Setting the Context
For further information about why it is important to critically consider concepts around “race” and “anti-racism”, see the Institutional Racism in Higher Education Toolkit written by the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies, University of Leeds.
The key points raised from the Leeds resource are:
- The need to consider the concept of racism, particularly “everyday racism” and “institutional racism”
“Everyday racism” refers to forms of discrimination that manifest themselves in “systematic, recurrent, familiar practices”. “Everyday racism” is infused into familiar practices, it involves socialized attitudes and behaviour.1
Many people are not consciously aware of any disparity or discrimination particularly if their ethnic group, culture or colour have been positively reinforced over a considerable period of time. However, interviews conducted with forty-five minority ethnic students across five Scottish universities and five members of academic staff over another four institutions show that there have been individuals who have had direct experiences of overt racist or racially insensitive behaviour, attitudes and actions from both fellow students and staff.
Understanding the concept of institutional racism is advocated as central if universities are to robustly consider how it operates to ensure race equality for minority ethnic staff and students. The definition of institutional racism is taken from the Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry which focuses on practices and norms which can unwittingly discriminate (e.g. offering induction programmes to students which involve core activities in a pub to aid socialising).
The idea or the practice of placing Europe at the centre of one’s world view and an assumption of the supremacy of Europe and Europeans in world cultures needs to be addressed. There is a need to distinguish between European “ethnocentricism”, which is an understandable perspective to have given that Scottish universities are within a European or Western context, and the concept of Eurocentrism, which lays claim to a unviersal template of progress and development for all societies.
Eurocentricism can affect practice within universities in the following areas:
- course content
- degree programmes
- research practice
- research methods
- teaching practices
- attitudes to international students
- attitudes to black and minority ethnic students.
This Toolkit provides ideas on how adopting a race equality approach will in part address the dominance of Eurocentricism.
- Unpicking whiteness
This addresses the concept that for many people in Britain, being “white” is concomitant with being “normal”. In this section of the Leeds website, whiteness as a concept is unpicked and the implications of not analysing “white” as “norm” on the practice and ethos of an institution is consdered.
- Essed, Philomena (1991) “Understanding Everyday Racism: An Interdisciplinary Theory”, Newbury Park/London/New Delhi, Sage Publications, page 3