Who Are We

Common Ground is a movement that sets out to examine Oxford’s colonial past in the context of its present-day inequalities.  We do not want to ‘erase’ Oxford’s imperial legacy, we cannot.  We need to investigate it.

We do not want to ‘erase’ Oxford’s imperial legacy, we cannot. We need to investigate it.  

Over the past few years, the university has made conscious effort to increase the numbers of ethnic minority students, and students from lower income backgrounds who enter the institution, as well as trying to tackle implicit bias.  

Yet this January, an Access Officer at an Oxford College called David Lammy’s suggestion that Oxford interviewers may have unconscious bias ‘absolute nonsense’.  And in November, Oxford refused to answer why they admitted a disproportionately small number of Black British students when questioned by BBC Documentary ‘Will Britain Ever Have a Black Prime Minister?’.

“Look. Oxford carries a bias: institutionally, it’s harder for black people to be here.  That’s a form of systematic racism. We need to embrace that uncomfortable conversation.”

As Cameron Alexander, former president of the Oxford ACS, explained as part of the same documentary, Oxford is institutionally racist: “Look. Oxford carries a bias: institutionally, it’s harder for black people to be here. That’s a form of systematic racism. We need to embrace that uncomfortable conversation.”

Watch Cameron’s interview below:

This comes after Oriel college openly ignored petitions from the Rhodes Must Fall movement to, among other things, provide a recourse for racism on campus and decolonise our curriculums last year.  It’s not just Oriel college which has a problem: many of us have experienced attempts to shut down conversations about race and class at our colleges.

It is not just Oriel college which has a problem: many of us have experienced attempts to shut down conversations about race and class at our colleges.  

This can have a big impact on BME students, and students from low-income backgrounds who, vastly under-represented at Oxford, can feel very isolated in their concerns.  This experience of Oxford – our experience – stands testament to an institution which has great difficulty both interrogating its past and addressing its present.  That’s why we’ve organised a symposium.

That’s why we’ve organised a symposium.

We want to discuss Oxford’s relationship with British imperialism in the context of institutional racism and classism in the present day.  

 

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Students protesting in support of the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford campaign. Image from ‘Rhodes Must Fall: Why British Universities Need To Decolonise Not Diversify’, Consented, 29 Dec. 2015. See here.

We’re discussing class and race in relation to admissions and university life; we’re debating a future for decolonisation in our spaces and our curricula; we’re celebrating what it means to be ‘young, gifted and black’ in the U.K. today, and much more besides.

Join us at the symposium for panel discussions, talks, poetry + spoken word, screenings, art and performance, in collaboration with academics, commentators, artists, campaigners, researchers and multiple student societies, and organisations from across the country.

Oxford’s ‘Imperial Past, Unequal Present’ is Common Ground, and it’s about to be contested.

 

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