Dear students studying in the School of English and Drama,
I’m writing to you in response to the recent police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the USA and the assault on Belly Mujinga in London, and the feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and distress, among many others, across the USA, and here in the UK, including in our student and staff bodies.
On behalf of the School of English and Drama, I condemn these acts of violence and the structural and institutional racism that underpins them. I fully support the Black Lives Matter movement in challenging all forms of racism and committing to ensuring dignity, safety, liberty, and self-determination for Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic and global majority communities.
Structural and institutional racism is not confined to the USA but is very much present in the UK, and globally, and is a powerful force in preventing equal life opportunities for people of colour. The Covid-19 pandemic, for example, has both exposed and exacerbated the structural inequalities faced by many minorities, most significantly Black, Asian, and disabled people.
Universities have a key role to play in combatting racism and all forms of discrimination. I am committed to this work in the School of English and Drama. This involves continued acknowledgment and work to redress disadvantages experienced variously by our students and colleagues of colour. These manifest, for example, in differences in degree outcomes between our Black, Asian, and minority ethnic/global-majority students and white students, and significantly fewer colleagues of colour in senior leadership roles than white colleagues. It’s important, here, to acknowledge that we also have a majority white staff base in the School, and that many of us, myself included, have benefited from advantages and privileges accorded structurally, socially and culturally to white people, especially with respect to our educational and career development opportunities.
Affirming a commitment to equalities and anti-racist work is vital and action is more crucial still. We have been working to address inequalities in the School, especially in relation to race and ethnicity, through our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, co-chaired by Zara Dinnen and myself; revisions to our curriculum; more extensive student support; a dedicated EDI student representative on our Staff Student Liaison Committees; and a commitment to equality in our research, for example. This is not the time, though, to be individually or collectively self-congratulatory or complacent. Through our work we know there is much more to be done, especially as we address the impact of Covid-19 and the decisions that we’re making for 2020-21 (and beyond) on staff and students.
We stand in solidarity with our students of colour. With my colleagues in the School Management Group, I affirm the School’s ongoing commitment to listening to students and working together across our School community, to address structural racism. This work is carried out though our department, School, Faculty and University governance structures, alongside informal conversations with, and between, staff and students. It is not the responsibility of our Black, Asian, and minority ethnic/global majority colleagues and students to bear the burden of this work. It is, rather, a collective endeavour, led by those of us entrusted with leadership positions.
For links to a wide range of excellent resources and donation funds, please visit QMSU’s Black Lives Matter webpage.
Head of the School of English and Drama