Illegitimum Non Carborundum
Ashley Davies is an 11 year old boy whose school let him down. It’s one thing to be bullied, it’s another thing for the school to suggest Ashley should work out better coping mechanisms. Ashley moved to a new school in Cornwall from Liverpool and it was quite a cultural shock. The Cornish locals are renowned for their view that anyone from north of the Tamar is an incomer, and ‘we don’ wan’ ‘em round ’ere’, is their attitude. One of the poorest parts of the UK, Cornwall voted resoundingly for Brexit. Not saying that supporting Brexit makes you a racist. But if the children in a Cornish school consider calling a new kid a ‘slave’ a ‘n****r’ and a ‘black idiot’, it makes you wonder quite what is happening in their homes.
Ashley’s parents seem decent people, and in the Cornwall Live article they say, ‘I’m not saying all the kids are horrible racists’. Well, I would. I grew up with racist taunts and I have no patience for it, not from kids and not from adults. Insults based on someone’s colour are always racist, and always by bullies. When my kids were being bullied at school I told them, ‘only unhappy people are mean’. And this is as true in Cornwall as anywhere else. With high unemployment, high drug and alcohol dependency, mostly seasonal work and the decline of traditional industries, Cornwall is in a dire state.
But what about the school? Back in 2018, when Bath’s very own Beechen Cliff School governors and trustees decided to ignore a ‘mock slave auction’, (white students whipped and tied a black pupil to a lamppost) someone quickly made sure it was reported in the media. It soon became a national scandal. There were protest at the time of this incident, even a change.org petition when the perpetrators were not removed from the school. There were other reactions too.
The follow up to the media frenzy is that just 5 months later Beechen Cliff’s outstanding Oftsted status plummeted to inadequate and the school was threatened with closure. Ofsted found that safeguarding at the school was ‘not effective’. The chair and the deputy chair of the board of governors resigned.
I wonder if the school in west Cornwall will soon receive a visit from Ofsted now that Ashley has been brave enough to speak to the press? After all, ultimately the school has done nothing to support Ashley, just as Beechen Cliff did nothing to support their pupil.
What advice would I give Ashley? I’d say, ‘study hard, after all, the best revenge is success.’ I’d say, ‘join a boxing club, or a martial arts club, and learn how to fight’. Not just so you can punch a Nazi when you’re a bit older, but because joining a club and learning how to fight, how to protect yourself, gives you a community and confidence. And I’d say, ‘get into hippy stuff like meditation.’ Because it’s not just about punching Nazi’s, it’s also about knowing when to use your brain rather than your brawn.
The West Country is a predominantly white area and from Bath to Lands End its rare to see a black face and that’s a shame. Cultural diversity is what makes Britain great. The sooner the West Country embraces this hardly radical idea, the better.