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Oxford Union owns up to racism over colonial celebration

THE Oxford Union admitted it has been “institutionally racist” after it was confronted by a coalition of the university’s equalities societies and local campaigns on Monday night.

The prestigious debating society hit the front pages last week when a picture of posters advertising a “Colonial Comeback” cocktail party at the union went viral online.

But, under pressure from groups including anti-racist movement Rhodes Must Fall, the Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (Crae) and the Black Students’ Union, Oxford Union leaders passed a motion “to acknowledge that the union is institutionally racist.”

Rhodes Must Fall spokesman Simukai Chigudu told the Star: “The victory yesterday was really a both a moral and an intellectual one.

“The Rhodes Must Fall movement, along with many of our allies, was able to articulate to the union the manifold ways in which institutional racism operates and that this is something that has to be addressed clearly and categorically.”

Other motions passed unanimously forced the debating society to apologise for and condemn the cocktail party, take disciplinary action against the party’s organisers and undergo diversity training.

“The union needs to do some critical self-reflection after yesterday’s event,” added Mr Chigudu.

“Members of Rhodes Must Fall and partners at Crae will be convening training workshops for members of the union to help them to understand what is meant by institutional racism — how might various events and procedures be perceived by communities that are not well represented within that space.

“That is something that should signal some progress and I think that it also sends the message to the university more generally that there is some organisational momentum building among a diverse body of students for whom these issues are very important.

“We want to try and pluralise many of Oxford’s traditional spaces like the union, but also others.”

Rhodes Must Fall now wants Oxford University, which has no legal responsibility for the union, to also acknowledge that it too benefits from “a mutually productive culture of imperialism and colonialism.”

Earlier this week, a university spokesman said that “there is no place at Oxford for the kind of crass and insensitive attitude that the material produced by the Oxford Union suggests.

“While we are confident that it in no way represents the vast majority of Oxford students, racially insensitive comments or behaviour of this or any kind are unacceptable at Oxford and its colleges.”

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