Speak up for what is right
Ascham’s Head Girl and Chair of the School Committee, Ruby Alexander, gave a powerful address to her fellow students this week. Our assemblies are being held online via Teams at the moment, but they are still crucial gatherings where our students share their thoughts, concerns, their wins and the issues that are front-of-mind for them every week.
Here is Ruby’s address to the Senior School:
‘A lot of you will have heard about the senseless death of George Floyd on 25 May in Minneapolis. We have all once again been devastated by the continued escalation of racial conflict in America, and although we don’t live there, I am sure this has heavily affected many of you because separation is an illusion; we are all part of humanity and we’re living a shared narrative, which is a beautiful and harrowing realisation.
First of all, it is so confronting to hear and see this type of violence, so it is more than valid to feel upset and enraged and confused. Please don’t keep these feelings to yourself — I urge you to talk things through, as always, with people who support you and people you trust. From the bottom of my heart, I hope all of you are doing okay in a time that is difficult, to say the least. Please be kind to yourselves. I am here for you in any way I can be.
Secondly, this is a time for all of us to not only express sympathy but to actually show up in ways that matter. Unfortunately, in Australia, we are also living in a society where systemic racism and prejudice do exist, and it is not enough to just disapprove of the discrimination going on. With this education we have, with our connections to each other—this incredible support network that we often take for granted—it is so crucial that we leverage this privilege and our voices to help dismantle a legacy of racism and intolerance.
When I found out about this horrific news, I felt so sad and so outraged but also just really helpless. But this isn’t the case at all. As the young people who will eventually be leading and forging the paths of our world, we must speak up for what’s right and make every change we can make. Malcolm X said ‘education is the passport to the future’ and I cannot express how much truth this carries. We are in positions to make incredible marks, both large and small. So, if you have felt unable to make change, know that your power is much greater than you may realise: societies are founded upon belief systems and knowledge shared, so let’s question what we are sharing and the discussions we are having. Let’s question the language we’re using, and let’s make sure that the words we use are not excluding others in any way. We have complete control over our personal expression, so there is simply no excuse to use offensive terminology in any situation.
Literature is a great place to start educating yourself, which may seem a bit far-fetched at first. But it’s truly such a powerful tool! If any of you would like, I have compiled a list of books on race relations that have personally sharpened my understanding of this huge problem.
Of course, I do not have all the answers but I am open to being further educated, I am asking questions, I am having constructive conversations with as many people as I can. I implore you to do the same.
When the School Committee decided for ‘Make Your Mark-i in the Khaki’ to be our motto for the year, we chose it because we believed in Ascham’s capacity, in the potential of every one of you, to make and continue making a strong, positive impact. We couldn’t have predicted the challenges that 2020 would bring but this motto is now more important than ever. I am so proud of all of us and the way we have uplifted, empowered, and been there for each other. It has made me so incredibly happy to watch so much kindness unfold around me. So, thank you.
On that note, despite all that’s been happening, I hope you have a really great week. I would love to open a safe discussion with any of you who would like to talk things through.’
Thank you, Ruby, you are an inspiration to all of us.