Image: Flickr//Nathan Wong
“Racism doesn’t exist in the world today!”
“No one is racist in the UK anymore!”
If you’re thinking either or both of the statements above, you must understand that you are incorrect.
Yesterday Faramade Ifaturoti, a student at Warwick University, was the victim of a vicious attack. Her food was branded with racist and dehumanising slurs, so she took to twitter to voice her horror, posting “Just entered the kitchen and look at what one of my flatmates has done. I am extremely disgusted @WarwickAccomm”.
Warwick University issued a statement declaring that they are “investigating as a matter of urgency.” But why did it require “a Twitter escalation,” as Fara herself put it, for the university to respond?
The twitter trend- #WeStandWithFara – has since been started to support Fara, and to support any other brutally attacked victims who have had the same experience.
University is supposed to be a safe place. Students rely on the protected environments universities are supposed to provide in order to thrive and survive there. Nobody should face discrimination at university, especially not in 2016. Students of colour should not be made to feel any different that anyone else at university.
Fara is sadly not alone. I experienced discrimination when, after a 15-minute job interview at private accommodation in Manchester, I was asked if I had a had a valid visa to work in the UK since I was an international student. Was I asked this purely because I am not a white student? Then, when I told the interviewer that I was actually born and bred in London, she replied, “So that’s why you speak such good English!” This stereotype – that PoC cannot speak ‘good English’ – is highly offensive.
The I, too, am Oxford campaign launched several years ago had a collection of Oxford students of colour who describe daily struggles they encounter.
all images itooamoxford.tumblr.com
Similarly, the I, too, am Cambridge campaign encouraged students to share their experiences of prejudice at university.
all images wetooarecambridge.tumblr.com
In 2014, the University of York carried out a study for student newspaper York Vision and found that 1 in 10 students suffer racial discrimination. 50% of the affected students also claimed that they had witnessed racist behaviour.
Even at these top institutions, students are stereotyped purely because of their race.
Institutional racism can be expressed implicitly or explicitly; either way, it is still racism. By blaming Fara, or indeed any victim of racial discrimination, it shows how deep-rooted the real problem is. A victim should never be told how to “deal” with racism, not only because every case is different, but also because every victim has a different way of handling situations. The fact that Warwick University have supposedly had to deal with situations like this many times before just shows how problematic institutional racism is. With a zero-racism policy in place, all students should know that any action of racism will result in immediate expulsion. The fact that racial discrimination is still occurring makes it sound like victims will still be, and always be victims. If the penalty for such attacks is not as great as what it should be for any institution that has a zero-racism policy, racists will never stop. And we need them to stop
#WeStandWithFara, just as we stand with all students of colour who have and still do experience racism every day at university. We demand to see some real institutional change, and end the problem of racism at university. Ignorance, a lack of cultural awareness, and underexposure to diversity cannot be used as excuses for racial discrimination any longer. Change can only be accomplished if we work together; by identifying that racism is still a widespread problem at universities all over the country, we can set out together to fight this battle and win.
Araddhna Patel is a 2nd year student at the University of Manchester reading Ancient History. She’s fluent in fangirl, an avid reader and writer, a productive procrastinator, a grammar enthusiast, a proud nerd, a Harry Potter aficionado, a lover of sarcasm, and an aspiring something… She’ll let you know what.