NHSG - Shruthi: Embracing diversity regardless of experience #DiversityWeek

Shruthi: Embracing diversity regardless of experience #DiversityWeek

June 21, 2021

To celebrate Diversity Week we asked pupils, alumnae and staff to share their thoughts on why diversity and inclusivity is so important in today’s society. In this article, Shruthi, Diversity Lead within our Sixth Form Leadership Team, talks about why we should embrace diversity.

When I was twelve years’ old I was racially abused. I was about to get on a bus when a man pushed in front of me and said ‘do they not teach you manners where you’re from’. This was followed by ‘why don’t you go back to where you came from’ and various other slurs that I won’t go into. I felt scared, alone, unsupported and therefore unable to retaliate.

When I finally got on the bus I was shaking and panicking that he was going to attack me again. For a long time afterwards, my older sister accompanied me on my bus journeys because I was too frightened.

This is why diversity and inclusion is so important to me.

When the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement hit the headlines in 2020, I began researching the topic and educating myself more and more about the ongoing issue of racism and discrimination. Through this knowledge I have become even more passionate about being an ally. And when I think about it, I can see now that if someone had stood up for me that day on the bus, the ongoing impact might have been far less distressing.

You can be an ally even if you don’t have lived experience of something. And it’s easier than you might think.

There are many ways people show their support for a cause or community. Footballers taking the knee before a game is one example. It could encourage fans to follow suit or to learn more about what they are trying to say and why. It’s only a start, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. And if we all take responsibility and do our little bit we can make a big difference.

Of course racial discrimination isn’t the only form of discrimination and intolerance we see. The LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse communities also experience discrimination and ignorance on a daily basis. So at NHSG we are doing a lot of work to educate ourselves and others in these areas as well.

Neurodiversity is still often misunderstood as we don’t talk about it enough. People with learning differences, such as dyslexia, and those on the autism spectrum or those with ADHD don’t necessarily need more support, they may simply need different support to what we traditionally see in the classroom or workplace. I feel lucky that at NHSG we are able to enjoy an education that encompasses many different learning styles and techniques – such as group, interactive and presentational work, as well as reading and writing. We all have the ability to do brilliantly and be a success if our differences are acknowledged and celebrated – nobody should feel that they have limits placed on them.

The other benefit in acknowledging and celebrating our differences is that we learn so much and get to take part in so many different festivals and events, broadening our horizons and giving us a better perspective on the world. At school, for example, we celebrate Christmas, Divali, Eid and a whole host of other festivals. We are becoming more and more cultured.

While learning about all these differences and getting to grips with the new terms we use in society might seem daunting, it actually gives us all an opportunity to grow as people. We may not directly understand the significance of a term or ‘label’, but acknowledging it can have a hugely positive impact on somebody who may not have felt able to fit into a ‘standard’ group or category. Being welcomed and acknowledged for who you are and being able to meet and relate to people who share some of your experiences can be life-changing for people.

We all have a lot to learn every single day and, as long as we are doing our best, we shouldn’t call out everyone who makes a mistake with the language they use or assumptions they make. Instead we should call people in. We should use it as an opportunity to learn and grow together. We should start more positive conversations, always using kindness and understanding.

Everybody deserves respect and kindness. And now, as we continue to emerge from the pandemic, that is more important than ever.