Abhaya Jitendra| Brown Boys: A Call to Action

Last week on the FLY blog, Audrey Sebatindira argued that young black men were often apathetic about the concerns of women of colour.

Reading Audrey’s article, my first thought was – preach. A few years ago, helping run the ‘I, too, am Cambridge’ campaign, I was often involved in discussions with my friends about racism or patriarchy. Some wondered why, given the relative privilege of Cambridge students, we were trying to raise awareness of racist micro- or macro-aggressions. We’re all at Cambridge, can’t we all just chill out?

A telling photo from "I, Too, Am Cambridge"
A telling photo from “I, Too, am Cambridge”

I would argue that oppression was all encompassing and one kind of privilege didn’t give you a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card for other kinds of oppression. In fact, if anything, in a place as white as Cambridge, racism was probably more pronounced.

Those who disagreed previously then generally conceded, bar one group – the brown boys. They would question me, asking me whether I really thought that racism existed, whether I had really been racially abused (I have), was this really a worthy cause. We’re privileged, Abby, they’d say. We don’t need to fight anymore.

Privilege blinds even the oppressed to oppression
Privilege blinds even the oppressed to oppression

I don’t have those conversations any more. The brown boys still think either that (a) racism doesn’t exist or (b) it does, but the struggle doesn’t apply to them. It’s just that I’ve stopped trying – for my sanity, for my friendships.

I’ve often wondered where this apathy and conservatism comes from. Brown men as a whole directly experience a significant amount of oppression: they’re increasingly targeted by police stop and search powers, Islamophobic racism, and anti-immigration sentiment.

One reason is that they’ve probably never experienced blatant discrimination themselves. There’s no denying that there is relatively more privilege in some BME communities than others. And privilege can blind you to the structural and systemic oppression of others.

Looking at immigration patterns amongst Southeast Asians, from the 1980s onwards the demography of immigrants has changed radically. While earlier immigrants usually entered the unskilled workforce, later waves of immigration, from East Africa, Sri Lanka, and India, consisted of more professionals. These groups became ‘model minorities’. Their children went to better schools and could adopt the language and dress of the dominant race and class. So brown men have found it easier to rise the ranks of business, culture, and politics.

A second reason is if they have experienced discrimination, they probably think that it’s worse for other groups. And fair enough – it might be. But the next logical step should not be to see racism as ‘someone else’s struggle’.

Both these reasons, I think, totally miss the mark. The first is easier to question than the second. So what if you haven’t experienced blatant racism? You know it exists, you know people are affected, you should be actively trying to stop it. ‘Actively’ doesn’t have to mean running an anti-racism campaign. ‘Activism’ is as simple as talking about race with your friends and raising awareness.

The second reason reveals a more worrying conservatism in the ways we define ‘racism’. Yes, racism is the shocking police brutality which black men as a group face daily. Yes, racism is when someone shouts a racist slur at you. But racism is also the subtle, consciousness-shaping system of definition which affects how your CV is read by employers, how your clothes are interpreted by Tube passengers, how you are seen as ‘different’, ‘dangerous’, ‘dirty’. We aren’t stupid, we can see the difference between those two levels of discrimination. But they are part of the same system.

A final reason is the not-so-hidden conservatism embedded in ‘lad culture’. It’s unfair to say this is only a problem with brown boys – it’s more a problem with ‘boys’. ‘Lad culture’ doesn’t take anything seriously, and so is prone to conservatism. Because racism and sexism are serious business.

So why should we care about the apathy of some brown men? Because, increasingly, there is less solidarity between different minority groups in Britain, and that doesn’t bode well for dismantling racist systems of oppression. When racism was more widespread and obvious, minorities had no choice but see the anti-racism struggle as their own. ‘Britain’s Racist Election’ is an amazing documentary outlining the political gains made by an anti-immigration, racist Conservative parliamentary candidate in an area which experienced an influx of Sikhs. His slogan was ‘if you want a n*gger for a neighbour, vote Labour’.

For the white majority who voted him in, a ‘n*gger’ could be brown or black – they were just the ‘Other’. Now, some minorities have partially transcended these barriers. But being a model minority doesn’t mean you’re any less of a minority. That election happened a generation ago. Oppression is alive and real now. So we need you, brown boys, to help us tackle it.

27 thoughts on “Abhaya Jitendra| Brown Boys: A Call to Action

  1. As a “Brown Boy”, I disagree that a certain amount of apathy is unfair. I don’t believe that racism towards Asians is particularly pervasive in the UK anymore or indeed much of the western world. Certainly there will be a small uneducated minority such as the EDL who might persist, but I fail to see why a small group of idiots should be a valuable focus of anybody’s focus or time. I’d be interested to see if you had any real statistics involving racial prejudice against “brown” people.


    1. ~Lola here~

      Just because it is very unlikely that someone will call you a racist slur/spit on you in the street… (which were the experiences of a number of brown immigrants when they first came to this country) doesn’t mean that racism toward Asians isn’t ‘particularly pervasive in the UK anymore’ Racism is more than individual instances of discrimination – it is systematic. It manifests itself in a number of different ways – stereotypes, the underrepresentation of Asians, indeed all POC in media/industry, islamophobia etc

      Men love statistics, here you go:


      1. I wasn’t only talking about personally, I was trying to look at the so called systematic level, and I really don’t see that.

        There are plenty of brown people in Cambridge and in industries (certainly more than proportional to our population). Perhaps there are fewer in media, but I think if you consider how many brown people look to enter media (consider all the brown people you might know and what their career aspirations are), there’s probably a representative number. Stereotypes are rare and probably more likely to come from within the community (see almost any Brown Comedy).

        That statistic is such a broad and largely meaningless figure that it doesn’t really apply to what I’m saying. I agree that islamaphobia is a problem. I would say black communities still face pervasive stereotyping and thus discrimination. That is all encompassed in your figure which doesn’t really address Asian people specifically. Also why do only Men like statistics? Is good evidence and fact based arguments not relevant to girls… sounds a bit sweeping to me.


        1. Are you arguing that if I cannot provide you with statistics that specifically address racism against Asian people in this country… then it doesn’t exist?
          That links into my snide remark about how men don’t like to believe things exist unless they can see the numbers. This is very problematic because it means invalidating the lived experiences of other brown people. Racism in this country is no longer overt, not all forms of racism are quantifiable. By virtue of existing as a man with brown skin you are put at a disadvantage at job interviews etc/falsely criminalised/seen as a threat but I can’t and won’t spend time convincing you that racism still exists.

          “There are plenty of brown people in Cambridge” lol most people can count the number of brown people in their college on two hands…

          Maybe refer to the list of resources?
          Good day to you, sir. 🙂


      2. I am arguing that actually. If the racism was so obvious and pervasive, then there would be clear statistics about the disadvantages like there are, say, with Misogyny. If you look at Pay Gap statistics, there is a clear pay gap in women, whereas the situation with ethnicities is a lot less clean cut (pay can be both positive and negatively influenced by ethnicity, and differences get a lot smaller at higher qualification levels -http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/documents/research/14_pay_gaps_across_equalities_review.pdf).

        You just stating that I’m likely “at a disadvantage at job interviews etc/falsely criminalised/seen as a threat” is JUST your statement. It’s backed by no evidence at all except other similarly anecdotal remarks. In contrast, my anecdotes tell me the opposite story. That’s why statistics is important. How can our anecdotes compare to studies comparing thousands of people to see if their at an objective disadvantage. That’s why numbers are more important than “lived experiences” in getting to actual facts. If looking for actual facts means I’m “invalidating” a group of people whining about that one time somebody told a racist joke, I’m really sorry. But I’m not, because all you’re doing is causing problems for yourselves when you could be directing your energy at other more valid and problematic causes.

        For the record, I still think your snide remark is inappropriate – there’s no need really to make it about gender. As a scientist, I know plenty of girls who would agree that statistics are much better than anecdotes. Frankly, it’s misogynistic to imply that it’s a Man’s thing.


        1. !!!!!!!!! not all instances of racism are quantifiable but it’s okay because if there are no statistics it doesn’t exist right? thank you so much for clearing it up for us !!!!!!
          Let us discount every single qualitative sociological study on race then… they didn’t use numbers so they must be invalid.


    2. 1. a pretty basic course in statistics would tell you that statistics don’t tell the whole story. ie selectivity bias etc.

      2. stats are seen as ‘male’ in the same way that the sciences are seen as ‘male’ – males have traditionally been over-represented in the sciences and maths, and women in the humanities, as the former are seen as ‘hard’, ‘rational’, ‘straightforward’, whereas the latter are seen as ‘soft’, ‘subjective’ etc.

      3. the reason i pointed to ‘i, too, am cambridge’ as a valuable resource of information about discrimination is twofold. (a) it provides a wide-ranging scope of experiences of BME people in a slice of cambridge time. many many people came forward to talk about their experiences, maybe not enough to make it count as a ‘systematic’ study of racism in cambridge, but not far off. as a social scientist this would be a jumping off point for a systematic study. it would definitely not just count as an example of limited anecdotes about some guy being a dick to them 1 time (b) it provides examples of ABHORRENT racism experienced during their time at cambridge. stats are useful for showing us trends but even if you disagree that discrimination is a trend, the numbers of people who have experienced gravely hurtful acts of discrimination in our university should give you cause for concern. if not, you have a very skewed view of morality.

      4. islamophobia IS racism. islam has been ‘racialised’ in public discourse – if you appear muslim (read: brown, wearing a turban, etc) then you are subject to the kinds of micro and macro-aggressions talked about in that frankly amazing list of reading material lola sent you.

      x x x x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 1. I’ve done stats for about 4 years now, from A-Level to Part II, and whilst I understand that there ARE problems with statistics, it’s so much better than just collecting a few opinions that only go in one direction. In fact if you know what Selection Bias is, then you’ll know that it’s actually much more acute in activities like I, Too, Am Cambridge, where you’re asking people who have grievances to write them down and ignoring those that don’t.

        2. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time on cuntry living, but in my mind by perpetuating the idea and saying it’s a very Male thing to want numbers, you’re really only re-enforcing the gender bias.

        3. Don’t worry, I’ve seen I, Too, Am Cambridge. If these are REALLY what you’re counting as ‘abhorrent’ and ‘gravely hurtful’ then I’m not sure I can help. Cambridge becomes so blinkered sometimes, that we don’t really understand what racism is. Compare these anecdotes (which is all they are – not detailed accounts of gravely hurtful acts) to genuine racially incited violence in America. Compare them to the systematic prejudice of the caste system in India (which I would count as separate races). Compare them to the acceptance rate for Black students at Cambridge (approximately half that of others). If those boards are really representative of our problems here, then everybody needs to grow up a little. These are not acts of true racial discrimination – most of them are so harmless it barely deserves a picture let alone a website. The few that are marginally more problematic (like blackface), they’re so isolated and so swiftly dealt with that they’re irrelevant.

        4. Yes islamaphobia is a problem in certain parts of the country, but I think if you bring it into this debate then really you’re only going to confuse it. To have a proper discussion, you have to set them apart and look at them individually and analytically. There are a lot of brown people who aren’t clearly identifiable as muslim who won’t necesarily experience the same thing.

        Alternatively we could all just have a good cry over that time somebody asked me where I’m REALLY from. I suppose that’s easier than actually doing something useful.


        1. Audrey here

          1) Lived experiences are important because they show what statistics cannot: they should be used in conjunction with each other. Also, the campaign included the responses of people who felt they’d never experienced racism at Cambridge. Look more closely. The point is, members of the Asian community at Cambridge say they’ve experienced racism at Cambridge. That shouldn’t be ignored just because you personally have never noticed it/need a slew of numbers to prove it. Clearly you think your lived experience matters otherwise we wouldn’t be having this discussion. So why are you dismissing the experiences of others?

          2) Linked to the point above, people who aren’t members of the relevant oppressed group/don’t believe said group is oppressed trivialise the importance of lived experience, calling for statistics instead. This happens most often in the context of discussions on gender oppression, where men ignore the experiences women share and demand numbers instead. But more importantly, a passing generalisation (that served to subtly prove a point later explicitly reinforced by Lola and Abby) should hardly be the focus of our discussion.

          3) Your third point shows a fundamental lack of understanding as to the mechanics of racism. All microagressions speak to wider problems. It’s not just that a person is offended because someone’s asked them where they’re “really” from. Such questions other people, and reinforce the idea that they’re not truly British, that this isn’t really their home. These ways of thinking are the result of a violent history – they are its after-effects. If you gave each comment a moment’s thought you’d see that none of them are trivial. You’ve made a false and damaging distinction. Microagressions, the epistemic violence that comes with our Eurocentric curriculums, the physical violence inflicted on black and brown bodies: how can you not see that it all comes from the same place?


      2. I understand your point, but I’m concerned you don’t understand mine – what I’m trying to say to you is that your microagressions in your “lived experience” are dismissable because they contradict a body of statistical research. I don’t disagree that they shouldn’t be used in conjunction in some cases, just that there’s clearly two sides to the “lived experience” (your apathetic “Brown Boys” who deny it exists and the I, Too, Am Cambridge faultfinders who believe its still rife and problematic) and the statistical evidence that we’ve discussed sides with there not being ANY significant racism against brown people. I’m not ignoring your “lived experience” (which lets be honest is just a bullshit way of making anecdotes sound like real evidence), I’m dismissing it as a slew of childish and juvenile complaints. I’m backed up by statistics that agree that real world racism against brown people isn’t a thing.

        Frankly I think your point about microagressions really shows how blinkered you are by the Cambridge spotlight. Do you truly believe that the same people who ask (without malice – which 99% are) where are you REALLY from (or similar ‘microagressions’) are the same people who are genuinely believe that it’s okay to shoot a black man and then plant a weapon on him. Just because somebody wants to know about your heritage doesn’t imply they don’t believe you’re british – I think its damaging to tar the innocent questions and comments with the same brush that covers real world racism. I think you’ve made a false and damaging generalisation – why not focus on bigger, more real issues? Why aren’t we trying to fuel the rightful outrage in black communities in America over police violence? Instead we’re just worried about total non-issues and attempting to validate them with fancy language like microagressions and lived aexperience.


        1. I think the root of our disagreement is that you can’t see the connection between the personal and the political; that day-to-day encounters don’t exist in a vacuum without context and history. But this is getting tedious so I’ll leave you to deal with that yourself. But first, I think your love of statistics has blinkered you to the fact that there are other forms of knowledge/evidence out there. Second, never said those who commit microagressions are also violently (or consciously) racist. There is a system of racism from which none of us can escape. This racism manifests itself in a number of different ways. Sometimes as the shooting of an unarmed black man. Sometimes as a microaggression. Sometimes in other ways. This is both true and an oversimplification. There’s plenty out there for you to read.


      3. You’re correct – I don’t see the link you’re making because I think its tenuous and probably nonexistent. Any link that does exist clearly doesn’t have any real world application (as demonstrated by the stats). You ARE oversimplifying because you’re generalising small non-issues in Cambridge to bigger, but clearly separate points. They’re separate because I’m not sure you can tell me how tackling the ‘racism’ seen on I, Too, Am Cambridge is going to realistically impact American police attitudes. I think loading pressure directly onto REAL issues like that by support from a place as prestigious as Cambridge is so much more valuable, and it’s a shame to waste it because we’re more worried about tackling some nebulous “system” we feel persecuted by.

        If you guys enjoy having lovely self-congratulatory chats about the “system of racism” you’re tackling then that’s great, but I think my main issue is that you choose to chastise me for being apathetic to your ’cause’ just because I disagree with you (in a fairly robust way I think), instead of focusing on real problems.


      4. I disagree – I think by focusing on this big, bad ‘system’ you’re so intent on, you’re missing the point. It’s leading you to tackling manifestations that aren’t relevant.

        Tackling the underlying ‘system’ in cambridge isn’t going to help anybody, because these people aren’t the problem, and those effects aren’t transferrable. It’s not one system of racial oppression, it’s so much more complex than that. You’re not gaining anything by doing what you’re doing.

        Well done on finding a fun image though. That’s nice.


        1. Thank you for your feedback, Brown boy!

          Sorry we’ve taken up so much of your time, you can now safely go back to not believing in the ‘big bad system’ whilst it continues to work against you.

          lots of love,
          the editorial team


      5. Thanks I’ll try to think about all those times the System fucked me over while I’m in my room at the best university in the world looking forward to one of the best graduate positions in the world. Maybe I’ll find some – I’ll let you know if I do! Otherwise you guys keep doing what you’re doing, I’m sure it’ll help somebody someday!


        1. And even after all your success, racism against brown people will still exist, *mind-blowing* isn’t it?

          Good luck though, hope all goes well. We’ve got our fingers crossed for you.
          Please do come back when you’ve made it, we’d love to hear from you again!



  2. I agree with the previous poster that this article seems a little unfair. Being a Brown Boy myself, I have never experienced any form of racism in Cambridge. Certainly, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but isn’t it surely unfair to hold us accountable for not “actively trying to stop it”?

    I’ve spoken to my female Brown friends about the issue of racism, and asked about their experiences of it. Generally, the replies I get are along the lines of “Racism is everywhere, how can you not see it? You’re blinded by your het cis male privilege” – not particularly helpful if I plan to “talk about race with my (white) friends and raise awareness”.

    Sure, there might be odd example of a white guy making a perceived-as-racist comment, but an isolated example of someone being a dick is hardly grounds for believing that racism is an insidious, pervasive influence on the Cambridge student community.

    So please, FLY Girls of Cambridge, please help educate us Brown Boys about why you believe racism is such a big thing. Give us the tools we need to have an educated conversation with our white friends about racism. At the moment, we don’t have the experience, the resources, the examples or the statistics to even bring it up in a discussion.

    Alternatively, don’t bother trying to teach us, and just keep discussing the issue among the Brown Girls community, “for the sake of your sanity and your friendships”. But if you’re going to do that, you can hardly blame us for showing apathy towards an issue we’ve rarely (if ever) experienced.


    1. Hi! Lola’s response above was really great, I would direct you to that.

      I would say that it’s up to you, if your friends have told you that racism exists, to educate yourself. The ‘I, too, am Cambridge’ campaign (link above) contains bags and bags of evidence about racial discrimination in Cambridge. I would also point to the sheer lack of minorities in Cambridge (at every level) as further evidence.

      That seems to me like enough evidence.


    2. Hello, Lola again, here are some resources:

      A good article on Islamphobia which should not be understated, the EDL/ other far right racist groups aren’t something we can and should just “brush aside.” They’re indicative of a deep rooted problem:

      A reading list on race from the human rights commission/ (If this looks a bit daunting, a basic sociology textbook is always a good place to start)

      Everyday Racism – what should we do?

      Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?
      Spoken word poems:

      Some good articles on the BME attainment gap/race at uk universities:

      Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’

      Click to access said-introduction_and_chapter_1_of_orientalism.pdf

      Racism is also perpetuated through a Eurocentric curriculum – I’m assuming you’re a Cambridge student, our curriculums are astoundingly white. I found this really helpful:

      Cambridge admission statistics:
      Compare the number of home black and brown students admitted to these hallowed halls versus their white counterparts…

      Definition of a microagression:
      “Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, de-rogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities.”

      So, when your white friend makes that ~slightly racist joke~/ when someone assumes you’re an international student/ when someone asks you where you’re REALLY from/ when someone stereotypes you/ when porters give you weird looks… those are all micro aggressions which believe it or not, are a form of racism.

      I mean, I could go on and on.
      Pro tip: Acknowledging that this country and it’s institutions still has a very very real problem with racism is the first step. Think of racism as a structural problem… you may not feel like you’ve ever been discriminated against but that does not mean that institutional racism no longer exists – racism is about more than the individual.
      Things can exist outside statistics, the lived experiences of your peers are important – so listen when someone from the same group as you says they’ve experienced racism and don’t downplay it.


      1. Why are “lived experiences” and anecdotal examples relevant if you want to think of racism as a structural problem. Structural problems imply that it happens across the board and would be clear in rigorous statistical analysis.

        Given your post was about “brown boys” and “racism against brown men”, reframing the debate to include racism against black people seems to confuse the situation. Equally conflating islamaphobia with racism against all brown people only really serves to make the debate less clear. Looking at the one piece of relevant statistics in your post – admissions into Cambridge by ethnicity, 29% of White people gain entry vs. 24% of Brown people. To me, given that these figures aren’t controlled against anything like SES or schooling, and the overall numbers we’re dealing with here are pretty low, I wouldn’t say that’s a significant difference. Even more interestingly, if you look at the national numbers in the figure below, brown people actually do marginally better than white people in terms of percentage entry. I’m not sure I see where the systematic racism against brown people is here…

        If we’re talking about racism against black people, I’d say sure – the Cambridge number is low (12%). Like I said, those numbers are fairly small (it’d be interesting to look at the last few years in total) and not controlled in any way, but I would acknowledge that there may be an elemant of structural racism there (although interestingly, on the national level, both are at 78% acceptance rate). Islamaphobia is a little more difficult as we don’t have any numbers here, but I’d probably agree that if you’re clearly identifiable as Muslim there may be higher levels of discrimination.

        I just don’t think its totally fair to conflate all these issues. As a brown boy, if I decided (against the statistical evidence) that everybody was going to be racist towards me, it would be really easy to look for your so-called “microaggressions” against me, but what am I achieving there except fabricating problems that will only make me angry (I say fabricating because, again, there is no statistical evidence of any racism against brown people). I don’t think being apathetic against all racism is the correct attitude, because it probably does exist in small ways against some people, but if you approach me and tell me there’s racism against ME and my community, I might be inclined to tell you to check your facts.


        1. 1.) I was implying that when considering racism as a structural problem, it is important not only to pay attention to statistical information but also the lived experiences of your peers. It is not a case of choosing between the two. Both are important. Your earlier reliance on purely statistical information ignored anecdotal/personal experience (as if statistics are completely objective anyway). Case in point – The statistics can tell you that brown people have an acceptance rate of 24% – it cannot tell you about the repeated instances of ‘casual racism’ that they will experience at the hands of their friends, their lecturers and their tutors. It cannot tell about how they will cringe and laugh in shame when the praelector butchers their name at matriculation. It cannot tell you about the racist jokes they will “brush off” to gain acceptance, it cannot tell you about the feelings of alienation they might experience when existing in predominately white spaces, it cannot tell you about the damaging effects of a eurocentric curriculum, it cannot tell you how our racist conceptions of beauty negatively impact Asian women and so on.

          2) I cited islamophobia as one of the many ways that racism impacts some brown people in this country, not all.

          But, by all means – continue to believe that instances of demonisation/criminalisation/casual racism against brown people are just evidence of a few “bad apples” and not part of a larger racist structure in which all non-whites are disadvantaged, continue believing that racism is only a thing that happens to black people…



  3. Brown boy, mate, ask yourself: do you think brown people are afforded the EXACT same degree of respect, opportunity, privilege, societal standing, “benefit of the doubt”, than our white peers? (pls don’t reply to this cus ceebs with trolling – more of a rhetorical ting) If your gut instinct is honestly yes – continue swiftly on with your delusions, no amount of eloquent argument, “statistical evidence” (of which you happily assume isn’t already massively epistemologically biased by oppressive institutions) provided by Lola, Chomsky, Dworkin, Jesus (you name it) is ever gonna convince you.

    If on the other hand you have the same reaction as almost all others, do a bit of reading around the issue. Don’t ask us to educate you. Honestly, knowing the ways in which you and I are systemically screwed over by the state and its institutions is the first step to reclaiming a sense of power.

    Peace brutha!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m gonna reply because revising is just not happening today, so I find myself with lots of free time.

      I genuinely do believe that I’ve got the same, if not more, of all of those things than “white peers”. Stereotypes around brown people aren’t negative – they’re really usually either positive (hardworking) or neutral (owns a corner shop). I’d argue that you’re the deluded one if you feel so unrespected, lacking in opportunity, unpriviliged etc etc etc.

      Btw there has really been no relevent statistical evidence – in fact based on this I went to find some and “educate” myself and confirmed what I knew to be true before (it’s above). What genuinely happened to you to make you believe the state / institutions is screwing you – was it that time you didn’t get the internship you wanted? Let me tell you, there are more brown people working at my top firm then there should be based on statistics. Maybe it’s just you getting screwed….


  4. Firstly – thanks, Abhaya, for the important article.

    It’s just wrong to say that racism against South Asians no longer exists. Even as a privileged British Indian male, I’ve been subjected to verbal abuse on public transport, scepticism at airports and racist trolling online. As Lola pointed out, we’ve had to study a Eurocentric curriculum that airbrushes out colonial history and glosses over historical people of colour. At Cambridge, we’re surrounded by celebrations of imperialism in the form of portraits of oppressive political leaders and buildings named after them. There’s also a distinct lack of recognition of successful BME alumni.

    It might be true that British Hindu Indians are decently represented at places like Cambridge—they are definitely more privileged than other BME groups (but that this doesn’t mean that they don’t face racism). But other South Asians, especially those from working class, Muslim, British Bangladeshi and British Pakistani backgrounds, certainly are not.

    The rise of UKIP and the co-option of UKIP policy and rhetoric into Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem policy is something we should be worried about. Our parents and grandparents didn’t suffer and fight against racist abuse and violence so we could let the same thing happen to Eastern Europeans. Not only do they need our support; this normalisation of overt/casual racism will only reinforce the racism that Black and Asian Brits already face.

    Whether it’s mosques being attacked, Poles losing their in-work benefits (Labour pledge 4) or students of colour facing micro-aggressions in Cambridge, we have to recognise that racism exists and needs to be fought. Abhaya’s right; we need to all get on board.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Abby, interesting read. From anecdotal experience I think brown boys are in general aware of structural and casual racism and the negative impact of it. It’s sometimes unclear how they should best instigate change but that shouldn’t be confused with apathy. It’s an issue that is acknowledged and some are trying to address in larger organisations. (see link)

    I think to specifically address boys could unnecessarily divide without discernible benefit. And indicting lad culture may be counter-productive as it isn’t a prime culprit.

    But the issue needs much more awareness, so nice work.




    1. Hi Nikhil – thank you for that! The word ‘apathy’ was maybe misused here – i meant, in particular, apathy about racial discrimination. Really happy to hear that your contemporaries are aware of racial oppression but my experience has been different (probably due to the extreme educational/class privilege of somewhere like Cambridge).

      & very very happy to hear that there are drives to raise awareness.


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