Racism is rife at British universities, and it has been since universities were founded. The main forms of racism can be categorised into three areas: racism amongst students, racism in the curriculum and racist discrimination by or towards university employees. If we are to end these injustices, it is time we prioritised positive action over warm words.
The first form of racism is one that surrounds all students; whether you participate in, are complicit to or act against it, the use of racist slurs and racist comments is pandemic at British universities. This issue is visible in, but not confined to, universities like Exeter and Warwick, which have a large proportion of white, and often upper-middle-class students. Although universities need to take action, a lot of this happens in private discourse and as young adults are stubborn in their nearly-formed views, little can be done.
People do not base their judgement on sense or historical truths, but on racist rhetoric
What we really need are widespread educational campaigns to explain to people why racism is nonsensical. The British population needs to be educated about the facts: that diversity it an immeasurable benefit. An ignorance of Britain’s past means that too often, people do not base their judgement on sense or historical truths, but on racist rhetoric. Although there are problems with immigration and multiculturalism, in ignoring the overwhelmingly positive impacts of both, we end up in the world in which we now seem to live, in which politicians, university students, and the general population hold anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racist views. This is not a campaign against free speech, it is a campaign for educated speech.
The next form of racism at universities is the whitewashing of the curriculum, which can take form in the perspective of history focussed on, the literature studied and the issues with race being discussed. As a history student, I think the Warwick history department deals relatively well with this and should be given credit for their global outlook. Sadly though, this is a rarity nationwide.
Baroness Amos, the UK’s first black female university head, has pointed out that less than 1% of professors are black
Racist discrimination by and towards members of staff is a largely overlooked issue across employment in multicultural countries. Like other large institutions, Warwick University has posted its results of the gender wage gap analysis, however there is no such analysis for the ethnic wage gap. This is not because the issue doesn’t exist, but rather because it is largely undocumented, allowing little room for change. The BBC has estimated this wage gap between UK-domiciled white and ethnic minority academic managers, directors and senior officials to be 16%. On top of this, Baroness Amos, the UK’s first black female university head, has pointed out that less than 1% of professors are black. As well as these discriminatory practises, university employees have been known to discriminate against their students. This involves discrimination by lecturers, seminar tutors, residential life team members and could be behind the higher dropout rates of students from minority backgrounds.
We need to decolonise the curriculum and prevent racist discrimination towards students
The implementation of positive action measures would help to solve these issues. Through helping to dismantle the boundaries to the top roles and higher salaries, positive action would help in the closing of the ethnic wage gap. It would also help to decolonise the curriculum and prevent racist discrimination towards students, thus having positive secondary impacts in reducing racism from the initial measure of positive action. Additionally, campaigns such as ‘Speak Out’ (that has recently been run by Warwick Anti-Racism society) are needed to encourage a mass of people to share their experiences and express the true scale of the problem.
To reiterate, there is an epidemic of racism and discrimination at universities, and although positive action would help to solve many of these issues, some are deeper rooted in the miseducation of people before university, and so a wider campaign to educate people of all ages would be beneficial in helping to reduce racism.