On 01/06/15, the Oxford Union Governing Body passed a unanimous motion declaring itself to be institutionally racist. Student protest group Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford responded on Facebook the next day. Their original post can be found here; a screenshot and full transcript can be found below.
OXFORD UNION ACKNOWLEDGES THAT IT IS INSTITUTIONALLY RACIST. WILL OXFORD UNIVERSITY DO THE SAME? RHODES MUST FALL OXFORD PRESS RELEASE
Yesterday was a historic moment. Rhodes Must Fall Oxford (RMF Oxford), a movement determined to decolonise education and combat everyday racism at the University of Oxford, played a key role in getting the Oxford Union, one of Britain’s oldest debating societies, to acknowledge its own institutional racism. This follows from last week’s racist serving of a cocktail called ‘The Colonial Comeback’ at a debate about whether or not Britain should pay reparations for the damage it has done to its former colonies.
We convened a coalition of the Oxford University African and Caribbean Society (ACS), the Oxford University Africa Society, the Oxford Pan-Afrikan Forum (OXPAF), the Black Students’ Union (BSU), and the Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) – who all attended the Union’s governing body meeting held yesterday, and got the Union’s leadership to do the following:
- Pass a unanimous motion to acknowledge that the Union is institutionally racist.
- Pass a unanimous motion acknowledging that the cocktail and everything related to it was racist.
- Commit to publicly apologising and condemning the cocktail and events around it as racist.
- Commit to initiate disciplinary processes dealing with Standing Committee members and the former Vice-President of the Union who trivialised the cocktail and events around it.
- Undertake mandatory diversity training convened by Rhodes Must Fall and CRAE.
- The President also apologised to the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Officer, Esther Odejimi, for marginalising her and not meeting with her since her appointment.
RMF Oxford is pleased with the outcomes of the meeting and intends to hold the Union accountable to follow through on the actions above, to which they have publicly committed. Should the Union fail to follow through, RMF and its allies at Oxford will call for the resignation of the Union’s President.
RMF Oxford must emphasise that the events at the Union are part of a broader systemic problem, and expose a set of political, historical, and imperial legacies at the University of Oxford which affect us all. Racism is not just an attitude: it is a system of forces that feeds implicit bias and continues to create inequality and injustice. These inequalities extend beyond the Oxford Union and pervade the University of Oxford as a whole.
While the University hides behind the fact that it has no jurisdiction over the Union, it must be pointed out that Union members are students of the University – whose opinions are significantly influenced by the University, its curriculum, and overall institutional architecture. Yesterday, the Oxford Union acknowledged that it is institutionally racist. When will the University of Oxford have the courage to follow suit? If the University of Oxford is committed to addressing BME student experiences (as it says it is), then why has the University of Oxford not applied for the Race Equality Charter mark?
We call on the University of Oxford to acknowledge its own institutional racism and the fact that it is a beneficiary of a mutually productive culture of imperialism and colonialism. It is only when this problem is acknowledged that a conversation can start about how this can be addressed.
We are positive about what lies ahead, and believe that the Union’s admission of its own institutional racism marks a significant victory for oppressed minorities within what is a largely denialist Oxford space. The process of decolonisation is well and truly underway!
All links operational at time of publication. The Poor Print takes no responsibility for the accuracy of content on other sites, but every effort has been made to find reputable sources.