Oxford Union declares itself 'institutionally racist'

It’s said that the first step to healing is recognizing that there is a problem. The Oxford Union took a gigantic leap last month when the Union declared itself institutionally racist.

According to The Independent, officials of the Oxford Union “proposed the motion [that], ‘“the Oxford Union society is institutionally racist.’” The motion was carried and made official by members in a unanimous vote that took place in the Union’s debate hall.

The Oxford Union is a world-renowned debate organization that hosts numerous events that cover contemporary issues happening in the modern world. The official website states that, “The Union is the world's most prestigious debating society, with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford [University].”

The Oxford Union is also a student union organization and a social club. Previous speakers include Albert Einstein, Ronald Reagan, Malcolm X, Winston Churchill, Tony Blair, and the Dali Lama.

The motion came about from one such debate: whether or not the U.K.’s former colonies should, or should not, receive payment for the abuses of the British Empire. A cocktail reception held in conjunction with the debate featured a drink called “The Colonial Comeback.”

The drink was advertised on fliers throughout the Oxford University campus with an image of a black person’s hands shackled.

The fliers soon went viral on Twitter and other social media outlets. One tweet stated:

The hashtag #RhodesMustFallOxford also saw a spike in posts dealing with some form of retaliation against the Oxford Union. Rhodes Must Fall Oxford (@RMF_Oxford) started the social media campaign.

According to the campaign’s official Twitter page, it is “a movement for the decolonization of the curriculum, institutional memory and culture, and overall educational space at Oxford [University].”

The Rhodes Must Fall group was the leading source for members of the Oxford University, students, staff, and faculty to voice dismay for the alleged misconduct of the Oxford Union. Rhodes Must Fall called for a public apology in a Twitter post:

The Union’s Black, Minority and Ethnic officer, Esther Odejimi, resigned in the wake of the scandal. Odejimi was responsible for representing the interests of minority students and members involved with Union but removed herself from the position when she said she felt discriminated against because of her race.

Odejimi told Metro, “her role ‘was just an act of political correctness.’”

She further said that the Union “had no intention to actually engage with the BME Rep position. I want nothing to do with them at all.”

The Union posted a public apology on its Facebook page on June 4, affirming that the “[Union] Standing Committee commits to eradicating racism and addressing the issues of institutional racism that it has recognized.”

The Oxford Union declined to comment for this article.

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