Secretary of State for Justice offers support of Durham letter tackling racist incidents

Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP has has shown support by offering to contact the Vice Chancellor of Durham after reading the student letter, which now has over 2000 signatures

A letter calling for Durham University to acknowledge racism existing within the institution has now reached over 2000 signatures.

Written by first year students Georgie Elliott (Josephine Butler) and Jesse Bakare (Hild Bede), the letter also outlines the ways in which Durham is currently failing to tackle racism, and suggests how they can go about combatting and eradicating institutionalised racism.

Bakare told The Tab Durham that the purpose behind the letter is to educate those at the top on how best to tackle issues. He added: “The university won’t see a positive change in their image as a “white and racist” university without proactive efforts”.

Since first sharing the letter in new Facebook group, Overheard at Durham Uni, it has gained over 2000 signatures supporting the motions proposed by the pair.

The five main demands of the letter

Jesse has also recently reached out to MP Rt Hon Robert Buckland, who graduated from Durham in 1990. QC MP Rt Hon Buckland has since pledged to write to Durham’s Vice Chancellor expressing his support of the letter, and urging the Vice Chancellor to consider the propositions it contains. The support of such an influential figure and alumni is widely considered what Durham as an institution needs to accept accountability.

The letter, which was sent to the university this morning (8th June), outlined five suggestions that its student authors believe Durham should internalise, in order to create an equal society in which current and future BAME students thrive.

Its core suggestions would see the university introduce different routes for educating students on race relations, recommending a compulsory racism awareness course (with 100% needed in order to pass), similar to the existing compulsory consent course for all incoming students. The letter also proposes that students and faculties should be subject to taking the Harvard IAT (bias) test, so that existing prejudices and covert racial preferences can be better understood in order to tackle them. Additionally, it is advised that Durham host compulsory racism talks and lectures surrounding colonialism so that both students and staff can recognise and expose racism.

An extract from the letter written by Georgie and Jesse

When approached by the Tab Durham, Jesse stated: “[The] dream outcome is that Durham finally listens to its BAME community”. He adds that he is “not the first BAME student to try and open a dialogue, that’s why [he] felt it was necessary to get so many signatures in support. [Since Durham can’t ignore] 2,000, it gives them some accountability”.

The letter also reflects widespread opinions that Durham’s recent social media responses to current BLM action and the murder of George Floyd have been disappointing, and representative of the institution’s lack of effort in dealing with racist incidents. The letter condemns such efforts as “performance lip service”.

Featured image credit: Richard Townshend, Creative Commons License