Dear AISB students, parents, and teachers,
Even though I technically graduated from AISB on Saturday, and was free to walk away, to stop working, stop writing, I felt the need to say something other than “farewell and good luck” via Zoom. With protests going on all around the globe, tensions growing, Black people in constant pain and terror, my voice is needed now more than ever.
So I come here as one of the school’s last remaining Black students to tell you this: the international school community, including AISB, is not doing enough to support Black lives. Plain and simple. And I think it’s about time we address and face the anti-blackness within our own community.
If reading that made you feel uncomfortable, good. Use that uncomfortability to fuel your proactivity. Besides, comfort is a privilege I refuse to let this community overlook any longer. And I’m only just getting started.
Why BLM is an international movement:
Anti-racism is an age-old song that Black people have been singing for hundreds of years—one that people hear yet refuse to listen to. The tragic murder of George Floyd and the sheer effort it took to get his murderer arrested is only further proof of that. Heartbreak has turned to frustration; and frustration, to outrage. The time for change is long overdue, and the Black community has had enough.
In short, the Black Lives Matter movement didn’t start (nor will it end) with George Floyd. It’s a statement about police brutality, systemic racism, overt and covert racism, internalised racism, racial insensitivity and intolerance, anti-black racism from other people of colour (POC), and white privilege, amongst many other issues. The movement may have started in the US, in 2013 with the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, but it doesn’t stop there. We are tearing apart anti-black beliefs and systems at their very core. It is not a trend. It is not an ‘American issue.’ Anti-blackness affects all of us.
So I ask you this: How can we, a school that has the word ‘international’ in its very name, turn a blind eye to one of the most international issues: racism?
Empathy is the pillar of an international environment. We as a school should be ashamed if we do not practice this very quality. Because, although there are only a handful of Black students at AISB, there are millions of Black people all over the world who are suffering, and who need our voices.
International schools are not exempt from being racist.
I feel as though a lot of people think international schools are ‘less racist’ than local schools. That because of their supposed ‘diverse’ communities, students learn to become more accepting of a range of identities, and are less prejudiced and therefore, ‘less racist.’ But as a Black person who has exclusively attended international schools since the 3rd grade, and experienced consistent racism in every single one of those schools, I can confirm one thing: international schools are NOT exempt from being racist. In fact, it is the very illusion of a ‘non-racist’ environment that prevents students, teachers, and faculty from recognising racism in the first place.
Not enough people understand what racism is because they aren’t being taught correctly. They’re taught the definition of prejudice rather than racism, and grow up believing that racism is simply being unkind to another person based on their skin colour, instead of the actual definition: systematic oppression. Then, as they grow older, they assume that racism is all about calling people slurs and outwardly expressing hatred for people of colour, and because the average student isn’t going to do that, they will trap themselves under the illusion that they are not racist.
‘I’m not racist,’ but I say the N-word and dismiss Black people for trying to teach me the origin of that word and why it’s not okay for non-black people to say it. ‘I’m not racist,’ but I’ll make racist Black ‘jokes’ and tell myself it’s okay because I’m not actually racist, and I’m only joking. ‘I’m not racist,’ but I’ll stay silent when a family member or a friend says something racist because it’s not my place to speak. ‘I’m not racist,’ but I say ‘all lives matter,’ distracting from the issue that the ‘Black lives matter’ movement is a response to the world refusing to value Black lives. ‘I’m not racist,’ but I’ll stay silent when Black people all around the world are begging me to speak up and act in response to the injustice against Black people in America, and internationally.
As you can see, racism is not isolated to a couple of extreme groups and individuals; it thrives in every single community, in ways that many people fail to understand. Microaggressions are still covert acts of racism.
You may claim to be ‘non-racist,’ but are you ‘anti-racist’? Do you listen to Black people and uplift their voices, or do you turn a blind eye because Black issues ‘aren’t your problem’? Do you silence Black people for trying to educate you after you say something racially insensitive? Do you acknowledge your privilege and use it when it benefits Black people and POC, without abusing it? Understand that it is not the sole job of Black people and people of colour to speak up about racism. In fact, in communities where there aren’t enough Black and POC voices, it’s hard to speak up. It’s daunting, feeling like nobody else is on your side. And at the end of the day, many things that POC say aren’t taken seriously unless a white person says it. It is your responsibility too; being non-racist is the bare minimum. You must be anti-racist.
Stop saying you’re “colourblind.”
A lot of white people like to say ‘I don’t see colour, therefore I am not racist.’ The foundation of being non-racist, to them, is seeing everyone as equal. This is a problem. This only enables you to turn your heads away from the injustice that people of colour face. Being ‘colourblind’ in a racial sense blinds you from understanding racism and white privilege. It’s the same as saying ‘All Lives Matter’: you are deliberately drawing attention away from important conversations and movements about race, and choosing to be ignorant. We want you to see colour; we want you to see our skin and the individual and systemic racism it brings. We want you to see it, accept it, understand it, and bring light to it. Speak out on it. Act on it. Treat us as equals, yes, but not in a way that ignores and undervalues the inequalities we face.
Admit and understand your white privilege.
It’s shocking and disappointing the number of times I’ve tried to speak to a white friend about white privilege, only for them to immediately shut me down and say it doesn’t exist. So, for every single white person reading this that still refuses to understand what it is, and why it’s important, here’s an explanation: white privilege does not mean that white people don’t have struggles. Everyone does. White privilege means that the colour of your skin is not the cause for those struggles. It’s not the cause for any setbacks in your life. People of colour, on the other hand, have to overachieve to be seen as equals. Now read that part again.
Not experiencing racism is a privilege. Not having the ‘people are going to hate you because of the colour of your skin’ talk with your parents as a kid is a privilege. Not having to learn how to behave around police so you don’t get unjustly murdered is a privilege. Learning about racism instead of experiencing it directly is a privilege. Being exhausted from hearing about racism instead of experiencing it is a privilege. Not being told that you’re smart or good-looking ‘for a black person’ is a privilege. Not having to worry whether or not your ethnic name will be shown on a job application is a privilege. Not having to worry about being accused of shoplifting at the mall based on the colour of your skin is a privilege. Not having to put up with strangers touching your ethnic hair out of ‘curiosity’ without permission is a privilege. Not having to wonder if your new friends, coworkers, or love interests even like people of your skin colour is a privilege. Seeing people on TV, superheroes, dolls, action figures, influencers, political figures, teachers, people on the street that look like you is a privilege.
In fact, something that so many white people fail to recognise is the privilege of being surrounded by people that look like you. It’s something so minor that I’m sure many of you don’t even notice, but it’s something that means so much to students of colour. Just imagine going to an all-black school. Imagine how out of place you’d feel. That’s the every day life for students like me. Being Black in an all white school is an anxiety-inducing experience, of constantly being reminded that you are different, and that you don’t fit in. Whether it’s the stares you get in public, a seemingly innocent race joke from a close friend, or simply looking down at your hands and noticing the colour of your skin; you are reminded over and over again that nobody looks like you. That you stand out even when you don’t want to.
Consequently, something as little as seeing another Black person in public is such a comforting experience. I remember breaking down into tears the first time I went to a predominantly Black church in the UK. I wasn’t the odd one out. I wasn’t alone. The atmosphere was full of life, love, music—a passionate celebration of faith—of Blackness.
It may not seem like much, but because there are so few non-white students in this school, the community needs to do a better job of creating a safe environment for their students of colour. Because at the end of the day, it’s hard enough just being here. Let alone having to deal with racial insensitivity.
Students aren’t being taught enough about white privilege, which is why not enough students acknowledge it. I think this is something that needs to be introduced to the curriculum somehow. This is not a ‘sensitive’ topic for white children to learn about. It is necessary. As my older sister once said, “The Black experience is one of fear and loss.” Black children grow up in a world where they have to understand, even from a young age, that they will be hated for their skin colour and there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s our reality.
We don’t get the privilege of learning about racism. So why be afraid to teach white children about it?
We need more teachers of colour.
Think about the first time you had a Black teacher, if ever. For some, it happens late in high school, and others, even later—perhaps in university. I’m sure many of you have never had a Black teacher, even in an international school.
This is a problem. How can a school portray a diverse community without a diverse faculty?
For me, the first time I had a Black teacher was in the 10th grade. I shouldn’t have been so shocked, but I was: seeing a parental figure outside of my family that looked like me. That I respected. That I could relate to.
White students can share experiences with white teachers in ways that Black students cannot. They can relate to simple anecdotes like, ‘When you wash your hair every day…’ or ‘When you get a sunburn…’ Black people cannot; and in turn, often go silent because of this. But, talking to a Black teacher about the best leave-in conditioners and curl creams, recommending cheap places to get braids done, laughing at the way her peers and coworkers always assume that every Black person in the school is related—those are uniquely Black experiences that help validate Black students and make them feel included. Black teachers are much-needed role models to their students.
Not only this, but as writer Andre Perry says, “When it comes to teachers’ roles in shaping anti-racist communities, it’s better to show than to tell.” Meaning, students can learn a lot more about diversity from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People Of Colour) teachers than reading about BIPOC experiences in textbooks. For example, my Black teacher liked playing Black African music videos during French class. She also talked about her experiences as an African woman, and the frustration of African culture being portrayed as one sole culture rather than numerous unique ones. This helped make her students more culturally aware.
Exposure to Black culture and Black people at a young age is extremely important. Perry elaborates, “Not seeing qualified, competent Black folk in positions of authority may reinforce the belief, conscious or unconscious, that Black people are less worthy in some way than white people.” Thus, seeing an authoritative person of colour every day can minimise prejudice and racial stereotypes, creating more internationally-minded students. Black and POC teachers can also improve cultural awareness and sensitivity amongst their white colleagues, and recognise acts of racism more easily.
There are currently no Black teachers at AISB, and few POC teachers. This is simply not good enough. BIPOC teachers benefit both white and BIPOC students, by creating a more inclusive environment. We need to recruit more teachers of colour, and treat them equally when they do arrive.
Silence is not an option.
So, I’ve been telling you all to take action, but you may be wondering how you do that. Let me tell you: it’s not as simple as it sounds. There are many ways to invoke change and make a difference during a time like this, so it’s hard to tell what works, what doesn’t, what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s the best way to do it all.
But there is one phrase I will always uphold myself to: Silence is violence.
You’ve probably heard that times by now—about how silence is siding with the oppressor, and how you cannot afford to be ‘neutral’ in a time like this. And it’s true. Being actively anti-racist must be the expectation. It is imperative that we use our voices and our platforms, no matter how small.
I’m sure for many of you students, I’m one of the only Black people you know. Think about it: If Black people are the only ones who raise awareness about Black lives, and we preach only to those who are educated about the issue, how will our message reach our most important audience: the ignorant and the racist? It is your job as non-black people to spread the word in your non-black communities. Uplift Black voices by sharing content created by Black people. Every time you find a reliable news source providing updates on the status of the movement, share it. If you read something educational about Black issues, share it. You have no excuse to be silent.
It’s not easy to know what to say and how to say it. But this fear should not prevent you from speaking up. If you say something wrong or spread misinformation, you will get called out, and thus, educated. Mistakes are the only way we can learn.
So, take action. No individual can do everything and that’s okay. Speak up and act out, however that may look for you. And don’t stop once BLM stops being a ‘trend.’ Keep your foot on the accelerator as long as Black people keep facing injustice. It is our collective duty.
As AISB alumni Aries Brown says, “You have two choices: Either do what is easy, or do what is right.”
Understand how performative activism differs from spreading awareness.
Another fear a lot of people have about speaking up is being “performative.” There is a fine line between performative activism and spreading awareness, so let me clear the air a little.
Often times, a lot of things people do to “show their support” is very performative. You don’t need to “show” us that you care about Black lives. That does not warrant praise. Think about the time you posted nothing but a black box on Instagram with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. What did that actually do to help the movement? What change did that make except to show a couple followers that you support the movement? You are helping yourself more than Black lives by being performative. You are trying to make yourself look good.
Instead, put your money where your mouth is. You can spread awareness through hashtags and social media posts, but if you post about the issue and don’t actually take action (signing petitions, making donations, etc.) this doesn’t do much. Besides, I’m pretty sure there isn’t anyone with a mobile device that doesn’t know about BLM right now. If you’re going to post something of that nature, post something genuinely educational, from a trusted source or Black person you know who’s informed.
On the flip side, if you are taking action and not posting about it, ask yourself why. What is stopping you? Keep in mind that the only reason you found that petition is because somebody else shared it with you. I guarantee if you spread awareness about ways to help, at least one of your followers will make a contribution; and every contribution matters. Just remember to double-check the reliability of your sources, including petition and donation sites. We want all money and signatures to go to the right places.
Being inactive on social media because you are ‘uncomfortable’ or because it ruins the ‘aesthetic’ of your page is wrong. You are meant to be uncomfortable. Just imagine how Black people feel. This is why we take action.
And remember: If ever you’re afraid of doing something performative, ask yourself who you’re doing it for. That should be your answer.
How do we teach empathy?
As I said earlier, empathy is central to international communities. We, as international students, cannot only care about issues that directly affect us. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, even without experiencing the feeling ourselves.
White people cannot experience racism. They can never truly understand what it feels like. But that’s okay, and it shouldn’t stop them from wanting to support the BLM movement. That shouldn’t stop them from being anti-racist. Seeing millions of Black people hurting, dying, losing loved ones—that should be more than enough. Their response shouldn’t be ‘It’s not my problem.’ That is misuse of privilege. In short: white children shouldn’t have to see white faces in distress or white blood being shed in order to care.
So, how do we learn empathy? We must teach it, and we must do so when children are young. Exposure to Black people, culture, and voices in the media is one way to go about this. Kids need to read Black authors. See Black faces on the television. Hear about Black issues so they can understand their privilege and want to use it to fight against injustice. It’s not enough to read about slavery in history class, then push it aside as if it’s ‘in the past’ and no longer affects Black people to this day. Teach kids that racism is a contemporary problem that they cannot afford to ‘not care’ about. They need to be part of the fight.
Teach Black children to love themselves.
Growing up Black in predominantly white environments means you have to learn that it’s okay to look different; that it’s okay to not fit in. It took years for me to accept my Black body, and even longer to embrace it. Only now, as I write this article, do I realise that everything I hated about myself as a kid is just a product of being Black. My passionate nature, the curves of my body, my eyes, my nose, the thickness of my lips, my kinky hair, the shape of my face, and of course, the darkness of my skin: all things I was bullied for, and taught to find ugly. I hated my Black body and yearned for a white European one, without even realising it.
But Black bodies aren’t ugly. The white European standard of beauty is not the only standard, nor the most important one. Black is beautiful.
It should not have taken me 17 years to realise that.
Internalised racism is a very real thing. It can be taught and untaught. So teach Black kids to love themselves. Teachers and leaders, show these children Black role models to look up to, so they can stop comparing themselves to non-black people. Teach them to use their voices and support them when they do: I spent years of high school being called slurs and being compared to zoo animals and I didn’t tell anyone out of fear that I’d be called overdramatic.
And finally, teach Black kids to embrace their culture and identities, in spite of everyone who tells them that Black isn’t good enough.
Please, please look after the mental health of Black children. Now and always. During a time like this, where the world is in an uproar over years of injustice and mistreatment, tell Black children that it’s not fair that they live in a world like this. Tell them they deserve better.
Tell them that they can and should still love being Black.
Dear AISB community…
Take a stand. White people, check your privilege; recognise your whiteness; continue to educate yourselves; and listen to Black voices. Do not drown us out. Non-black POC, acknowledge the fact that although we both experience racism, it is not right for you to draw attention away from the BLM movement. We need you to stand with us. Students, stay informed and be considerate. Check up on your Black peers and keep fighting for them. Don’t be complicit when BLM stops trending on Twitter or Instagram, because Black lives will not go ‘back to normal’ as soon as your social media feed does. Teachers, ask yourselves if you’re including Black voices in your curriculum, and supporting your Black students. Administration, ask yourselves why we don’t have more BIPOC teachers.
Finally, ask yourselves: Are you non-racist, or are you anti-racist? Will you speak up about Black issues when we need your voices the most, or will you fade into the background? Be the international community we claim to be. Black lives have to matter for all lives to matter, and we cannot afford to be silent.
And remember: Don’t be afraid to call out racism. Even if it lies within yourself.
Very well written passionate argument and suggestions. AISB is a great school but it does have room to grow in terms of better support for colored students, especially black.
In the year 2020, despite the progress the world has made on race issues, there is still a lot we can do to make this world a better place for current and future generations. The good thing is, the vast majority of people are both good and non-racist.
If white and colored work together, we can make huge progress. What Toyosi has written is NOT an order, but rather, it is an appeal for all of us to be a lot more active and contribute in a meaningful way to reduce the toxic and dangerous ignorance that still exists in our societies which contributes to hatred and intolerance.
Hopefully by doing this, we can make our schools and communities better places that are based on love, equality and compassion. We thank The AISB Community for the experience and support for the past 3 years and we wish all of you the very best.
We hope we meet some of you somewhere in the future, after all, it is a small world. In the meantime, let’s spread love.
Wale (Toyosi’s dad)
Wale – you must be SO proud. If I were parent to Toyosi, I’d start consulting!
Thank you for supporting Toyosi in this journey of awareness, bravery and speaking out.
Your letter to the entire AISB community moved me in ways I can’t explain. Racism against people of color (POC) needs to be addressed and fixed, not just in the United States, but everywhere in the world. Your letter has educated me once again on how racism against POC is viewed in the international school community; the first being Aries’s article from last year. Your letter made me reflect on how I view and act on the problem of racism and it was an honestly embarrassing wake-up call.
Nobody should ever go through this. Ever.
I hope your letter moves many more of us, both inside and outside of the AISB community, like it has for me, and encourages us to contribute more to this change that is necessary for the world to make.
I wish you all the best and thank you for sharing this and inspiring me to do more for the BLM movement. (Also, congratulations on graduating!)
Thank you for educating me and opening my eyes!
It was such a great article!! you really did an amazing job I’m so proud of you.
A lot of people should read this and get educated cause they clearly need it
Toyosi, thank you so much for sharing your powerful words with our community. I feel uncomfortable and motivated by your message. I know that I have so much more to learn and I hope that we can all use your passionate appeal to open our eyes, ears, and hearts.
Yes Toyosi, yes! All of this. I am so proud of you. I am inspired by you. This call to action is everything and I hear you loud and clear. Thank you for helping us to understand racism and thank you for outlining the measures, the steps, the actions we need to take. It’s time to get to work and there is a lot of work to be done–especially starting with ourselves.
Very well written. Plain and simple.
(To anybody seeking resources for more understanding on the BLM movement, please consider watching Kimberly Jones speak to CARJAM TV or Trevor Noah speaking on George Floyd’s protests on YouTube. They are the most influential breakdowns I have come across.)
Man, it’s been a year. Isn’t that so funny, Toyo? Just a little under a year ago and it was my name on this page trying to shed light on the issue of acceptance in a white world. You and I, I truly think we have started small. The first thing my father told me when I published my article is, “This is a fight you will always be fighting.” Attempting to justify your existence every single day is tiring, but both you and I know we’ll never stop. We’ve started with pulling a curtain away from the effect predominantly-white education systems have on a black body, and I say small because I know it’s only the beginning for us. As an African-American military brat, I was able to grow up around few but several black students, but didn’t have a black teacher until … Wow. I’ve never even had a black teacher.
I can’t explain to you how immensely proud of you I am. I don’t really know the words to say to make you understand just how much you’ve resonated with me. It’s been 20 years on this planet and I’ve finally started seeing myself as beautiful. Attractive even. I felt angered, livid, and silenced because of #blackouttuesday.
For me, you were the biggest part of Romania I loved. It’s so hard, Toyosi; a kind of difficulty that cannot truly be understood outside of you, your sisters, and me— you all were the light that made AISB worth attending. Talking about hair and thinking of what I could do with mine, teaching one another how to survive each day, knowing we could lean on one another no matter how rough it got. It was you and I that could bond over the stares we would face when going out in public, the touching our hair got inside of this school, the questions of whether we were related, the racist undertones in everyday language that made us feel much, much more than less than. To know of all the greatness you achieved in your final year there, knowing you did this on your own, brings tears to my eyes. I love you. I miss you more than I could describe.
I need you to know that this constant fight is worth it. There is absolutely nothing as liberating as feeling heard, when you’ve gone 17 long and arduous years feeling as if you have never been. Do not feel guilty or like you have to justify speaking out against this world and how cruel it is. What you have done is pave a way for the next Black body that has to walk through this campus, reminding them that they are not alone even when it looks that way.
You’ve done something amazing. Do not ever let anybody else take it away from you. This is a lesson I spent a full year teaching myself, and I pray you find it much easier to learn.
Keep fighting for yourself, gorgeous. It’s only the beginning, and know I’ll be by your side until the end.
Nice one Toyosi,your words really inspired me to start taking some necessary actions. And henceforth I will make a change
Toyosi, this article is amazing! It was beautifully structured and obviously very thoroughly researched and thought about! I hope that someday, everyone will understand the messages that you are communicating to us in this article! But until then, thank you for such an amazing lesson on this issue as a whole!
Thank you so very much for writing this piece, it’s a kind of an “eye opener” for many in the AISB community. Especially those who claimed to be unaware of racism and the way it worked. My family passed through AISB and in fact one of the pioneers of the Diversity club! ( If that still exists.)
Your words are explicit, direct and point to the facts of the evil the whole world is dealing with. Being a black family in AISB then, we had some racists encounters, and yes they were dealt with, but they were issues that should not have arisen in a true international and multicultural institution like AISB.
Your article brought a shining light to the dark areas, and I hope the school authority will look into those itemized issues and resolve to find ways to end what I will call racial blindness. AISB is a great school, we had so much fun with great academic excellence but systemic racism must be addressed holistically.
Kudos to you for adding your piece! Proud of you and your courage to stand up for your beliefs.
Your article is excellent, sharp and provocative. Beyond the horrible pain of the George Floyd protests, there is hope that this world-shaking is (finally) moving bystanders to action. I believe that international schools have a narrow, western focus with a set of values that are culturally biased. I agree that there is so much we can do in our schools to address racism. Hiring for diversity is a start. There are layers of cultural and racial assumptions that need deep dialogue and engagement from all of us.
Thank you for your courage in your writing,
The article made me so uncomfortable and really ashamed of the fact that we’re not doing enough. It made me regret seeing you around school and not really thinking about what you felt like being one of the only Black people in our community. I love the way you talked about it, so direct and simple, laying all our dirty clothes out there in order to make us realize what we have been doing and what we have to do from now on. It made me acknowledge a lot of things and made me think about a lot of jokes I’ve heard from people and how I didn’t really do anything to stop them because I would’ve been seen as too tight and not able to take jokes. I do regret that hugely now, simply because I realized how it must’ve made you feel. I’m sorry and promise to do better.
You have no idea how big of an impact your article had on me. It left me in awe. I made my parents and my brother read it, as well as friends who are at a public schools and have never actually thought about the Black community and its struggles.
You left me speechless, I feel as if anything I’d comment is not enough for your courage to speak up and willingness to educate our community. I am ashamed to admit the times I have turned a blind eye to some jokes and mentalities because ‘it was not my place to say’ or ‘he/she didn’t mean it’. I am ashamed to say that I have not acknowledged the struggles of POC (people of color) until the George Floyd movement. I am sorry. I will do better.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article. A million times thank you.
Toyosi – Thank you for this wonderful piece full of important points for all of us to reflect on. You have continued the conversation that Aries began last year, and pushed it even further. We have a lot to do as a community, and it begins with listening with a genuine effort to understand and educate ourselves. As Ms. Marlowe said – it is time to get to work AISB!
You are an excellent writer, and a sharp observer. Thank you for sharing so openly. Having two black daughters, I worry about their experiences, both in int’l schools and now in US public schools (in a very white state). I hope they can grow up as passionate and articulate as you. And, as an int’l school administrator, I agree—there are things to be DONE, not just things to be talked about. Equity, inclusion and justice, like empathy, cannot just happen in our schools through osmosis, or by hiring a few more BIPOC teachers or staff. It must be purposeful and ongoing.
Sadly, we can be anti-racist one moment and racist in the next. No one, not even POCs, is immune. It will be a long struggle, but I think international schools, if we’re willing to confront the brutal reality, can improve. We’re all learning to be agile and to pivot this year.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with the world.
I’ve always thought of you as a strong, beautiful, passionate, caring student leader and never as a Black student. Your words challenge me that I have to do better than that, and that we as a community have to do better at AISB. Thank you for your courageous voice to call us out on this issue. I think your words will echo strongly into the future, and I hope we can make AISB a more truly diverse and accepting place for all students of color.
Thank you for sharing your words. I am hopeful that now is the time when there will be real, systemic changes made to our racist society and international schools must do the hard work too. I hope we all take your call to action seriously and look inside ourselves first. Your words echo within my heart and head and I am listening and will work to do more.
Erika (an international school teacher )
Well written and well said, the time has come for change!
I remember writing an article for a British teaching magazine 20 years ago about the lack of ‘BLACK’ teachers in the recruitment system in International schools. I asked the question ‘Why?’, why are black teachers so poorly represented in schools where diversity is supposed to matter! 20 years later, I am still asking the same question!?
Again, it’s time for change!
A truly amazing piece! Straight to the point and beautifully written. We must all do something to support the Black Lives Matter Movement! Your words have reminded me about times in my own school where I have felt and experienced similar things. After reading your article, I feel more empowered to speak to my friends about my own experiences. Thank you so much Toyosi for writing this and don’t stop!
Thank you so much for this article, it is truly a gift to our community. Your words have the power to inspire action. Action that is absolutely necessary. There is such value in you sharing your experience with us, thank you for your vulnerability.
Black is beautiful! You are beautiful and you have such a beautiful soul! I hope that you walk into university with your head high, deeply trusting and knowing your immense value, and appreciating every single thing about yourself. Keep strong and keep advocating. Your voice matters!
Such a necessary voice to be heard in the international school community right now and, crucially, for years to come. Anti racism needs to be embedded!!! Thank you for having the courage to reflect, write and share.
Thank you, Toyosi. Your words are incredibly powerful and important to this community. We might not have thought or realized we needed this, but that’s exactly why your letter is so valuable to all of us. I hope we won’t simply treat the movement as a temporary phenomenon and all contribute to pushing toward justice. I’m only beginning with a book from The Bite’s summer reading list.
Thank you, Toyosi. I work at an international school and will be sharing your wisdom with students and colleagues. The time and talent you have invested in opening hearts and minds will have enormous positive impact in creating a more empathetic world. My gratitude to you for sharing your pain, your perspective, and your power to enact change.
Thank you Toyosi – you could have been writing about my own school experience too although it was decades ago. I promise, as a teacher, to never lose the resilience necessary to ensure all voices are heard in my classroom and in my school. It can feel like an uphill battle, but hearing the words from a students’ mouth has to make teachers realise we can’t continue to be colour-blind or think we are not racist when maintaining the status quo.
You are so brave and eloquent – I only wish I’d had your words as a teenager.
Thank you for writing this. All of this is true, 100%. Just before we joined AISB, I read another article written in the Bite by a Black student. I came across it because I was trying to understand why privileged white kids could spend so much time listening to songs written by Black musicians and still be so oblivious to the reasons for those lyrics. That article touched me, it was raw, honest and compelling. It is still one of the best pieces of writing I have ever read and I often think about it.
Your article pinpoints our problems and offers realistic solutions. Positive solutions. And the great thing about doing what is right, rather than what is easy, is that it makes life better for everyone. Racism is not good for families, communities, economies or countries. Racism is the corruption of this truth: we are better, together. Thank you once again for writing Toyosi. And thank you to your father, Wale, for his beautiful heart.
Toyosi – I don’t know if you realize how far and wide your words have spread already or how far they’ve yet to travel, but I’m certain that people around the world will be reaching out to you with their comments and their gratitude. As many international schools begin to step into the hard and uncomfortable work of owning their part in systemic racism and figuring out how to “become better,” we must keep listening to voices like yours – BIPOC voices – that bravely, honestly, and beautifully share your lived experiences. Educators and administrators are sharing your story with their teams to help build awareness and understanding. Thank you for your incredible thoughtfulness and maturity.
Greetings from the San Francisco Bay Area! As a person who attended an international school in Asia, I applaud you, Omotoyosi, for your EXCELLENT writing! BRAVA! ???
My favorite pull quote, which I will definitely post elsewhere:
“Being exhausted from hearing about racism instead of experiencing it is a privilege.”
~Omotoyosi Ariyo ?
I’ve shared your letter in other circles to continue the discussion, education, and UN-learning of systemic racism/bias.
There are many great people to learn from, but if anyone here (especially if educators) seeks greater tools to be “anti-racist,” please follow on LinkedIn:
– TAYO ROCKSON (son of Nigerian diplomat; TEDx & UN Global Summit speaker) and
– KEN SHELTON (Apple Distinguished Educator; Google Certified Innovator; specialty: Educational Technology).
Both are connected to so many other great communicators and thought leaders.
Thank you again, Toyosi, for demonstrating a passion and clarity that brings Hope for the future! Blessings! ??
Your post made me VERY uncomfortable. I felt physical pain reading it. Over the past weeks I have been reading quite a few posts and listened to quite a few statements about racism and the BLM but none of them touched me the way your piece has. Toyosi, I am sorry, I had absolutely no idea. I am ashamed to say it but I have to say it. Having lived in an almost all white country, having gone to all white schools – all three of them – working in environments which are almost entirely white … I had no idea. I honestly thought I was doing things the right way. But reading your article, especially the examples you are giving of feelings, thoughts, situations, makes me lose my breath – I was part of this!! I had no idea. And I know it is not an excuse because I am in my forties and think of myself as well educated.
And now, that I get some of it (because there is no way I can get all of it) I don’t even know where to start. I mean, it feels momentous for me. Will anything I do now even matter? And what would be that “anything”? What is your advice for my generation, so set in our ways?
I want to say that my disbelief upon hearing stories like the ones you just shared here was rooted in lack of information. But the reality is that it was rooted in never actually knowing what everything you talk about feels like. I am SO sorry.
Nobody, ever, should go through this. Never!
Thank you for investing your time in this. It has made a tremendous difference for me. Tremendous! You have no idea!
I must confess that it all seemed fairly remote to me until I read this today. Thank you!
I don’t know what you are dreaming to do in your future but I do hope writing and activism are part of it. I am not entirely sure what good you will derive from that yourself but the world will for sure be a much better place!