Following the advertisement of a cocktail named ‘Colonialism Comeback’ at the Oxford Union debate last night, Cherwell understands that the Oxford Union BME officer, Esther Odejimi, has decided to resign her role. The debate in question was, ‘This House believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies’. It has been noted that all the speakers for the proposition were people of colour, while all those speaking for the opposition were white.
In a statement to Cherwell, Odejimi said, “I’m disgusted at the way they have behaved both, towards me, and the wider black community. I have made many efforts to reach out to the President for an induction and to make sure that my role is not left redundant. All have been in vain. I haven’t even met her ONCE! And now, on top of that, this ridiculously insensitive poster has been pasted up on the union walls. It’s clear that my role was just an act of political correctness and they had no intention to actually engage with the BME rep position. I want nothing to do with them at all. I’m disgusted. Racism is definitely not dead.”
There were at least two versions of the flyer advertising the cocktail. The first was accompanied by an image of two hands bound in chains, which was interpreted as suggesting the figure of a slave. The second showed an image of former British African colonies. The former has been widely shared on social media and has received a huge backlash from students.
An Oxford Union member commented, “I think it makes a farce of the Oxford Union supposedly caring about BME issues when their BME Officer was neither consulted before holding an obviously racially charged debate, nor even had an induction as to their responsibilities.
“If they want to convince us that they’re taking racism seriously, then they need to get off their backsides to replace their words with actions. And a twenty word apology isn’t going to cut it.”
The Oxford Union did not respond to Cherwell‘s request for comment. On their Facebook page, the Union wrote, “The Union would once again like to apologise for the cocktail last night. We let a lot of people down: the cocktail and its flyer were entirely inappropriate, and offensive. We must ensure that this never happens again.
“The individual responsible has apologised and deeply regrets their actions.
“All future cocktails will now be brought to the Standing Committee each week to ensure they have been seen and voted on by the committee, to avoid such an incident ever being repeated.
“This situation should never have arisen. We apologise sincerely.”