Downing College, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, has amended its anti-discrimination guidance, following accusations that the guidelines implied that white people couldn't be victims of racism too.
The college had published advice on how to report incidences of racism and "micro-aggressions," but the rewriting follows concerns that the previous guidelines would lead to a "culture of fear" that is "antithetical to free speech."
Before the recent change, racism was defined by Downing College's guidance as "an ideology and a set of practices based on ideas of inherited white 'racial' superiority that normalises control, domination and exclusion over people of colour, while legitimating privilege and oppression."
According to the Telegraph, academics pointed out that the definition of racism was itself racist, because it implied that it was impossible for anyone who was white, including Jewish, Polish, and Irish people, to be a victim of racism.
The new definition now says racism is "an ideology and a set of practices based on ideas of racial superiority that normalise control, domination and exclusion on the basis of racial difference, while legitimating privilege and oppression."
One of the dons, who described the internal backlash, explained to the Telegraph that "a number of academics from a number of different departments, on their own or in groups were reaching out to the Master or other contacts high up in Downing College, to express concern or ask for a meeting."
But he said that the change to the racism definition is "by no means total victory," adding: "They have given some way but they haven't given all the way."
"Micro-aggressions," which the guidance maintains are a form of racism, are still considered reportable under the amended guidelines via an anonymous reporting tool. For example, the guidance document cites the question, "Where are you really from?" as an example of a racist "micro-aggression."
"The College shouldn't be encouraging students to complain to the authorities just because someone says something they find offensive, provided it's not unlawful," voiced Toby Young, general secretary of the Free Speech Union.
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