If I ever have to fill in another “equality form” again, I am certain that there will be a smouldering hole through the page. Those boxes which set out to define what constitutes as “diversity” only limits the narrow-minded views of companies and institutions; trying desperately to adhere to standards where they don’t seem discriminatory.

It’s like one of those old seventies race-related tales of when asking a non-boxed individual if they are “racist,” the common reply usually consists of “No, I have plenty of black/ ethnic minority friends,” or better still “I really respect [insert famous Black and Ethnic Minority person here.]”

The truth be it, at the end of the tedious application procedure, a person at the other end of the desk licks a pen nib and writes “We have filled the quota for disabled; gender; race and sexuality workers for this year.”

If we were truly a multicultural Britain, we would not see the difference and hire the most equipped person for the position.

But just like Helier’s Catch-22, us BAME folk twiddle our thumbs as we struggle to reach for higher positions from our council estate houses, our working-class parents and our violent peers. So how do we expect to get ‘equal’ treatment in the far away land of university?

Oxbridge have outshone themselves this year, being openly disgraced for their lack of non-white applicants. The starkest divide in Cambridge was at Newnham College where black applicants had a 13% success rate compared with 67% for white students, whilst of more than 1,500 academic and lab staff at Cambridge, none are black. Only thirty-four are of British Asian origin. Oxford’s St Hilda’s College only had a 26% success rate for BAME students, unlike an enormous 50% rate for its white students.

And the reinforcement of BAME schemes and “positive” discrimination is just that- discrimination. A justly egalitarian chance in employment is to walk in behind a white smoke screen and not be judged for either variation of skin tone, genitalia or limbs (lack of.)

Instead we are pegged against each other in a rat race for one piece cheese. And all the quality Camembert outside of the competition is inapplicable for the rodents, as well as their human counterparts. Essentially, the majority will starve despite the jobs being available outside of the rat race.

Research by the Race for Opportunity campaign, part of outreach charity Business in the Community stated that BAME graduates are failing to find jobs as easily as their White counterparts despite being represented at UK universities.

Some 66% of White students who graduated in 2007-08 found work within a year compared with just 56.3% of BAME students. Whilst in 2007-08 almost one in six (16.0%) of UK university students were from a BAME background, up from 8.3% in 1995-96. This increase in BAME representation in UK universities is virtually in line with the growth in the BAME population from 7.7% of 18 to 24 year olds in 1995-96 up to 14.2% in 2007-08.

According to a new report by the Black Training and Enterprise Group, despite some narrowing of the gap between the employment rate for ethnic minorities and the national average over the last 10 years, the ethnic minority employment rate remains over 10 percentage points below the average rate. The National Audit Office has calculated that this gap in the employment rate costs the UK economy around £8.6 billion a year.

So while thousands of ethnic minority people attempt to pursue after one BAME scheme, we need to ask if it really changes the image of segregated Britain. The division between ‘normal’ jobs and BAME employment schemes, faith schools and state run establishments, pockets of ghettoes and wealth just reiterates the fact that there is ‘apartheid.’ And no amount of ticking boxes can change that unless the system itself transforms miraculously.


About suswatibasu

Suswati Basu is a writer, journalist, producer and feminist activist residing in London. She has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the F-Word blogs, and has worked for various media outlets such as the BBC, Channel 4 and for ITV News/ITN. She currently works as a senior intelligence expert.

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