As we reported last week, Pi is taking part in a collaborative effort with several other student media organisations to gauge the frequency and extent of students’ experiences of racism on university campuses across the UK.
Fuller results will be released later this month alongside data on reported racist incidents from the universities themselves. Meanwhile, we have received several illuminating responses to the survey which describe a range of racist incidents across the spectrum, from one-off verbal abuse to more frequent microaggressions which ‘invalidate our daily lived experiences’, according to one response.
Here are some of the incidents which were described, along with general comments on the experiences of ethnic minority students in higher education:
“Someone in the library mimicked “kowtowing” in front of me and put on a fake Chinese accent.”
Another student gives examples of frequent microaggressions they faced: “I was born in the UK – ‘you’re not British British you’re Indian’ (see: othering); ‘where are you really from?’ (no explanation needed)”, all of which “take the form of daily hostility, which led to my social dislocation and ultimately a descent into depression.”
The lack of representation of issues relating to ethnic minority students in the curriculum was also a recurring theme in the survey answers: “BME issues are hardly ever brought up in the curriculum. When the lack of BME representation is brought up in the classroom, usually White students will defend the curriculum claiming that the only (worthwhile) academics are White cis-men or retort some other argument that undermines BME people. There is a lack of awareness regarding the overtly White curriculum and an over defensiveness when it is brought up. […] It makes being a BME student uncomfortable and when voicing my concerns I feel that my views are interpreted as unwelcome/overly sensitive.”
As a possible coping strategy for students who have undergone racism, one respondent suggested: “Diversity workshops are essential which tackle intersections of class, race and sexuality. First years, particularly those vulnerable to microaggressions, need to be made aware that mental health services are there for them, and not to suffer in silence.”
The results so far also show that in the vast majority of cases, racist incidents were not reported to either the university or Students’ Union. Even most of the reported cases were not followed up. Around a third of the survey respondents were white, with the rest representing a wide range of ethnicities.
However, at this point in time we do not have enough results to build a fuller picture of racism at London universities. To make your voice heard, please complete the short survey below, or by following the link here.