By Yasmin Begum
In 1987, a Ghanaian analyst called Akyaaba Addai-Sebo suggested the concept of Black History Month to Greater London Council to celebrate the contributions, history and achievements of people of the African diaspora in London. Now, nearly 30 years on, Black History Month is a regular fixture in schools and universities across the United Kingdom, with 2018 seeing more events than ever happening for BHM in Wales.
Britain is certainly not without its centuries-long history of African, African-Caribbean and black settlements. Wales is home to the oldest continuous black community in the UK, with black populations in Cardiff predating the arrival of Windrush.
One thing that has remained static, if it is not worsening, is the experience of racial inequality experienced by black communities in the United Kingdom. Racial inequality is deep-running in the UK and demonstrated in the experience of black pupils in schools and by the black attainment gap at universities. According to the National Union of Students there’s a 23% black attainment gap at university: and they’ve got a lot to answer for. Many universities will amalgamate statistics under “black and minority ethnic” to differentiate, skew and obscure ethnic attainment gaps between different races to damage control those statistics.
The attainment gap doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Stickers recently adorned the London Underground articulating the issues of the “school to prison pipeline”. 28% of Black-Caribbean students in England received 5 GCSE’s A*C including English and Maths compared to 42% of white British pupils. That’s of the people who make it through the schooling system without being excluded from sitting their GCSE’s. When a Black-Caribbean boy with special educational needs is 168 times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than a white middle class girl without special education needs, this points to a racial inequality problem. Black people are over-represented in prisons in the UK compared to how they are in the USA. The concerns on the school to prison pipeline in the UK aren’t so staggering, given the above information.
In April 2018, UCAS released information proving that “black students seeking a place at university are 21 times more likely to have their applications investigated for suspected false or missing information than their white counterparts”. In 2017, David Lammy highlighted that 13 Oxford university colleges didn’t make an offer to anyone who was black in a six-year period. But it’s so much more than just the pervasive attainment gap and investigations at UCAS which negatively affect the experience of black students in the UK. Black people are 1.5 times more likely than white students to drop out of university. 50 years after the introduction of the Race Relations Act, how far have we really come for black students in the higher education system in the UK and where next from here?