Dr Juliette Pattinson, Head of the School of History, shares an important message in relation to current conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement and emphasises the School’s ongoing commitment to diversity.
The School of History, like the University, is a diverse community comprised of people of different ethnicities, genders, sexualities and (dis)abilities. It is our diversity that makes us strong and we strive to be inclusive and represent all cohorts. Those from ethnic minorities may, understandably, feel vulnerable currently as the BAME community has been particularly hit by Coronavirus. The shocking death of George Floyd by an American police officer that was caught on camera has galvanised people around the globe to campaign on the platform ‘Black Lives Matter’. A valuable resource that may be of interest is the Runnymede Trust’s report on racism and policing in England and Wales.
The Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Karen Cox, Kent Union President Sasha Langeveldt and Vice-President Welfare and Community Omolade Adedapo have put out a statement recently which can be read here.
We all have a duty to educate ourselves. There are plenty of resources online on the challenges that ethnic minority groups have faced. You may wish to listen to the podcast by Reni Eddo-Lodge ‘About Race’, which stemmed from her book Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race. Or check out this website: on it are a few of the books I recall reading when I was undertaking my degree including classic texts such as Angela Davies’ Women, Race and Class and Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought. I would also add works by Audre Lord and bell hooks which focus on the ways in which gender, sexuality, class and race intersect. More recent texts that might be of interest include David Olusoga’s Black and British or Akala’s Natives.
Specific to our discipline, you may wish to read the Royal Historical Society’s race report. A shocking statistic is that less than 1% of university historians are black. It is incumbent on all of us to learn about systemic, structural and institutional racism and the ways in which we can commit to anti-racism, not just in principle but in practice. As American political activist Angela Davis has noted, ‘It is not enough to not be racist, you must actively be anti-racist.’ Calling out injustice and problematic language is a vital part of that project.
There is a danger that the white community feels anger today but forgets about the issues tomorrow. In the School of History, we are committed to remembering and to continuing action. We are already working on widening participation and are about to take initiatives to decrease the attainment gap, with the support of the Student Success project. We are also looking to work with you, our students, on thinking about how we can do more to focus on diversity and marginality in the curriculum (see DecoloniseUKC). We will be arranging a series of events in the coming academic year and hope you will want to be part of them.