Current Affairs

Accusations of racism at Christ Church JCR hustings

Outrage and accusations of racism have followed Christ Church’s JCR hustings on Sunday night, after one of the candidates used a cake allegory of “flour shortages” with comparison to the case of George Floyd. The hustings immediately followed an emergency JCR Motion proposed by Melanie Onovo to donate £720 to the Minnesota Freedom Fund and associated charities. It was hosted over Zoom and attended by 100 people. 

The candidate resigned on Monday, and the JCR President stated “She is apologetic and it is clear to me that she deeply regrets the hurt and anguish caused, and did not foresee it.

The minutes of the candidate’s speech, released yesterday, read as:

“I want to elaborate on [another candidate’s] point about cake being a right to humanity. The US is facing two very important crises at the moment – the curious incident of George Floyd, and the event of flour shortage. I would like to put forward the motion that these incidents are not two, but rather one. Flour shortage leads to rioting, which leads to death, which leads to racism. And racism, leads to death, leads to rioting, and that leads to flour shortage. Really, it is just a massive positive feedback loop. While I cannot address the consequences of flour shortage, I can at least cut at the root of all evil, by continuing the legacy of cake distribution. 

“There are several reasons that make me uniquely qualified as the Christ Church protector of evil … As a woman, I know of their impact – both in their emotional, equity inducing manner, and more pressingly, in the calorific one.”

When Melanie Onovo, a second year History and Politics undergraduate, asked them to clarify their thoughts on the comparison of George Floyd to flour shortages, they reiterated their “positive feedback loop” argument, and added: “We cannot stop the consequences of the evil of racism. We can however symbolically support the victims by cutting out the root of all evil, as I said before.”

Other candidates’ comments on this comparison were “No comment” and “Too soon, that is all I have to say.

The Returning Officer chairing the meeting muted everyone who was not giving an answer, and shortly after said “I have a few messages of people wanting to make a message or point or statement at the end of hustings – in my opinion, it is not appropriate, so if you would like to do, please do so through the JCR page or Facebook. I don’t think it is appropriate to use hustings to make political points – we would be here a very long time otherwise.”

Throughout the Zoom hustings, numerous messages were sent in the chat box voicing dissatisfaction at how those on mic were failing to address the issue. One student said “Are we actually going to not address a racist joke made in the current climate?” and another said “If people are willing to vocalise such views in front of the JCR they should also be open to criticism from the JCR”. 

Following the hustings, Melanie said: “I am mortified at the events of tonight’s GM. It started well with the motion to give funding to the Minnesota Freedom Fund and related charities passing unanimously. However, it was followed with what were incredibly inappropriate racial comments about George Floyd. My blood was boiling at this point, but then I was just disappointed when the responses of the other cake representative candidates were “no comment” and “too soon”. It will never stop being “too soon” to make jokes about racial injustice, it will NEVER. It is not edgy, cute, or dark humour to make jokes about racism when people are dying, when people are suffering because of deep rooted racial prejudice. 

“The exhibition of immense privilege and blatant ignorance and disregard for racial issues was disgusting and everyone who chose not to speak on what happened in tonight’s GM is complicit in that expression of racist sentiment. I felt sick, but I also felt very alone, because I shouldn’t be the only one having a serious problem with the comments that were made in tonight’s GM. Thank you so much to everyone who spoke up in the end. Take some time to reflect and please educate yourselves and understand that every time you make those jokes and giggle about racial oppression, you are actively ostracising the black people around you and perpetuating the same destructive ideas and structures that have caused the deaths and suffering of some many people for no other reason than the colour of their skin.

The JCR President has released a statement:I am proud of this JCR for being a tolerant and progressive community. But we cannot be complacent; like every other human institution, we still encounter difficulties and we must learn to live with one another peaceably. The JCR cannot simply rebuff ignorance and hard-heartedness, it must demonstrate enlightened thinking and empathy. I am grateful to all those who made it clear that such offensive remarks as those made yesterday have no place in our college.

We all have work to do in keeping our interactions kind, civil and respectful. Nastiness and mean-spiritedness have no place in my books. And when people make mistakes, it is my firm belief that we should lift them up and not bring them down. Above all, we must take heed from those when they open our eyes to injustice.

The candidate in question was running for the position of “Cake Rep”, who has the responsibility of sourcing a cake of choice for each JCR member. It is a role unique to Christ Church.