Why aren’t we serious about racism?

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A recent racist incident at Warwick University unveiled numerous gaps in universities’ ability to confront racism on campus. Farmade Ifaturoti, a student of Warwick University, posted the now viral tweet after returning home to her accommodation to see a bunch of bananas covered in racial slurs.

“Just entered the kitchen and look at what one of my flatmates has done. I am extremely disgusted.”

Such an incident brings up the highly controversial topic of racism on campus. bathimpact recently conducted a survey on the topic with over 200 responses . Our team here at bathimpact were left shocked and stunned with the responses to the survey.

46.5% respondents thought that racism was prevalent on campus versus 53.5%. This was further reflected with 53% saying that they had experienced racist incidents, with the overwhelming proportion of these occurring in halls of residence on campus. This comes despite the mechanisms of having the Resident Tutors in place to support students in their move to university.

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The original post that sparked the survey on racism

These results speak volumes for the impact this could have on the University and its blind spots in addressing this. Especially with their much hyped ‘internationalisation strategy’ for the much- courted and well- endowed international students.

While in no way do such results represent the majority view of the student population of the University, these results still paint an alarming picture of the incidents, statements, and experiences that students at the University have undergone. Experiences that should never have been had to begin with.

While the majority of these incidents were not reported what was more disheartening was that close to 89.2% of the incidents that were reported on, were never followed up. These figures show an alarming lack of authority in dealing with this highly sensitive issue, despite having the infrastructure in place within the Students’ Union and the University.

In comments that were made people stated that there was lack of awareness of how to report incidents, especially in understanding what exactly constituted a ‘racist incident’.

This brings broader questions of education and awareness for our student population so that they feel more secure on campus and are able to seek help if needed.

But to shift our discussion, what was more concerning when sifting through these results was the absolute lack of empathy shown by the respondents. When conducting surveys in the past, bathimpact has never received such inflammatory responses. In discussing the highly sensitive issue, respondents were found to have gone out of their way to make over the top racist comments.q

Examples such as ‘gas the k**** (a derogatory term for Jews), ‘we should deport all p****, n******, k****, c*****, sandn****** and other r******’. Why was it, when discussing such a highly sensitive topic, respondents went out of their way to make over the top racist comments on such a highly – charged issue? A reflection of their true feelings? Or the power of anonymity?

Such comments were seen throughout the respondents’ answers. Statements on white supremacy, deportation and killing were all too prevalent themes in the answers that we received.

However, there was a particular focus on racism directed towards black people with the utilization of the word ‘n*****’ and many references to slavery. The other themes throughout the comments were Islamophobic and references to immigrants. This displays a frightening train of thought amongst our respondents and its potential impact on the future.

In attempting to provide some answers and explanations to these results, we could point to having a pretty skewed diversity within the student population. This lack of diversity is also reflected at a higher level within student leadership positions and lecturers at university.

Alternatively, some have suggested that it is the lack of education and exposure in understanding different cultural practices and what exactly constitutes racist practices/ phrases.

Other responses included the complete denial that racism or any discriminatory practices existed, and that the University was an accepting and tolerant environment for students.

When asked to comment on racism the University directed us to their Diversity and Equality policy on their website which reiterated its commitment ‘to provide a working and learning environment which will be stimulating and supportive and free of harassment, bullying and victimisation, by any person whether University employee, student or an external third party. All employees and students have a right to be treated, and have an obligation to treat others, with dignity and respect.’

These results have displayed the lack of empathy and awareness our respondents have in discussing such a highly sensitive issue that affects many across campus.

We began, as a newspaper, searching for one thing and we were met with a far more alarming and shocking picture of what the experiences of our students across campus are really like.

It is clear that in discussing racism there still is the lack of sensitivity and overall understanding in discussing the topic.

It is clear that despite implementation of numerous programs, quotas, and calls for more equality and diversity. We have somewhat failed our students with regards to effectively tackling racism and we still have a long way to go.

If you have experienced racism at the University, please report the incident on www.bathstudent.com/report-an-incident/

Correction notice:
This article was amended on the 12/5/16 to avoid the usage of word that may make some uncomfortable
The bathimpact team strives to create an interesting and respectful environment where no one is discriminated against. 

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About Author

Alisha Lobo is the Editor - in Chief of bathimpact. She writes about international politics with specific focus on the Middle East and India. She also reports on the University of Bath and the Students' Union. She was the former News & Comment Editor of bathimpact (2015/16).

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