Shocking video footage of three white girls brutally attacking a Black schoolgirl went viral this week. The attack took place outside Thomas Knyvett College, a secondary school in Surrey, on Monday 6 February. It has since stirred up concerns, particularly within Black communities, over anti-Blackness and racism in schools.
The Independent reported that police have arrested five people so far in relation to the incident, including an adult man and woman and three minors.
Understandably, the video has caused anger and prompted protests from Black communities. People gathered outside the school on 8 February to show solidarity and demand accountability:
"Enough is enough," the people say. Here @ Thomas Knyvett College protest in Ashford, following the brutal attack on a Black schoolgirl by a gang of white people. Hundreds were in attendance to show solidarity. pic.twitter.com/EuaFvjE3vp
— Nadine White. (@Nadine_Writes) February 8, 2023
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Melissa Sigodo, reporter for the Mirror, shared:
At the demo today outside Thomas Knyvett College where a black girl was assaulted on Monday, I spoke to a relative who says that the first thing the girl said to her was, ‘nobody helped me…One of the teachers laughed at me with my braids on the floor'. https://t.co/Ow26gAesjD
— Melissa Sigodo (@melissasigodo) February 9, 2023
According to the Independent, around 200 people attended the protest, which was organised by community activist Raspect from the grassroots collective Forever Family.
Raspect said at the protest:
We’ve seen the video. These situations that our children are facing … they’re not going to face it alone. We’re letting the little girl know that we’re proud of you! You’re a warrior, you had five hyenas trying to bite at your ankles and you’re a lioness that stood up!
[…] Us standing here today sends a ripple effect, to every person in and outside of this community, about what happens when you try to oppress the children. That’s why we’re here.
Condemnation and calls to action
The horrifying video has prompted widespread condemnation online. Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said:
A young black girl was beaten up by an adult and multiple children outside school in Ashford yesterday.
Neither passing members of the public or teachers intervened.
I can't even imagine how traumatic this must have been for her.
The school must be held to account.
— Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (@BellRibeiroAddy) February 8, 2023
Meanwhile, British rapper Dave demanded that the school sacks staff members who were complicit in the attack. He included a still from the video showing adults standing by instead of intervening to stop the assault:
Don’t make this weird @ThomasKnyvett cause we will wait outside of your college grounds till every member of staff in this video is sacked. DO THE RIGHT THING BEFORE WE FORCE YOU TO. pic.twitter.com/D0Rlmk3lQS
— SANTAN (@Santandave1) February 8, 2023
On 8 February, the school put out a statement calling the attack an “isolated incident”. However, people have slammed this response as inadequate and have demanded that principal Richard Beeson is sacked:
This is a pathetic statement.
Richard Beeson needs to be sacked. It wasn't a "violent altercation" it was a brutal, targeted attack and he stood by and did nothing. https://t.co/z7yKolCuuU
— Mukhtar (@I_amMukhtar) February 8, 2023
Moreover, the school’s statement referred to the assault as a “violent altercation”. But as Independent journo Nadine White said:
There was no "violent altercation". A gang of white people viciously attacked a Black schoolgirl while people stood by doing nothing.
— Nadine White. (@Nadine_Writes) February 8, 2023
Public sentiment certainly doesn’t appear to be in Beeson’s favour, since a petition demanding the police question him has been signed by over 78,000 people:
— Naima Roble (@warsan003) February 8, 2023
Of course, this racist attack has renewed concerns over racism in schools more broadly – and anti-Blackness in particular. As journalist Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff shared:
Casual cruelty, and the inevitable tipping over into racist abuse. My friends and I were once attacked on the outskirts of Edinburgh, will never forget pelting down the road with my EA friend while they shouted racist abuse at us
— Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff (@CharlieBCuff) February 8, 2023
Moreover, reports circulated on Twitter suggesting the attackers have Irish Traveller heritage, which added a layer of complexity to the issue:
White Brits saying the @ThomasKnyvett incident "isn't a Black and white thing" because the attackers are "travellers".
So you're doubling up your racism by denying it's a racist attack and othering travellers? Whierdos
— DamselInDisDress (@visassitude) February 9, 2023
But while some (white) people used this to dismiss the incident as ‘minority on minority crime’, Black people have long been calling out anti-Blackness among non-Black ethnic minorities.
That the perpetrators of such a vicious attack belong to a persecuted – albeit white – minority has little bearing on the trauma, both individual and collective, this incident has caused:
I had to come back on Twitter because my blood is actually boiling about that disgusting racist attack on the young black girl at her school. It was a full fledged RACIST attack. I’m sick and tired of seeing people mention that they’re from the traveller community, it means 0
— Irie (@ssozinha_) February 9, 2023
One Twitter user summed up the reality of Black people not receiving as much as they give in terms of solidarity from other oppressed communities:
encourage meaningful, visible attempts to eradicate antiblackness among other oppressed groups. Maybe it's the algos, but I've not seen any solidarity. If the roles were reversed, I know my community would do what is right. More and more, I'm wondering if this is right.
— UK's No1 Race Baiter (@UnknownMe82) February 9, 2023
Black Lives Matter
MP Janet Daby reportedly raised the Thomas Knyvett incident in parliament on 9 February:
NEW: @JanetDaby MP has raised the Black schoolgirl attack in parliament. She called for govt to examine @ThomasKnyvett's practices and "ensure justice has been served". @PennyMordaunt, Commons leader, said she'll write to Education Secretary @GillianKeegan. pic.twitter.com/xxUOVE7Pjf
— Nadine White. (@Nadine_Writes) February 9, 2023
But this issue, of course, goes far deeper than the practices of any one school or institution.
‘Black Lives Matter‘ has been, in some instances tokenistically, recognised by white institutions in the UK from around 2020, following the police killing of George Floyd. However, this is yet to be backed up with real, tangible solidarity from non-Black people.
Simply saying or tweeting ‘Black Lives Matter’ isn’t good enough. If the video of a lone Black girl getting violently piled on by three white girls, as people look on, tells us anything, it’s that those who might otherwise claim to oppose racism and anti-Blackness need to step up when it counts.
This applies to white people as much as it does to non-Black racial or ethnic minorities. The conversation we need to have is much broader than bullying or racism in schools. It’s about recognising and calling out the anti-Blackness that is endemic in our society, and then actively working to put an end to it.
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