cities.

We know that discussing the issue of racism is difficult and can be uncomfortable to acknowledge and to deliberate over for many. It is something that we are always working on and to call out racism if we witness it, as well as approaching it following our policies at ELA if it involves anyone in our student body. Racism is seen as conscious hate, but it is so much more than that. It can be subtle and it can be on many scales. The term ‘Black Lives Matter’ has also been a term most used. This movement aims to use marches and digital activism to campaign against violence and systematic racism aimed at black people. It is not putting one race above another, but focuses on disproportionate violence experienced by black people and the acknowledgement that this needs to stop.

As educators, it is the duty of all teachers to continually learn and find out information to understand all issues our society faces and use this to inform students. These are challenging times ahead for the United States which have raised questions about what we can do as a society. It also highlighted issues that the BAME community feels in the United Kingdom, as seen in the protests in London. You may have heard Clara Amfo of Radio 1 speak about this issue; it is worth listening to. Just because we can’t see racism, does not mean that it is not there. If you have ideas about what we can do in school or want to talk about your experiences, then please let us know. We want to hear from you. There are many other issues facing our society and we will continue to address those. However, for the time being, we have suggested some reading material and videos below that will help understand what we are witnessing. This is one of many steps we can take as a school to make our school and wider community a safe place for all.

We leave you with this quote:
“It’s up to all of us – black, white, everyone – no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out” – Michelle Obama

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

This letter was produced by,
Mr Francis, Miss Rehman, Miss Croft, Mrs Slack and Mrs Clifton on behalf of the ELA community

Resources to help you understand

An introduction the Black Lives Matters – an article from 2016 explaining the movement

Clara Amfo’s discussion of race (3:49)

Trevor Noah’s discussion of the racism faced by Black Americans amongst the backdrop of covid-19 that led to the response we are seeing in the USA

Responding to “all lives matter”