Ella – Year 12 Student
Editor’s note: In the final student contribution to the Humanities Journal of the 2019-20 academic year, Ella, now in Year 13, writes powerfully on racism and the need to overcome it for the betterment of society. She speaks about her own personal reflections on this emotive issue during the recent coronavirus lockdown, and thoughtfully considers the impact of the work of Maya Angelou upon her. Mei – Chief Editor, Humanities Journal
In our current political and social climate and the world of uncertainty that affronts us, change is necessary. No matter how hard one tries to eradicate the centuries of homophobia, racism, sexism and xenophobia to redeem ourselves of previous aberrations, it is an impossible task of which humanity will always be defeated: defeated, but not deflated. This history will always remain. However, it is the time to makes these changes that we have always wanted to see. We can create our own future and we can make this change, together.
Nevertheless, how can we define change? For me, if asked at the beginning of lockdown, I would not know how to answer. Overwhelmed by circumstance, I was unsure what to think. However, after being handed time to process, I believe it is about creating the foundations for a future full of promise, hope, and an environment in which acceptance and cooperation is founded for everyone. Whilst it is easy to neglect the fact that we are a community, particularly in times such as the present where the world has become reduced and secluded, it is under such duress that we should recognise that we are a cohort much larger than ourselves.
However, recently it has come to light that this is not always reality, but I believe it can be. Social justice should not be something that requires campaigns, protest and government legislation to gain a voice. It should already be occurring. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Stephen Lawrence: three examples representative of a life familiar to millions. Three examples separate from the justice they deserve.
Now, when we have the ability to pause and take a moment of reflection I can entirely appreciate the aspects of my life that I have dismissed as a simple commonality – my privilege. However, knowing that this is an exclusive luxury is much more difficult to comprehend. It was upon reading Dr. Maya Angelou’s autobiography of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings that I was encouraged to take a different perspective of life and everything it entails.
Angelou was a warrior, a womanist, a worldwide wonder. Her grandeur remains as undefeated as her resilience did throughout her lifetime; she is, and always will be, an inspiration. Through reading a single book, the sheer power of literature as a means of conveying the necessity for human action became even more explicit to me. Whilst I could not directly identify with her experiences, I can recognise and admire the strength and perseverance that was essential to her survival in a world of segregation and racial discrimination. It saddens me to know that these flaws continue to plague our world, unextinguished. Enlightened by Angelou’s works, I indulged myself in her collection of poetry, in which I uncovered Human Family. This beautiful piece is a celebration of the mix of people contributing to humanity and reinforces Jo Cox’s idea that we share more in common than that which divides us. It highlights, appreciates and celebrates the myriad of ethnicities and acknowledges that is it because of our differences that we are better. It is only through acceptance of our diversity and genuine inclusivity that betterment will occur. ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.’
Nonetheless, I am conscious to not neglect the fact that racism is not the only aspect requiring change. With the onset and continuation of Pride Month it is important that, as a collective body, we stand together and recognise the individualities of each other that only make us better. Now, more than ever before, we have been handed the luxury of education. Let us use it. Let us make change, as one human family.