Sixth Former, Lexie Drake, asks us not to ignore discrimination.

Lexie delivered this speech in church this term. A strong, thought provoking message.

Before I begin, I want to ask something of you all. What I am going to say is not intended to cause any offense, it is not an attack on any individual or group. However, I know without a doubt that following this, there will be a mass of jokes spread around regarding the topic. It is a great shame that those that need to listen to this speech are the people that will close off to the meaning of it. But I ask simply that before you make a joke regarding my speech, first consider whether you are part of the problem I am referring to by making such jokes.

I’m currently in my 7th year at this school, and through the years I’ve sat through fairly regular talks in this church about how privileged we are to attend here. That’s undeniable. But there is something else I have experienced regularly since joining, and that is a lack of appreciation for individual privileges within our community. We may all be fortunate to be here, but in the wider world, privilege refers to racial, sexual and economic status. Look to the people on either side of you. We are a vast and varied community, and yet look at the proportion of white people, particularly males, that are in our fortunate position. Have you ever heard someone talking about any form of discrimination they experienced and considered it an exaggeration, a plain lie, or replied with something like, ‘its 2020, that’s not a problem anymore’? Well, you are privileged. I believe that true privilege becomes increasingly problematic when you dismiss someone’s pain, simply because it doesn’t apply to you. This is denying someone their truth.

As a woman, I have had a completely different experience of life to the boys in this school. I grew up being told to not walk alone in the dark, to go to a public and busy place if I feel I am being followed, and to carry my key in between my fingers so I can protect myself if someone attacks me. These aren’t just precautions. I’ve been catcalled, followed on several occasions and worse. I am not even 18. These are daily experiences for most women, and unfortunately it isn’t easier for young girls. I hope those in the room who don’t have to be wary of these things appreciate your privilege.

I cannot imagine the experiences of people of colour, particularly women of colour, but I can acknowledge that I am privileged to be white. Black workers in Britain are paid around 23% less than their white counterparts. The homicide rates for black people is 30.5 per million compared to only 8.9 for white people. Consider this for a moment.

People are angry about these issues, so why aren’t you? Despite the fact that generations and generations of people have fought for people to have equal opportunities and to be able to live without fear of discrimination, it is still an extremely prevalent issue. You may argue that it isn’t significant in the UK anymore, but experience and statistics tell a different story, and even still, shouldn’t we then be using our voices for those in other countries who cannot speak up for fear of death? So pay attention to the world and be angry. Perhaps this anger is necessary for change, it is an undying force, driving us to see our desire through to the end. Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr are names used often in this topic, because they were significant figures in change, and I think it is undeniable that they were angry. The Pankhurst’s were. The athletes that knelt during their national anthem were, and are. But each used this anger productively. The problem that I see in so many people is that they do not care, and without care this anger cannot come through.

I have been called an angry feminist continually. And without a doubt I am. I believe in equality for all people, in all areas. I am a feminist. And I am certainly angry that there is still a reason for feminism to exist. You cannot offend me by calling me a name that I associate with.

It is very easy to see what happens in life immediately around yourself and not much else. I am not blaming anyone for doing this, it’s a natural way of life for some people. I’m simply questioning why. Why is it that so many people deny the existence of an issue simply because it doesn’t impact on their daily life? Why do so many people in our community with the ability to use their voice to make a positive change choose not to use it to stand up for those in the world who do not have a voice? Because the way I see it, if we don’t, then who will? Can we always just sit in silence and think, someone else will deal with it? I do not think we can. We must start caring for those around us, both immediately around us and in the wider world. Let’s go further than superficial relationships, take a genuine interest.

Following on from this, I find it shocking the amount of casual racism, sexism and homophobia I hear on a daily basis, even in school. Issues like this shouldn’t be reduced to a witty remark to get laughs from your friends. Consider the millions of people that suffer in everyday life because of privilege balanced to white, wealthy males. It’s disappointing to see issues of discrimination of any kind in our community being dealt with disproportionately to the true gravity that they carry. Not only this, but instead of waiting for a negative situation to arise and attempting to deal with the consequences, we, the students, should be taking active responsibility preventing it in the first place. I know it is difficult to stand up to a friend when they make a rude joke, but I urge you all to try. Don’t let the hateful language found in many jokes slide without a comment.

We are in a bubble here. But I implore you all to look past that bubble. See the social problems that are so rife in our world, and actually care about them. Seb recently encouraged you all to form opinions, so do this and build on it. Be angry that police officers still unnecessarily fire at people of colour, be angry that children are still forced to work in volatile environments without pay, be angry that young women particularly are still being kidnapped and used in illegal sex trades, be angry that your sisters, mothers, and future daughters stand a 70% chance of being sexually or violently attacked by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Please, please care. Don’t ignore discrimination. Appreciate your privilege, but don’t become ignorant. Be angry and use that anger productively.