In 2017, British Grime artist Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Oquo Jr., better known as Stormzy, helped Fiona Asiedu, an Oxford University student; raise £12,000 to study in the USA at the illustrious Harvard. The BAFTA-winning artist had donated £9,000 to the cause to help Fiona achieve her goal.
It was evidently a big deal for Stormzy who has now gone on to announce ‘The Stormzy Scholarship’. The scholarship will see two black students from underprivileged backgrounds have their tuition and maintenance fees all paid to attend Cambridge University.
At the heart of it, it sounds a fantastic project, however, it has caused controversy for some, who seem to have been offended by the fact that the scholarship only qualifies for black students.
Many people on social media have asked the question, ‘What if Ed Sheeran was doing the same thing but only for white kids?’ often they also hashtag double standards too.
Yet, these people have missed the point. The reason Stormzy is sending black kids to Cambridge as opposed to other ethnicities is not that he dislikes people of other ethnicities. It is because he wants black kids from underprivileged backgrounds to see that this is possible for them. The opportunity to study at Cambridge or Oxford can become a reality.
Last year Cambridge welcomed its highest intake of black students ever with 58 students, however, this was “not nearly as many as we would like”, Professor Stephen Toope, the University of Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor, said.
Furthermore, between 2012 to 2016, some Cambridge Colleges have accepted no black students while others have accepted less than one a year. St Edmunds College received 31 to 35 applications from black students over a 5-year period and did not make one single offer.
When you look at Cambridge, you see white, and that is not a slight made to white people. However, we do not want black kids to be discouraged, to think they cannot get to Cambridge because when they don’t see black students there, because they think black people don’t go there.
Rianna Croxford wrote an article in the Financial Times in May this year, highlighting some of her experiences as a black student at Cambridge. She was one of seven women, out of 3,371 undergraduates, who came from a mixed white and black heritage and speaks of black undergraduates being mistaken for tourists.
This scholarship is not racist, and if you believe it is, you have missed the point. It is to make black kids realise that Cambridge is a possibility, and for them to realise that, they need to see more black students attend Cambridge. However, if you still believe that this project is racist and if Cambridge is having such a scholarship policy then they should do the same for under-privileged white kids, rest easy.
Oxford launched a summer school in 2017 aimed explicitly at underprivileged white kids, who are the lowest demographic to attend university. I understand the argument that these projects should not be aimed at a particular race and should be open to all underprivileged children. However, let’s be honest here, and this is coming from someone who’s 6th form school’s final day was a garden party, if they were open to underprivileged kids, sub-consciously white kids would have an advantage.
For example, once at my school, I was sitting in a business lesson, we had drifted onto the topic of the impending 2015 General Election. The debate was getting quite heated as classmates discussed who they would have voted for if they could, with the majority pushing for conservatives and UKIP coming in second. As reasons were thrown out for their choice, the topic of immigration came to the forefront with multiple students highlighting the problem. Finally, one student made the audacious claim that “If I was having heart surgery, I would want an English doctor rather than a foreigner.”
This forced me into action, laughing from the absurdity of the hypothetical situation she had placed herself in and the worrying most significant demand she had made, I stated, “Personally, I would rather just have the best doctor if I was having heart surgery.” Then again, I have always been easily pleased. However, it wasn’t just the comment the classmate had made, it was the reaction or lack of, that was the problem. No one seemed fazed by the comment, that was just the norm.
This is the problem though, people at Oxford and Cambridge, just like my school, having always been surrounded by white people, that’s not there fault personally, it is just how it has played out. So yes, they are scared of foreign doctors for example, because to them that is the unknown. Therefore, when it comes to selecting students, they are more prone to select underprivileged white kids who are applying for the places because they are more familiar to them, even though there is a possibility they might be completely different.
Oxbridge does not have enough black students at its universities, now as I leave, ask yourself this question, why? If your answer is, well the black kids must not be as smart as the white kids, think about what you are saying, and ask yourself what that implication means.