We at BAMS recognise that more needs to be done to counter the whiteness of academia and of modernism studies, and that we need to do more.
In February 2020, The Higher Education Statistics Agency reported that fewer than 1% of professors employed at UK universities are black, whilst 85% are white. A recent report by Universities UK and the National Union of Students found that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)* students are more likely to drop out of university and are significantly less likely to graduate with a 2.1 or first class degree than white students. The attainment gap is particularly stark for black students.
We recognise that the existing structure and environment of academia makes it an unsustainable place for many people of colour. Fine words and expressions of solidarity are not enough. We will be engaging in the following actions to counter the institutional racism that is embedded within British academia and we urge our colleagues – particularly white colleagues – to engage in them as well.
Within BAMS we will:
- Be unflinching in our assessment of white modernism’s chequered history of racism, colonial exploitation and cultural appropriation, alongside the complicity of both modernist authors and texts in structures of oppression.
- Actively promote the inclusion of academics of colour: mentor and support PGRs, ECRs and colleagues in practical and concrete ways: invitations to publish, invitations to speak, invitations to collaborate.
- Work to ensure equal opportunities in appointments and promotions within our institutions.
- Call out racism in all its forms, including unconscious bias and micro-aggressions.
- Keep a keen eye on white privilege and watch out for white fragility. Be alert to the insidious workings of unconscious bias.
- Recognise that the practical, intellectual and emotional labour of much diversity work currently falls disproportionately to colleagues of colour, and that this needs to change.
Within Higher Education more widely we ask colleagues to:
- Decolonise the curriculum. Ensure that writers, critics and theorists of colour are fully embedded and integrated in our modules and programmes, and not just in a tokenistic way. Realise that this work needs to start with curriculums within schools as well as in higher education.
- Scrutinise BAME student admissions, progression and attainment. Challenge the BAME attainment gap. Actively mentor and support undergraduate students of colour.
- Acknowledge the politics of citations. Quote and promote scholarly work by people of colour.
We realise that there is much room for improvement within BAMS as an association, and we are currently working on a programme of actions to address the above points. We welcome dialogue and discussion with colleagues. Our new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion representative is Juliette Taylor-Batty, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* We understand that there are substantial differences between black and BAME experiences, but speak to the language used in the administration of UK Higher Education, which we recognise as lacking in nuance.