Recent events have made us all keenly aware of the racism which persists in our society. The largely peaceful demonstrations taking place in our towns and cities reflect the understandable anger and vunerability felt by so many. As a Catholic foundation strongly committed to Interfaith dialogue, we recognise that racism is an evil which must be opposed: we all have a responsibility for actively promoting racial justice. As part of a world-class University, we believe that an institution like ours must promote diversity and support Black communities. All of us at St Benet’s Hall, staff and students alike, reaffirm our total opposition to racial discrimination, and our zero-tolerance for racist comments or behaviour of any kind. This firm commitment was expressed in a letter published in the Guardian on Friday 5th June, signed by St Benet’s together with the Heads of all Oxford Colleges (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/04/oxford-college-heads-stand-with-black-students-to-fight-against-systemic-racism).
This commitment is being followed up with concrete steps towards improving and welcoming diversity throughout the University, so that all members of our community are respected and supported. These steps were outlined in a further letter sent to all students on 10th June and signed by all Heads of House and by the Vice-Chancellor. The University and its Colleges pledged both to reinforce welfare and mentoring provision and to open dialogue on how better to support Black students, so as to achieve the Black Lives Matter vision of “imagining and creating a world free of anti-blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic and political power to thrive”.
At St Benet’s we stand firmly by the commitment made in the Guardian letter: “We recognise and regret that, for black members of our community, the unfolding crisis together with the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on their communities has caused them particular anxiety, anger and pain. We stand with them during these difficult moments with hope that, through the global mobilisation of many against these injustices, through education, discussion, and peaceful protest, we may work together towards a world free of systemic racism and discrimination”.
For all Benetians, Black Lives Matter. We encourage staff, students and alumni of the Hall to engage with this issue, to signal support through petitions, donations and communication, and to work together to promote equality and diversity in the longer term, so that St Benet’s becomes an ever more welcoming, open and inclusive community.