If you read my recent blog post, you will have heard about the Strike for Black Lives which took place last month. I spent a day – along with some colleagues – reading about racism in science and the academy, followed by a meeting in which we discussed the day-to-day racism experienced by Black scientists, the history of racism in medical trials, the myth of racialised IQ, and the fact that lots of science is enabled by wealth generated by colonialism.
While sobering, the discussion we had felt important. It also felt shocking that we didn’t already know many of these things, or didn’t actively think about them on a regular basis. That’s why I thought we should keep having these discussions, and invite as many people as possible. In the first meeting of the reading club, we’ll be discussing an interview with Angela Davis – on her experience being a Black activist, professor of philosophy, and Marxist – an essay about the construction of whiteness as a social category, and some academic articles which analyse the British Empire’s collapse in India.
There is much I do not know about the British Empire – which has always felt faintly embarrassing to me, as the mixed-race child of an English woman and a Pakistani man. I couldn’t tell you much about the Partition of India, or the circumstances which led up to it. I couldn’t tell you much about the British slave trade, or its continued impact on the lives of Black people across the Western world. Actually, I only have a dim knowledge of the world outside Europe and America – which feels inexcusable in the information era.
It’s easy to say – well, why does it matter that you don’t know about the British Empire? It’s all over now. But being a researcher is about looking beneath the surface, finding the nuance and not accepting the first answer. The history of Britain’s relationship to the rest of the world directly impacts the people who are alive today. By learning about the history, we can recognise the impact – and start thinking about how we can change things. A reading club is a small action, but education is the enemy of complacence. Maybe some of us will be in positions in the future where we have the potential to make a difference: I want to make sure I have the background to take advantage of that!
This reading club is a space for people to learn, and explore, and broaden their horizons. It’s a space for people to recommend texts – that deal with topics they are passionate about, that deal with topics they’d like to learn more about. It’s a space for people to turn up knowing little, and leave knowing more. It’s a space for people to turn up and teach others, if they want to. Most of all, it’s a space for you.
Our first monthly meeting will take place on Friday 24 July at 11am. To register via Eventbrite, click here. Your booking confirmation email will include full details of the texts we will be reading, and a link to the Zoom meeting.