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Black and white, unite and fight - The Ex-Communicator

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December 7th, 2010


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09:32 am - Black and white, unite and fight
It's obviously not only poor people who are disdained by the Oxbridge junta. It appears that only one British person of black Caribbean descent was accepted into any Oxford college in the last year. One. The comments on the Guardian website are as usual mixed - including our friend the 'I-am-not-a' racist. Only read if you want to be as annoyed as I am.

I think there is a great common cause between black and white working class British people. For both communities are oppressed by a myth among the rest of society - a terrible pseudo-scientific lie - that we are genetically inferior, that it is right for us to be excluded from education and jobs and cultural participation, because we bring nothing of value. This despite the fact that so much of the creative and intellectual power which drives Western culture has come from the working classes and from black people.

There is a slightly more sophisticated version, which is that black people or working class people may not be genetically inferior, but that our cultural heritage is so degenerate that it handicaps us from participation in society, and that we must learn to reject our culture to be acceptable.

I think that people who see themselves as intellectuals, academics and people in technical and medical jobs, are particularly keen to emphasise this second myth. Possibly because it reassures them. There are of course parents very damaged by poverty and deprivation, and help is needed to support them. And there is a mistrust of for example literature among groups who have been told they can not participate in it. But other aspects of culture - the arbitrary distinction between one vowel sound and another, ways of having fun, clothing styles - are not inferior, they are simply different, and I do not think they need to be unlearned.

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Comments:


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From:sheenaghpugh
Date:December 7th, 2010 09:43 am (UTC)
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And there is a mistrust of for example literature among groups who have been told they can not participate in it

Does anyone really get told this? Who by, and in what way? Clearly nobody is going around saying "you cannot participate in literature", so in what sense is this happening? It sounds like the sort of thing one's always hearing goes on, like "council bans Christmas", but that doesn't mean it actually does.
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From:altariel
Date:December 7th, 2010 09:47 am (UTC)
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FWIW, and I'm not quite sure if this is what you're talking about, I was told not to apply to Cambridge by my school's careers advisor, because it was not a place for people like me. I got application advice from the colleague of a relative, who taught somewhere else.
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From:altariel
Date:December 7th, 2010 09:45 am (UTC)
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This is not a surprise to me, although it does make me very emotional and upset. I wish I could bottle the educational experience of the young people who pass in front of me and hand it out to every single child in the world.
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From:communicator
Date:December 7th, 2010 09:54 am (UTC)
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I told you about my daughter's friend - well off, white, male, high achieving - but with the taint of state education on him. When he went to Magdalen College for interview they made him stay in separate accommodation, out of college, while the public school boys were allowed to stay in college rooms. He was not offered a place.
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From:steepholm
Date:December 7th, 2010 10:13 am (UTC)
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This is really appalling.

When the ability to charge top-range fees is supposedly dependent on institutions undertaking serious work on widening participation, it'll be interesting to see what, if any, action the government takes against Oxbridge for this. Of course, all they need to do is take two black applicants next year and they'll be able to trumpet a 100% increase!
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From:communicator
Date:December 7th, 2010 10:17 am (UTC)
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In my opinion it is not a bug, it's a feature. This is the system operating as it is intended. I am afraid I am very cynical. But yes. They will take the son of an ambassador or something and say they are inclusive.
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From:katlinel
Date:December 7th, 2010 10:14 am (UTC)
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One? One? That is sickening. I had not thought that the figures would be as bad as that.

We were talking in class a while ago about access to culture and one person, the tutor commented that even when things are free, people don't come to them. But access (in this case we were talking about opera, specifically, and museums in general) isn't only about being able to afford a ticket, it's about knowing it's there, knowing it's there for people like you, and that your culture and heritage are a part of that, and not there as a curiosity for middle classes, and as well, physically being able to get there for the free events.
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From:communicator
Date:December 7th, 2010 10:20 am (UTC)
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I couldn't believe it myself.

Yes, it's about being made unwelcome. It's about having nobody to go with or talk to about it. It's about being patronised when you turn up, and stared at.
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From:azdak
Date:December 7th, 2010 10:24 am (UTC)
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This really surprises me, because it wasn't my experience of Oxford at all (granted, Oxford is very diverse, and I was once at dinner after admissions at Lincoln College, where a tutor told me explictly - and proudly - "this has been a very good year for us, by which I mean we didn't have to take anyone from a state school." On the other hand, one year I admitted a total of eight students to read German, of whom two were black and one Asian, and that was at one college to read one subject, so I'm really very surprised to hear that across the university as a whole only one black person was admitted, to any college, in any subject (unless "of Caribbean descent" is one of those bizarrely narrow definitions that excludes people who have any African ancestors?)
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From:communicator
Date:December 7th, 2010 10:28 am (UTC)
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I suspect it excludes overseas students from Africa, who are drawn from the most privileged strata of African society (because of the cost of study). I suppose an individual admissions tutor could buck the trend, but the attitude that it's a good year when 90% of the population are excluded - well, it boggles me. What is the model of the Universe which such a person is working to?
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From:spacefall
Date:December 7th, 2010 12:21 pm (UTC)
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God, this is exactly the sort of thing that I hear every time one of the Tory MPs starts talking about education. There's barely any attempt to hide it, as they don't even see how screwed up their POV is.

Don't even get me started on people using 'social mobility' as code for 'we'll let a few people into our club, but anyone who can't manage that deserves to stay in poverty so who cares?'
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From:communicator
Date:December 7th, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC)
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Yes, and Frank Field I am looking at you
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 7th, 2010 01:27 pm (UTC)
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I am an administrative assistant in an academic department in an Ivy League university in the U.S. (This comment is deliberately anonymous!) We currently have two minority graduate students whose undergraduate education was at St. Andrews in Scotland - one is Pakistani, the other black. I've talked with both of them about their experiences at St. Andrews, and they were both very positive about them.

There is a professor in my department who spent the first 50 years of his life at Oxford - his father was an Oxford don, he grew up in Oxford, was educated at Oxford, then taught at Oxford until he was 50. Then, at 50, he decided to move to the U.S., and he says one reason is that he was frustrated that Oxford is still so entrenched in the British class system and admits so few minority students.

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From:communicator
Date:December 7th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)
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(sorry I forgot I had comment screening on - have unscreened now)

I would not be surprised if Scottish universities are more welcoming. I was at school with a Ugandan-Asian boy who despite outstanding grades was turned down by every English university he went to, but was accepted by Aberdeen
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[User Picture]
From:tehomet
Date:December 7th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
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only one British person of black Caribbean descent was accepted into any Oxford college in the last year. One.

Wow.
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From:communicator
Date:December 7th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
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I was astonished. It appears there were a few other black people around, foreign students and those with entirely African descent.
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From:kerravonsen
Date:December 7th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
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I keep forgetting that there is a class system in the UK until things like this come up. It just boggles my mind, because it's so completely illogical.

If there is such a prejudice against different accents... how would folks from The Colonies fare?
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:December 7th, 2010 09:29 pm (UTC)
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Other people will be able to answer better than me. My feeling is that to some extent foreigners are outside the system, and therefore get a pass, but at the same time are never completely accepted into the mainstream either. I could be wrong.

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