The early part of the 20th century began with the establishment of the National Eugenics UCL University as a result of the conclusion of centuries of imperialism subjugation and slavery of people of African descent. Britain, with the largest empire the world had ever seen, and London at its centre sought an academic discipline which could ‘scientifically’ justify the empire and capital’s greatness.
The term National Eugenics is here defined as, ‘the study of the agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally’
The driving force was to find out how to create more Anglo-Saxon white men of a certain class. Galton’s research on Eugenics was inspired by his half cousin Charles Darwin, who was a pioneer on natural selection. His most famous book entitled, ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life’.
Although eugenics today has fallen out of fashion, the idea of racial hierarchy it represented is still entrenched in the deep psyche of society. This is manifested through all human activities, from education, employment, law, politics, economics, entertainment, war, religion and sex. Universities are one of the pillars of societies and as such ensure the continuation of this hierarchy. Not one university in Britain can deny their compliance in maintaining the status quo.
In that respect, it is somewhat apparent that this country clearly suffers from a form of racial amnesia. There is always a tendency to promote the image of post-racial Britain, the multi-cultural society the diverse Britain. The word ‘race’ has become a dirty word, and only rears its ugly head when referring to other ‘backward’ courtiers.
Recent statistics show Britain is not as diverse, all embracing and multi-cultured as the propaganda would have us believe. The Black student population is at 6% whilst the number of Black professors is 0.4%, Black university cleaners represent 3.3%, which is in proportion to the general population of the Black presence in Britain. As one commentator said ‘The message coming from universities is clear: persons racialised as Black do not produce knowledge, at most, they consume it and clean up after that consumption’
In response to all this ‘whiteness’, UCL has established a community of academic and administration staff and students, striving towards dismantling this hierarchy, ‘the master’s House’. Not one university in Britain has been so bold and courageous in opening its doors to exploring past wrongs.
Campaigns such as, ‘Why isn’t my Professor Black?” and “ Why is my curriculum White?” have begun the exploration of the university’s hierarchy and confront some of the ‘illusive’ post-racial discrimination. The launch of its website, Dismantling the Master’s House, (#DTMH) has made this information public knowledge. The university’s next steps of having a postgraduate programme and aspiring to the Race Equality and Charter Mark award are to be admired.
However it is important for us not to think that these ‘wins’ mean we have righted the racialised wrongs of centuries. Just as how the eugenics movement was born out of hundreds of years of subjugation, enslavement, genocide, colonisation and imperialism, its dismantling and building of a better society may take just as long.
For more information visit: www.dtmh.ucl.ac.uk