For the second theme in our Pride in Diversity series we wanted to celebrate the incredible diversity of Race and Religion we have across the Landau Forte Charitable Trust. We work hard across our academies to ensure we are welcoming of every race and religion, and we welcome our local communities into our academies to help us learn more about religious and cultural events.
But we want to go further, and actively encourage our young people and staff to celebrate their own unique backgrounds. We want followers of all religions, and indeed those who do not practice any religion, to feel supported, comfortable, and proud of their own identity.
Regardless of your race and religion, what matters most is treating everyone with respect and compassion. We should be excited to learn about races and religions different to our own and our goal as educators is to ensure all members of our communities feel comfortable celebrating the things that make them unique.
One way we do this is to engage our young people in courageous conversations that encourage honest and transparent expression. The purpose isn’t to get everyone to agree; quite the opposite. It is about building the skills of respectful disagreement and being able to understand the perspective of those with views different from our own.
Discussions over Race and Religion
Because racial and religious issues can be so complex and contentious, many people are afraid to start talking about them. While this can be well-intentioned, it can lead to avoiding the topic of racism entirely. Our Pride in Diversity series is designed to highlight the incredible diversity of our young people and staff, and so we want to encourage everyone to have these conversations in a respectful and well-meaning way.
As educators, rather than shying away from talking about difficult topics or news stories, we use these as ‘teachable moments’ in which we can have constructive and positive discussions around race and religion. Whether it’s looking at the worldwide support for the Black Lives Matter movement, or discussing violence against minorities, we want our young people to leave school as socially conscious and respectful members of society.
As part of this we also want to challenge the claim made by many people that they ‘don’t see colour’, and so believe they treat everyone they meet the same. While this sounds admirable, it can be dangerous as it means they likely don’t understand the unique challenges that people from different backgrounds have faced and continue to have to overcome. It can also prevent them from seeing the complexity of racial issues, meaning they’re unable to help their friends of other cultures to make life better for everyone.
Talking about race and religion, learning about their differences, and encouraging respectful disagreement is how we can grow as a community, ensuring our academies are a place where everyone belongs. We should celebrate the range of wonderful diversities we have across our communities, and actively work to understand how our different backgrounds and cultures make us a stronger, more dynamic society.
Support in our academies
We try to ensure we offer our young people every opportunity to celebrate and learn about important events and figures for all faiths and backgrounds. We encourage them to present to their peers about racial and religious differences, which not only helps develop their own presentation skills but also educates them about other cultures so we can celebrate them as a community.
Our academies also have an extensive Religious Education curriculum which covers the major world religions and their significant figures. We also teach our young people about different religious and cultural values and traditions to help them gain a better understanding of how different cultures live.
We also want to make sure our young people and members of staff feel supported in observing their own cultural or religious practices. When events take place during the academy day, we celebrate these as a whole academy, and if they have particular dietary or lifestyle requirements then we make sure to accommodate these.
Our aim is to create a wholly inclusive, culturally sensitive, community where everyone is free to share as much information about their cultural or racial background as they wish. We don’t want anyone to feel forced to share anything they’re uncomfortable sharing, or to feel as though they are ‘ambassadors’ for members of their own community.
Pride in Race and Religion
It is so important to celebrate the different races and religions across our communities so we can continue to learn about and respect one another’s differences. We want everyone across the Trust to feel able to bring their racial and cultural identities into our academies, so they can be themselves and speak their truths. More than this, we want to encourage our young people and members of staff to be proud of their identity and their background, and to enable them to be stronger, more diverse members of their community.
There are so many high-profile influencers, celebrities and sportspeople who see their race and religion as integral to their identity, and who actively celebrate this on social media. We wanted to highlight just a few of them, to show how they incorporate their backgrounds into their ongoing success.
Japanese-American George Takei, best known for his role as Sulu in the TV series Star Trek, was sent with his family to an internment camp when he was young as part of World War 2. His experience has inspired him to call out racial injustice around him, and he now works to raise awareness of similar racially-based hatred towards other races and religions.
Singer and actor Zendaya is extremely vocal about racial identity and colourism within the beauty and entertainment industries. She has spoken repeatedly about the lack of diversity on-screen and uses her profile to highlight her own privilege while fighting for change for people of all races and religions.
Dalal is a Muslim beauty and style blogger and YouTuber, whose aim is to empower women to gain confidence with her beauty and fashion tips. She’s been working since 2012 to share daily personal style and make up tips, and is one of the most prominent names and faces in the Middle East for Fashion and Beauty.
Of course, we can always do more, as a Trust and as individual academies. That’s why we always ask how we can improve, and how we can make sure that we keep on working to make our communities as supportive and positive as possible. We want to celebrate the diversity of our incredible Landau Forte communities, to ensure every one of us feels proud of their background and their culture, and treats everyone with respect and compassion.