Written Statement: The killing of George Floyd
This Sunday was the Feast of Pentecost. Known as the ‘birthday of the church’, Christians commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. I mention this for two reasons: the Holy Spirit reconciles a segregated humanity, bringing the people from chaotic division to gospel unity; and the Holy Spirit appears as tongues of fire, not a fire that destroys, but a fire that ignites good action in the hearts of all people. The Holy Spirit brings healing and harmony to a broken world.
There is a haunting familiarity about the killing of George Floyd. A black man, killed by a white police officer, despite his desperate pleas for mercy. His last words, “I can’t breathe”, have become a rallying cry for protests across the globe. Pentecost Sunday seems a fitting backdrop, therefore, for us to grieve a world in which George Floyd – and the many murdered black men and woman before him – has died and to yearn for a world where racism and human division is no more.
I do not typically comment on matters beyond our school. However, this is an extraordinarily scary and unsettling time and our black, Asian and minority ethnic students – indeed all our students – look to the adults they know to speak up and speak out. I want you to hear directly from me: black lives matter and this school will continue to combat racism, hatred and division in all its manifold ugliness.
We have a great deal of work to do. Despite our efforts to raise awareness, celebrate difference and promote understanding, racism is present in our school. We cannot be complacent. Campaigns such as #NotInMySchool and #ShowRacismTheRedCard, though well-meaning, do not go far enough to address a complex and insidious societal culture of prejudice and bigotry. And, of course, hatred is just one manifestation of racism. As Scott Woods submits, we must also be alert to issues of privilege, access, ignorance and apathy.
I cannot pretend that things will change quickly. But I personally commit to ‘owning’ my power and privilege, to talking about the uncomfortable, to being strategic in our activism and to being a brave leader. Will you join me? For we are all one in Christ Jesus.
From Pope Francis: Come, Holy Spirit. You are harmony; make us builders of unity. You always give yourself; grant us the courage to go out of ourselves, to love and help each other, in order to become one family. Amen.
Mr I Loynd