Saturday, November 10, 2018

Oxford Black, British, and a graduate at Oxford

Image Credit: Michael Gribben

The Oxford Student

Black History Month has just ended, and very few people can claim to know much about the contribution that black people have made to this country. Even fewer still, can claim to know that the black presence dates back centuries, and in fact thousands of years. Yet black people are still associated with newness, their presence questioned, and the need for a ‘black history month’ constantly challenged. Indeed, black history should be just history, just as white history is not named as such. So too should black history be every day, every month, and play a natural part in British history and memory.

 But how many of you know of John Blanke, who was a royal trumpeter at the courts of King Henry VII and VIII? Or John Edmonstone, a lecturer at Edinburgh University who taught Charles Darwin? Or Princess Sarah Bonetta Forbes, God daughter of Queen Victoria? These examples highlight the lack of knowledge we have of the black Britons of the past. But what about the black Britons of the present?

Presently, conversations with regards to black representation are being had as it pertains to the media, education, and the professions whereby the dearth of black people in prominent positions across society is shockingly low. In matters of education, Britain’s elite universities have been criticised for their under-representation of black students at these universities. Whilst things are slowly improving, the representation of black British students at the postgraduate level is dismally low. I’m currently reading for an MSc in Social Anthropology at Keble College, and can say that whilst I have encountered a few black postgraduate students, I have come into contact with only one who is British other than myself – so far, the rest have been international students. Not only are the fees high – I had to resort to crowdfunding to take up my place – there is also a lack of access to loans which would enable one to pursue a postgraduate education. In addition to this, many have certain ideas about who can attend places such as Oxford or Cambridge.

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