Time To Talk About It: Racism At University

Every year, over 2.5 million students attend universities across the United Kingdom, with Black and ethnic minority students accounting for half a million of the total. A place where students from all backgrounds come to learn and have fun, but where recent surges in racially abusive behaviour from staff and students are becoming a subject of concern for many, however, data shows a low number of incidents being reported but why is this?

This may be due to the fact that these students believe that the university will not take sufficient action or that this will affect their studies. Students also complain that their complaints were mis-handled by the university and often never known the outcome of disciplinary for their aggressors due to data- protection policies. Universities believe that this issue is being dealt with due to the data however the data is misrepresented as the incidents are not consequently being reported.

Statistics from BBC three’s ‘Is Uni Racist?’ documentary airing in April of 2021 showed that between 2015 and 2019 the highest number of complaints for racially charged issues were Cardiff University with 24 cases, Essex University reported 52 cases, and Nottingham Trent University with 25 cases.  On campuses around the UK, racial profiling, abuse, and harassment have all occurred. In 2019 the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a study on racial harassment at universities. They uncovered that “Students had reported that their harasser was usually another student, but a significant percentage said it was their instructor or another academic”. Additionally, international students expressed feelings of alienation, isolation, and vulnerability. From the report there were examples of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic slurs, as well as anti-English prejudice, from both staff and students at Scottish and Welsh universities. “We were told that most incidents were part of a pattern of repeated harassment” which is an alarming finding that this is being experienced on a regular basis. Mental health has massively affected students who have experienced such abuse. The report stated that “students who were subjected to racial harassment reported feeling angry, unhappy, depressed, anxious, and vulnerable, with 8% reporting suicidal thoughts”. Similar effects were noted by employees.

Universities are under significant pressure to uphold the belief of non-discriminatory and safe environments where students can come to study and yet it is the universities inability to deal with the issues at hand adequately that causes unrest and little belief in the university’s ability to deal with racial discrimination. Incidents such as the ‘Bracton Law Society Scandal’ in 2018 involved screenshots of racist text messages being leaked, from a WhatsApp chat group of Bracton Law Society (BLS), a student law society at the University of Exeter, this gained massive publicity forcing universities to take serious action. The racist messages were publicised on social media, which led to the society being dissolved and some students being suspended and expelled. However, it begs the question if not publicised how serious would the issue be taken by the university?

 Rufaro Chisango was also the victim of a racist attack when in 2017 in her university accommodation she was left feeling vulnerable and scared, after white students stood outside her door and proceeded to chant derogatory and outwardly racist remarks such as ‘We hate the Blacks’. Chisango proceeded to write a statement to the university but had no response. The racial abuse was recorded by a fellow student and Chisango felt as though at this point, she had to take matters into her own hands and decided to upload the footage onto social media, where it went viral. The university then took action, and the police were also called, Joe Tivnan the main perpetrator was arrested along with another male student and received an £800 fine and will likely suffer irreparable damage. A Nottingham Trent spokeswoman said the university was “shocked and appalled” by the incident.

 In a letter to the university in 2020, 60 student societies expressed their “shock and disgust at the recent increase in cases of racism that have been seen to have come from NTU students” evidencing that racism in university if anything is rising with events such as European Football Championship being a trigger.

 Overall, it is clear that major changes are required for students to feel safe and respected in these institutions. It seems that most of all students want to be heard and feel that their experiences are significant enough to be taken seriously by the university.

BBC three’s ‘Is Uni Racist?’ documentary available on BBC iPlayer gives greater insight and detail on the issues discussed.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Report: Tackling racial harassment: Universities challenged (

diversity heritage

 Time to Talk about it: Cultural Appropriation or Appreciation?

 Cultural Appropriation Vs Cultural Appreciation has been a long-debated topic and a controversial one at that however, understanding the difference between both concepts is key. To begin, let us differentiate the two: cultural appreciation is when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in order to widen their perspective and connect with other cultures, whereas cultural appropriation is simply taking or “hand-picking” one aspect of a culture that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest. In Imani Kai Johnson’s chapter, “Black Culture Without Black People,” she refers to Cultural Appropriation as “colonialism at the scale of the dancing body or the sacred ritual object, its life and dynamism reduced to a thing for consumption or a costume for play”.

A plethora of celebrities and influencers have had their run ins with appropriating culture, from Kim Kardashian’s ‘Bo- Derek Braids’ to Adele’s questionable look at Notting Hill’s carnival last year. Well, it’s just a hairstyle, it’s just an outfit isn’t it? As put simply by University Professor Susan Scafidi to Jezebel in 2012 ‘If you’re imitating something but you’re not actually giving credit where credit is due, in academic communities we would call that plagiarism’.

Appropriation is defined as the utilisation of black culture for commercial advantage, such as white fashion models sporting traditionally black hairstyles. It exploits black people because they are the ones who are subjected to discrimination as a result of wearing these styles. The most disputed response is “Black women straighten their hair all the time!” rather than wear their natural hair. This is an example of assimilation is not the same as appropriation; it is not the same because marginalised communities are forced to adopt a dominant culture in order to thrive. Therefore, more often than not black women are straightening their hair to fit in with society’s ideal image. This is evidenced by the fact that black women frequently report they feel unable to leave their hair in its natural state. The BBC cites cases of women being told by employers it looks “unprofessional”.  

Showing respect in a culture with permission or full credit while ensuring that you do not benefit is what cultural appreciation is all about. Hairstyles like box braids and dreadlocks hold specific cultural significance for various black communities and are a key part of black hair care. When non-black people wear these styles just because they look nice its exploitation. Further trivialising the discrimination that black people face for wearing these styles. If you are white, then white privilege means that you’ll likely face less discrimination for wearing these styles. There is always a need to be culturally aware to ensure that our self-expression isn’t exploiting others.

In the new age of Instagram filters and TikTok we have moved on from outward racist images of blackface to the subtle appropriations of ‘Black-fishing’ and ‘Digital Black Face’. ‘Black- Fishing’ is a very new concept but is essentially when non-black people alter their appearance to seem black using make-up, fake tan or photo -editing. People who blackfish get the benefits of blackness without the negatives that come from existing as a black person. My features may get me likes on Instagram but put me at a disadvantage at job interviews for example. When you reduce blackness to a ‘look’ it undermines the prejudices that black people face on an everyday basis.

Exploring many aspects of culture with open-mindedness to the cultural and historic value is significant in expressing cultural appreciation, for beneficial and respectful cultural exchange and in turn avoids appropriation.

Adele’s Carnival ‘Look’ Adele causes stir with Notting Hill Carnival celebration photo | The Independent | The Independent

Kim Kardashians Braids Kim Kardashian West Responds to the Backlash Over Her Braids | Glamour

Link to Digital black face – What Is Digital Blackface? – Experts Explain Why It’s Problematic (

black history diversity

Time To Talk About It: The Black Self-Identity In Crisis

Anti- blackness is a social construct recognised as a collective consciousness of racial prejudice against black individuals. It elevates in complexity when discussing racialised groups as it becomes unorthodox to assume that this conception is significant in forming the black identity. As stated by Richard L Allen anti-blackness can create ‘a web of anti-self-images, generating a personal and collective self- destruction’[1] drawing upon ideas of Afro-pessimism we can further develop our understanding of anti-blackness and its impact upon self-identification. For example, as a black individual it has somehow become relevant how dark your skin is. Its most likely down to the concept of white adjacency it states that ethnic minorities receive benefits because of their proximity to whiteness. This is highlighted in Discriminations such as colourism, it is a sad fact to recognise that how dark or light you are can determine how attractive or successful you are in society. These misconceptions can lead to damaging effects such as skin bleaching the act of skin- lightening goes beyond the physical, it can also be incredibly detrimental to self-confidence and mental health. Darker-skinned people report higher levels of microaggressions, from not just society but members of their own communities. Perhaps this originates from a historical standpoint; When deconstructing anti- blackness at its core is slavery and as stated by Allen there is ‘A worse form of slavery: namely one which captured the mind’[2]. There is a perpetual state of negativity that encapsulates the minds of many black individuals, blackness was and still is coterminous with slavery. Black people are perceived to share the same customs and cultures, with disregard to whether you’re from Jamaica or Nigeria, to put it plainly the western world doesn’t care. This lays the groundwork for sweeping negative generalizations, it denies black individuals the right to personhood and devalues their individual lived experiences. In turn most adopt a self-fulfilling prophecy creating identity crisis’s you can only be told so much by society that you’re ‘ghetto’, ‘criminal’ or ‘lazy’ before you internalise these stereotypes and believe them. After slavery was abolished, former slaves were plagued with the “negro disease” the belief that black people were inherently lazy and the many people who moved from the Caribbean to Britain still face the same racial prejudices. Kimberle Crenshaw suggests that black identities are often ‘Traveling between dualities of Manichean space, rigidly bifurcated into Light/dark, Good/Bad, White/Black’[3] evidencing that there is a state of confusion about self-identity within the black community. In the current climate where white on black racism is hyper visualised there is a commonly held belief that white people are the only aggressors of anti-blackness and that as another societal marginalised group you cannot hold anti–black views. Society often lumps ethnic minorities together and while these terms can be useful in some situations, they shouldn’t be used in reference to a specific race unnecessarily. For instance, referring to a black woman as a ‘woman of colour’, when you could refer to her as black, can undermine her specific lived experiences of being black. The theory of Afro-Pessimism is significant in the black self-identity. The role of anti- blackness has a clear obstructive effect on the formation of the black identity prolonging consequential change. While everyone questions their sense of self from time to time having an identity crisis can have a big effect on everyday life so it is important to be aware of the negative feelings you have about yourself. Jabari Lyles fascinating Ted Talk discusses his personal journey to understanding and loving himself as a Black man, in spite of growing up among a predominantly white community. The ‘lessons of self-internalised racism’ talk is truly insightful and I encourage anyone to go watch especially if you have struggles with self-identity.

Jabari Lyles Ted Talk –(47) Black Self / White World — lessons on internalized racism | Jabari Lyles | TEDxTysonsSalon – YouTube

[1] Richard L Allen, The Concept of Self: A Study of Black Identity and Self-esteem (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2001) p. 27.

[2] Allen. P. 48.

[3] Kimberle Crenshaw, ‘Critical Race Theory’ The Key Writings That Formed the Movement (New York: The New Press, 1995) pp. 287.


Time to Talk About It: Women victims is there a double standard ?

The name Sarah Everard sent shockwaves around the UK as her horrific death at the hands of Met Police Officer Wayne Couzens was uncovered in March 2021. This started important conversations about the safety of women and has led to a #ReclaimTheStreets Movement. Women of all colours spoke up about their own stories of sexual assault, harassment and feeling unsafe in the presence of men. Most recently a UN report found that “97% of women have been sexually assaulted”[1] which is frightening statistic. With all these conversations around gender violence it has sparked debates on the difference in cases that get publicised and the way they are handled by the police.

Blessing Olusegun was a 21-year-old student from London whose body was found on Bexhill seafront last September. Her death received minimal media coverage and there is belief that her death was not investigated as thoroughly as it would of been if Blessing was white. Senior Investigating Officer Detective Pippa Nicklin states “It has been reported that we have not properly investigated Blessing’s death because of her ethnicity and we strongly refute these claims”[2]. To say colour did not play a part in how the UK police and media handled Blessing Olusegun and Sarah Everard’s cases is naive, there is truth to the fact that there is institutionalised racism apparent in both establishments. It is evident Blessing’s family deserve the same answered questions that Sarah’s family received, and both deserve equal amounts of effort, time and exposure from both police and the media.

Both women had their whole lives ahead of them, and to see their lives cut short is an injustice. The aftermath of Blessing Olusegun’s death is also an injustice, her death was treated as an “oh by the way, did you know this happened” more so than a serious crime. It is, unfortunately not to unorthodox to suggest that ‘race’ is a contributing factor as to why the approach to both cases was different and in an increasing political climate it does not aid the situation. Black women have to shout louder to make sure their voices are heard and this so evident in comparing these two cases. Blessing was an afterthought a common narrative for many, in a society where we overlook Black women and their stories. It is a shame that so many women of colour are not afforded the same concern as their white counterparts.

Discrimination is such a large intersectionality and so we have to look at circumstances. In regard to location Sarah’s story takes place in London the capital. This is going to garner much more attention as opposed to Blessing who was found in Bexhill, and for example Libby Squire a white student killed in Hull. Class is a huge factor girls in care and women engaged in sex work no matter what colour tend to attract very little attention when they are groomed, assaulted or murdered. It is almost a media jackpot as to which stories are covered; The narrative has to reflect what fits a good ‘story’ at that time as indifferent as that may be. In response to the recent deaths, comments from online users suggest that is had nothing to do with race, class or location but a ‘pretty privilege’. Both are young, attractive and educated women if it was an older and conventionally ‘unattractive’ woman, it is suggested that people would simply look the other way. However, we cannot substantiate an argument on ‘whatboutry’, we can ask ourselves why for example has Madeline McCann’s case, had so many resources and time put into its publication and investigation, when there are thousands of children who go missing abroad every year. Ultimately the press is the catalyst in deciding which cases are continued to be written and talked about and which are quietly forgotten about.

For both Blessing and Sarah and every missing or murdered woman it creates a collective consciousness of grief, fear and anger. In the future we can hope that all these women’s stories are told and investigated equally.

Petitions for both cases are linked down below.


Petition · Sarah Everard’s Law – Criminal defence cannot question the victim’s clothing in a case ·

Petition · justice for blessing olusegun ·


[1] Katsha Habiba (2021) “Im a Black woman like Blessing Olusegun. Would anybody care if I went missing?” ( Accessed 02/04/2021)

[2] Wynn-Davies, Stephen (2021) “Blessing Olusegun: Police provide more details on investigation into young woman’s death in Bexhill”

diversity Education

Time To Talk About It : Black British Writing

The likes of Bernadine Evaristo, Malorie Blackman and Alex Wheatle have made massive contributions to a collective consciousness that defines modern Black British literature and amplifies the Black voice. It is remarkable how many novels by Black British writers have caught the attention of the UK’s mainstream audience in recent times. Black British authors are finally getting their recognition and it is long overdue.

2020 was the year for Black British writing, with increased exposure in light of the #BLM movement.  Reni Eddo-Lodge’s 2017 book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ has seen a massive increase in sales. Leading her to become the first Black British author ever to top the U.K. book charts. Evaristo’s Booker-winning novel ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ topped the paperback fiction chart, making her the first woman of colour to take that position. This is a pivotal moment in which the scales are starting to shift in favour of ethnic writing, but not nearly enough to be equal to White British authors who dominate sales.

So where does this issue stem from?

If writers despite ‘race’ are producing works that are of the same standard, it is evident that British publishing has a significant role to play in which novels are being sold. ‘Noughts and Crosses’ author Malorie Blackman in her interview with the Guardian states how she had never in her life “received anything like the sums being posted by some white authors”[1] and she is in a “better position than a number of my BIPOC [black, indigenous and people of colour] peers”[2]. This is a prime example of systemic, covert racism and the micro- aggressions that is embedded within many institutions in the United Kingdom.

We also have to look at the alternative, that Black people in the UK make up 3.5-5% of the population they are the minority which means less books. It’s also worth noting that the majority of books written by Black Authors are about race, oppression and ‘what it means to be black’. It is recognised that you must relate and appeal to the masses through your writing and the majority of the mainstream audience are White. However, it is a fundamental fact that Black Authors are writing other genres, but it is predominately the novels that feature ‘race’ that are on the front of the bookshelves. Publishers purposefully publish such books and book shops promote such works to boost sales in light of the Black Lives Matter Movement. For example, on the Waterstones website if you search for Malorie Blackman her latest novel ‘Blueblood: A Fairy-tale Revolution’ a children’s fiction novel is halfway down the page with all her novels relating to race such as ‘Nought and Crosses’ published in 2001 promoted at the top. Coincidence?

There has been a surge of recognition and representation for black voices during the current climate. However, as stated by Reni Eddo Lodge in her interview with the Guardian “I really don’t like the idea of personally profiting every time a video of a black person’s death goes viral”[3]. This poses the question is the publishing industry just profiting from the Black Lives Matter movement because it will boost sales rather than publishing Black British stories to give Black writers a voice?

I had recently been a part of a university conference ‘Longing to Belong’ set up by a group of students across the English cohort, which elevated my understanding of the publishing industry. We asked Black British Poet and Writer Panya Banjoko “How did you break down barriers to get the same opportunities as everyone else?” She responded by saying “I’ve got a stubbornness in me if you really want me to do something tell me I can’t”. She pushed and still is pushing to open up avenues for other Black Writers. For Panya and many Black British writers alike there is a sense of injustice in the literature circles “they weren’t open to people like me and I wanted to stand against that”.

In solving the issues highlighted above a range of genres must be promoted and published. Incorporating more texts from Black British Writers into the education system will massively capitalise on the Black voice.

Black British Writers written word must be woven into the fabric of mainstream British publishing and be given equal opportunities as their white counterparts: it’s time to talk about it.

And on that note here are three amazing novels by Black British Writers you should go and read right now:

  1. ‘Queenie’ by Candice Carty- Williams
  2. ‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ by Sara Collins
  3. ‘Darling’ by Racheal Edwards