The past year has again brought to the fore the reality of racial inequality in our world and the ongoing experience for so many of injustice and prejudicial treatment because of race and colour. Following the shocking scenes of George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing anger and calls for justice, many people across all countries and creeds, ages and ethnicities have been asking, What can we do to challenge racism and build a fairer world?
In our media driven world, headline stories soon get replaced and debates about change get reduced to hate-filled soundbites from either the far right or the far left that tend simply to stir up further misunderstanding and lead to both sides becoming even more firmly entrenched in their viewpoint. There is a yawning absence of meaningful dialogue, of listening-to-understand so that we may work together to create a fairer world.
Without such dialogue, without the space to listen and empathise, without the opportunity to reflect before moving on to the next headline, we can all tend to revert to our default position, which is likely to be a product of our upbringing and culture… the very culture that is structurally racist, the culture that was built by white power and which continues to enable white power. We don’t consciously revert, it’s just that life goes on… and the norms with which we are familiar have their own momentum. It’s easier just to sail along… especially during a pandemic when there’s plenty of other things to worry about.
But stop and listen we must. Stop and dialogue we must. Stop and reflect we must. For unless we do nothing will change. When speaking in schools I often demonstrate injustice like this… I give two teams an unfair quiz. The winning team get a prize. They are very happy, though they know they won unfairly. Then I give the losing team a much bigger prize. Suddenly the winning team is outraged! I make the point: we only seem to care about injustice when it happens to us. So long as we are the beneficiaries of injustice we don’t really care. But this is a problem. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We all need to care about justice. The future of our world depends upon it.
So what to do? I am so excited to announce the very first National STAND UP Schools’ Human Rights Conference on the theme of FREE & EQUAL? taking place on 21st September this year in Poole and being LIVE STREAMED to schools across the country.
FREE & EQUAL? will explore racial bias and disparity; identity and inclusivity; inequality & alienation. We will hear from a range of speakers and artists who will enable students across the country to recognise and think through the reality of racism and its ongoing impact as well as how to meaningfully challenge unjust practices and promote the value and dignity of every human person.
Importantly, FREE & EQUAL? will provide a safe space and starting point to dialogue openly about race, prejudice, white privilege and unconscious bias… exploring what these terms mean as well as how they can be misused. Students who participate in the conference will be inspired and equipped to see the world differently and explore the possibilities ahead for promoting equality and justice in their own schools and communities.
Martin Luther King Jr also said, “Our lives begin to end the moment we stay
silent about things that matter.” Now is a critical time for us all to STAND UP, educate ourselves, engage with people outside our usual comfort zone and do the uncomfortable work of exploring how we may have been complicit in perpetuating an unfair society. Together we can change our schools, workplaces and communities. It has to start with a conversation…
Please tell everyone you know and every school you know about the FREE & EQUAL? Conference. Share with your networks and your colleagues.
Details and booking here: www.beyondthis.co.uk/stand-up-conference