CW: Racism

In a statement referring to the handling of incidents of alleged racism which occurred in November last year, the Oxford African and Caribbean Society (ACS) has criticised the culture of Christ Church College and its complaints process, saying it was “inept in disciplining bigots”.

The events addressed include a white Christ Church student using the N-word in a group where a mixed-race student was present, and another student then defending the usage of the term. This prompted complaints to the college censors, and was condemned by the executive of the Christ Church Junior Common Room.

This follows an incident last summer where a candidate for a Common Room position at the college made a joke linking the death of George Floyd in the US to flour shortages. In response to backlash from this, Christ Church reviewed their racial bias training for staff and students at the college.

Regarding the recent case, ACS asserted the manner in which “the perpetrators deemed their behaviour acceptable in the first place” shows the normalisation of racism at the college. The society also challenged the “hostile and uncomfortable environment for undergraduates of black heritage” at Christ Church.

ACS also criticised the college administration for being “unable to grasp the realities of anti-black racism when it concerns race relations that are not just black and white”. The society expressed concern that “being of mixed-Arab heritage is being used as justification for use of the N-word” and said it was “astounded” that this had allegedly “been taken into account by the Christ Church administration”. However, Christ Church strongly denied this to be the case, stating that the college does not accept that “a student’s racial or ethnic heritage can be used as a defence”.

In relation to the handling of these incidents, the society also criticised the college racial harassment complaints system, calling it “opaque” and saying that it provides “no certainty as to whether justice has been enacted”.

This has prompted the society to call on Christ Church to let the complainant “know how the perpetrators will be disciplined” and “reform their disciplinary process” so that “ in the future it sustains such transparency for victims”.

In an earlier statement regarding the incident, the Christ Church Censors told students that they “do not tolerate racism in any form” and reaffirmed Christ Church’s Harassment Policy, which is “committed to fostering an inclusive culture”.

When contacted for comment in direct relation to this incident and Oxford ACS’s statement, a Christ Church spokesperson said:

“Within hours of hearing indirect reports of the use of the n-word, an appeal was sent to all​ Christ Church students to come forward with any relevant information or concerns.

It became apparent that the incident involved a student who had been rapping along with a Notorious B.I.G. song, which included the n-word. A thorough internal investigation took place, resulting in a disciplinary process which is ongoing. Christ Church has received independent legal advice through​out, informed by best practice guidance for the higher education sector from the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, with due regard to all students’ rights to fair and confidential processes. Welfare support was also offered from the outset.”

Christ Church College JCR have also been contacted for comment.

Image Credits: Tristan Surtel, Wikimedia Commons

This article was updated on the 26th March to reflect that Christ Church College denies that mixed-race heritage was taken into account when investigating the use of racial slurs, as well as stating that racial bias training had already been in place in the college but was reviewed following the incident in summer 2020.

Caleb van Ryneveld

Caleb van Ryneveld is the Senior Editor for Current Affairs at The Oxford Blue. He is a student at Christ Church reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics and is currently serving as Returning Officer of the Oxford Student Union.