The murder of George Floyd and recent events in the US have shone a spotlight on the long history of racism that continues to pervade our society and that Black members of our community have been living with the burden of for their entire lives. As I have been drafting this message over the past few days, I have struggled to find the right words. I simply cannot imagine what it is like to experience the racism that Black and other minority ethnic (BME) members of our community experience on a daily basis. I simply cannot imagine what it is like to fear for my life if stopped by the police or merely going for a run. I simply cannot imagine what it is like to have my intellect, achievements, and contributions questioned due to the color of my skin. It is utterly unacceptable that racism still exists and remains embedded in our institutions.
While recent events have concentrated on the US, the UK is certainly not immune to these challenges. Indeed, the pernicious impacts of racism have affected our own community in the MCR and reached national news twice in just this academic year alone. This, of course, does not include the hundreds of other instances of racism that never make the headlines.
As I write this message, I reflect on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. which hang above my desk and can be found in his Letter from Birmingham Jail that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We must take a stand to vigorously renounce all forms of racism. It is not enough for us to simply treat others equally. Those of us who do not live under the burden of racism must take active steps to end these injustices in our society. We must educate ourselves and those around us. We must call out instances of racism whenever we observe them. To this end, our MCR BME Officers, Minying and Krish, have circulated an email with resources on educating ourselves and a list of organizations that you can support in this fight.
I would also like to take this opportunity to emphatically declare that racism and other forms of discrimination have no place in our MCR community. It is worth repeating the words from the Preamble of our Constitution that the MCR “does not discriminate against its members on the basis of gender, ethnicity, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin or any other protected characteristic. We value equality, respect, diversity and inclusivity.” We must continue to be guided by these values in all the work that we do, and there is so much more that can be done to make our community, College, and University a more equal, equitable, diverse, and inclusive space. The MCR Committee and I, therefore, resolve to continue lobbying the College and University within our powers to rout out institutionalized forms of racism and thoroughly address the concerns of our BME peers. We may not have all the answers, but the Committee is certainly here to listen, learn, and advocate.
As a first step, I have been in communication with President Snowling regarding recent events, and she has offered to organize a meeting next week with BME students in College to provide a forum for addressing concerns and exploring how we as a College can do better. This marks only the beginning of a dialogue I intend to continue having within the MCR on these critical issues. We are also exploring purchasing books by Black authors and on anti-racism for the MCR and College libraries, ways to better support graduate access initiatives such as UNIQ+, and establishing a liberation workshop as part of our Fresher’s Week.
I would like to end by reminding BME members of our community that you have our full and unwavering support. If there is anything we can do during this time, please do not hesitate for a second to reach out.
Christopher J. D’Urso
President, St John’s College Middle Common Room