Photo credit (C) Duncan Brown 2017
On UN Anti-Racism day during the 2018 strike action, co-chair of the Decolonise Sociology working group, Dr Manali Desai, shared her thoughts on institutional racism at the University of Cambridge.
“I don’t need to tell you that Cambridge has a race problem.
Let me start by saying that just speaking about diversity is not enough. Higher admission figures are not enough, neither is the token hiring of BME staff. What we need is a discussion about institutional racism. We need more specific information about exclusion; we need to know more about the mechanisms that silence students and staff of colour.
We need to have a conversation about decolonization in a meaningful way. Not just adding more black and brown people to reading lists.
We want to know why epistemologies and forms of knowledge derived in Western contexts without any reflection on colonial pasts are privileged in most of the curriculum.
We want to know why students and staff who speak out about these issues are vilified and excluded.
We want to what Cambridge is doing about everyday racism – casual racism as the high tables and in the classroom, everyday micro-aggression that every BME student and staff could relate stories about.
We want to know more about how Cambridge is going to face up to its own complicity in Britain’s colonial past.
Now more than ever is the time to ask these questions and demand not just answers but change. Not patronizing tokenism … but a change in the way that the university itself functions.
You know, we are often make to feel as though we are lucky to be here. University of Cambridge, you are lucky to have us.”
Read the full article, including contributions from students of colour at the university, and plans for future antiracism work, on the UCU website.