Until now I have hesitated to make any public comment in the wake of powerful protests following the appalling death of George Floyd in America. However, there is a strong view that not to express our community opposition to racism at such a time means to ‘turn a blind eye’. Since the Whitgift community is as racially, ethnically, and socially diverse as you can get in an independent school, that would be wrong.
I was glad to be present, alongside around 80 students and staff, at a (virtual) meeting of the Whitgift Afro Caribbean Society yesterday. The meeting discussed recent events in the light of what race means to those present. I want to commend Mr Powell, Miss Williams and those Whitgiftians who spoke at the meeting for what was a measured, deeply felt and courteous discussion. I want to highlight one contributor especially, who asked ‘what can regular people like us do to prevent that kind of thing happening again?’
There are many possible answers to that question, including some of the ideas suggested by black students in recent letters to the press, and petitions to schools and governments. We need to listen to, and consider these, and I undertake to do so. That will take time, but while we do so, I publicly repeat what all leaders of organisations should, that every student and member of staff at Whitgift should be respected for who they are, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender or background, and that we will not tolerate open or covert discrimination.
For us to look deeper in to creating a culture where we celebrate our differences and tackle unconscious bias, everyone has a role to play in sharing their experiences, good or not so good. If you have anything you wish to share or discuss concerning the matters above, your Tutor or Year Group Team are always available. Myself and members of the Senior Management Team are also here, so please do approach us.
Together we can make our school the very best it can be, for you as current students, and for the generations of Whitgiftians that will follow.
My best wishes to you all,
Whitgift community - letter from the Headmaster