As a BME student who – with two very minor exceptions – never faced overt racism to my face, it made uncomfortable reading. Students had been told “You don’t speak well enough to get into Oxford” and “You do know they only accepted you because you’re black”. Those in Rhodes Must Not Fall might take the worldview that BME student feeling alienated is their fault – I hope most right-thinking people would not.
Then there was the 100 Voices report from Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE), part of the Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU). Although completed in 2014, it was inexplicably sat on for 10 months or so. Excerpts from it are equally grim:
“I was told of an incident during the college photoshoot where, upon seeing the two students he was going to be photographed with, a tutor responded ‘ah excellent, a woman and an ethnic’.”
What the debate over Cecil Rhodes’s statue has done most effectively is to involuntarily stop reasoned discussion about BME students and their experiences.
If we want to combat racism and an imperial legacy, over-simplified and grotesque statements conflating France and Daesh aren’t the way forwards – they simply play into the hands of tin-pot nationalists.
Victory, more often than not, is won through dialogue. Whether Rhodes falls or not, wide structural issues will stand – and they can’t all be tackled through force of character alone.
Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan is a third year English student at the University of Oxford,
Hope he can write better than that after 2 13 years at Oxford studying English.
Because he’s not actually made an argument for anything either way.
However to repeat myself from before. Current day Britain is one of the least racist societies either currently extant or across history. As far as “the outsider” and the rest of the society, this is about as good as it has ever been for humans. Doesn’t mean it’s perfect, doesn’t mean that it can’t get better but still….
I’ve lived and worked in Russia, the US, Czech Republic and UK, and really, the UK stands out for the incredible indifference we have to race compared to those other places. Others who read here (I think of Tim Newman specifically, experiences in Russia) will confirm this.
Actually, last time I said this there was a comment from one lady who described a kaffeeklasch with some friends. Wondering what society would make of such children of the group that were mixed race. She was impelled to point out that of all the children of the group, only those of herself and her partner would not in fact be mixed race. Thus, given that some rather large proportion of children are going to be mixed race they’re going to do fine.
And that is actually one of the reasons why race in the UK is, compared to so many other places, so unimportant. Simply because we Brits have got into the habit of fucking each other regardless of melanin content. Sure, it’s not immediate, takes a generation or three, but the outmarriage rates are vastly higher among us than they are in just about anywhere else you might think of. I think I’ve seen rates of 30% or so for Afro Caribbeans for example. At that rate the “problem” goes away quickly enough by any societal standard. A slight tint to a formerly pinkish society is what we’ll end up with.