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Third Year Reflects on Her Experiences as a BME Student

KEMA stage second week of action against King’s BME Attainment Gap

With the end of my time at King’s fast approaching, I can’t help but reflect on my experiences as a BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) student. On first coming here, I was acutely aware of the necessity of intersectional thinking without knowing the name for it. Instead, it was a feeling of discomfort: sometimes a swelling anger, sometimes just an underlying uneasiness. 

Whatever it was, I didn’t know there was a recognised term that helped me make sense of the different levels of unease that I felt and that also allowed me to understand the systems of discrimination for other marginalised groups in society.

During my course I was drawn to understanding more about the authentic perspectives of ethnic writers; something I only did when studying ‘Slave Trade in America’ module. I don’t know whether this drive was a result of my own identity as a PoC or simply because I was yet to study anything in an academic environment that explored texts by BME writers. Either way, I had to specifically direct my education at King’s in order to take a module that would engage with writers that were not white.

When I thought about it, I realised that the only ethnic text I had studied that wasn’t on a specifically ‘ethnic’ module was by Hanif Kureishi. I thought about all the other books I had studied: historical texts, colonial texts, feminist texts, queer texts, seminal plays… all of them written by white authors, except for the few modules I could take that would direct my study towards ethnic writers, which I have already mentioned.

I felt angry at this exclusion; it suggested to me that only minorities would be interested in learning about minorities. And because we are just that, a minority, it is not considered of great enough importance, and so it is not catered for by the structure of the course.

There is no issue in studying BME authors in terms of their oppression as it is arguably bound to the ethnic creative voice. But why was it confined to a specific module? Why was it not universally taught? Why am I not able to study a text by ethnic authors without having to look for it?

Some might argue that these writers and their voices are not actively excluded, but they are excluded nonetheless. Is this not deeply problematic? That if BME authors are excluded it is not on purpose? Their significance is that negligible to those who put together our courses that they don’t even think about it until it has to be brought to their attention?

How is it that seemingly intelligent and well-educated heads of respected educational institutions cannot see that? Probably because their own course structures were not thorough enough to enable them with this most basic insight into society.

It is sad to me that the most valued parts of my education have not come from my course at King’s. Its deficiency will leave large holes in the minds of other students who may not ever come to realise it, feeding into a much larger socio-cultural problem.

It has instead come from the smaller communities that recognise the insufficiencies in our defective education. It is not the responsibility of just BME or LGBTQ students to ensure the fullness of our learning, but it has nevertheless fallen upon us. The collective voice of the student body as a whole is what is needed to make those with access to power make vital and fundamental changes.

The power of the voices that stand in solidarity is what makes me proud to be at King’s. The demonstrations and safe online communities make me proud to be at King’s. The student body that takes effort to work towards reshaping and fighting for a more colourful future is what makes me proud to be at King’s.

The institution of King’s itself has a lot to answer for. It has been one very expensive way of making me realise that there is yet a lot of progress to be made in society if the revered heads of educational systems are still debating whether or not changes need to be made.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Roar or its members.  

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