Dipo Adebisi, a Senior Freshman Engineer originally from Nigeria, proposed the creation of of Ethnic Minorities Part Time Officer (PTO) at the SU Council earlier this year. Then, after the motion was passed, Adebisi successfully ran for this position. When speaking about the “myriad of issues” that ethnic minorities face within Trinity, it came to his attention that there was no officer within the Union that dealt primarily with the problems that are faced by some on a daily basis. “This surprised me since racism is one of the biggest social problems today,” Adebisi says.
Adebisi notes the “lack of ethnic diversity in the leadership of student societies”. He feels this may be partially due to the the feelings of isolation that can arise from racism within the College and explains that many successful members of ethnic minority groups come from a more privileged economic upbringing. This illustrates how socioeconomic backgrounds play a role in the success of students from such groups. Increasing the number of students from ethnic minorities in leadership roles within the College community would bring about “fresh ideas” and help to broaden the perspectives of students.
In order to combat the issue of “institutional racism”, Adebisi feels that we must deal with the general issues members of ethnic minority groups face in a “Predominantly White Institution (PWI)”. To tackle these problems, he suggests a structure comprising a three-person working group along with a sub-committee chaired by the Officer which he believes would be an efficient way for members of ethnic groups to voice any concerns they may have. This would allow for such concerns to be resolved in a sensitive and practical manner. Another suggestion focuses on educating students outside of ethnic minority groups. Adebisi emphasised the importance of educating students who do not belong to these minority groups about the “manifestations of racism in daily life, how it affects their peers and most importantly, how to deal with it”. He believes that “students need to learn more about racism, its history in the West; the necessary terms, and their definitions.”
Adebisi also plans to organise discussion groups to enable students of different ethnic backgrounds to relate to each other. Additionally, he suggests a culture week featuring panel discussions, debates, food tastings and cultural movie screenings. This would be a valuable addition to the SU’s current campaign weeks, alongside a cultural fashion show that would include a diversity of styles and a variety of models from different backgrounds.
“Adebisi emphasised the importance of educating students who do not belong to these minority groups about the ‘manifestations of racism in daily life, how it affects their peers and most importantly, how to deal with it’.”
Adebisi raises a thought-provoking point concerning those he has spoken to about the introduction of this position. “While [they] agree that this position is needed, they haven’t thought much about how to fix the problems they face in College as ethnic minorities, and I think that speaks to how normalised racism is in our society.” The challenge of fixing this problem is something Adebisi acknowledges to be difficult but not impossible.
Racism within Trinity may not always be an issue that would immediately spring to the forefront of students’ minds. Understanding the perspective of those who face discrimination is an important part of increasing social awareness in college. Raising awareness of the racial issues faced by their fellow students might be done by holding fun, but informative, campaign weeks. Perhaps the introduction of the Ethnic Minorities Officer will finally spark an important conversation within college about this previously muted, but significant, topic.