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Racism at School – Some Personal Reflections on Causes and Effects with Levi Tebbutt (OR 2006-2013)

Reading School was delighted to invite Levi Tebbutt (OR 2006-2013) to speak to our Year 13 students about his experiences of racism and his reflection on the causes of prejudice. He spoke most powerfully and honestly about the impact that our words, actions and inactions can have.

After the tragic death of George Floyd and the consequent increase in public awareness about racism and racial tensions in different parts of the world, Levi published his reflections in a detailed Linkedin post regarding the racial abuse he received during his time at primary school, at Reading School, at the University of Oxford and even in the early stages of his career at KPMG.

Levi, who left Reading School in 2013, grew up in a mixed family in Reading with a White British mother and Black British father. During his inspiring and powerful talk, Levi traced the roots of his very first racist encounters as a young child; through his years at school and early adulthood.

Levi candidly shared his experiences of racist bullying at the hand of his peers, and the ways he perpetuated, participated in or pretended not to hear racism around him. He recalls numerous forms of racism he had to endure including the use of utterly unacceptable racist stereotypes and pejorative slurs based on his appearance, culture or heritage.

He shared how these painful and intrusive encounters were a constant part of his experience, and explained how such persistent bullying and discrimination can make people feel inadequate and invisible. His encounters provided a very real challenge for today’s students and made everyone who heard his talk more aware of the impact of their action or inaction.

During the very reflective Q&A session, Levi touched on the importance of ally-ship, reflecting on how easy it is to be a bystander in racist encounters, and he confronted how negative internalised feelings diminish the development of identity which includes positive views of race and heritage.

Levi’s experiences of racism at Reading School may have occurred nearly 10 years ago but, unfortunately, his insights remain relevant today.

Mr AM Robson said:

“Levi is a real role model. He is willing to stand up and confront what is wrong, and his leadership is an outstanding example to our students. As you would expect it pains me to hear of Levi’s experience of racism at Reading School. Although it has been seven years since Levi left Reading to go to Oxford, no institution should imagine that prejudice and discrimination are entirely behind us. As an educational institution, we continue to strive to educate our students against prejudice, to cultivate positive change and to nurture empathy. Levi’s leadership will help us, and our students to do better and be better.

Reading School welcomes boys from a wide variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds with over fifty different languages represented and major religions. We regard the diversity and richness that this brings as a real strength of the school. We are profoundly grateful to Levi for his invaluable contribution."

Rev’d Dr C Evans commented:

“I am personally hugely grateful to Levi. His honesty is liberating and his insight and integrity are a source of hope for us. None of us like to see evidence of our own historic faults or failings, but the growing understanding of the insidious and persistent nature of institutional racism within UK society means we owe it to all our students to talk honestly about these issues.

Racism in any form is abhorrent and we are committed to eradicating ignorance, inequality and discrimination.

Levi has done our students a huge favour by helping them become more conscious of micro-aggressions, of the impact of thoughtless words or actions, and of their own responsibility to challenge what is inappropriate and unfair."

Levi Tebbutt (OR 2006-2013) added:

“It was great to speak to the evidently bright cohort of Year 13s at Reading School. The school holds a lot of memories for me and was a second home of sorts from 2006-13. While this was painful to talk about, the school has so much potential to inspire and build leaders for the future. To this end, I hope all who watch this talk will benefit from hearing a candid tale of the pain inflicted by racism, and will hopefully feel encouraged to stand up in their own lives and make all the differences - however small - that they can.

I remember so many small things that teachers and staff did for me, without which I could never have hoped to get to where I am today. Those small things are things we can all go forwards and do for our peers, those who look up to us, and even those who we look up to. 

I am far from perfect and often reflect upon regrets I have, but we can always do better. I hope to continue to do better, it’s a journey which has no end."

Reading School would like to thank Levi for his candid and courageous talk. Open dialogue about race, identity and behaviour helps us to create a more equitable, self-aware and inclusive school community. We happily encourage all our alumni to share their own stories and to help us in our goal to ‘build good men’. We relish the opportunity for spiritual, moral and cultural dialogue that shapes our students’ consciousness and supports them to be the best they can be.

Mr Tebbutt is happy to talk to pupils further who may have questions. Please direct these to the Society Office at communications@reading-school.co.uk

Reading School would like to thank Levi for his candid and courageous talk. Open dialogue about race, identity and behaviour helps us to create a more equitable, self-aware and inclusive school community. We happily encourage all our alumni to share their own stories and to help us in our goal to ‘build good men’. We relish the opportunity for spiritual, moral and cultural dialogue that shapes our students’ consciousness and supports them to be the best they can be.

If you are an Old Redingensian and would like to share your professional expertise, academic specialism or research background with our students through a short talk, master class, tutorial or inspire lecture, please complete the form here: Remote Inspire Lectures

If you have any further queries please contact Piatrice or Jas at events@reading-school.co.uk  

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