In the wake of the murder of George Floyd in the USA, communities around the world are coming together under the Black Lives Matter banner. This moment must act as an urgent stimulus to us all, reminding us that it is imperative to consider what we can and must do to be fully inclusive. Churchill College, as a community, recognizes the work we need to do to create such an environment where racism has no home, and in the months ahead will be embracing a wide-ranging set of initiatives and activities, building on the considerable ongoing work in this arena (such as in widening participation). This will include developing a specific area of the College website to highlight the importance of this issue, the work of our BAME members and the work we are undertaking to challenge attitudes.
However, we have an additional responsibility, given the name that the College carries. As an educational and research institution we acknowledge the need for, and indeed welcome, an honest and critical engagement with history in all its fullness. We accept this will involve some difficult discussions around important historical figures which we will actively seek to facilitate. Churchill, as a successful leader in time of war, must not be mythologised as a man without significant flaws; on race he was backward even in his day. We aim to lead an ongoing critical dialogue about his own legacy in global history, utilising not only the full depth of our Fellowship, staff and student body but also the rich material contained in the papers of the Churchill Archives Centre. The holdings contain not only Churchill’s own writings, but also those of many contemporaries with widely differing views about Empire, as well as subsequent key figures in the struggle against racism. These strands offer us a unique opportunity to contribute to the debate about systemic racism in our global society as it has grown out of history and to work to eradicate the injustice so horribly illustrated by Floyd’s death.
As a College we are about building the future. Engaging in such debates, in addition to specific initiatives within the College, will enable us to think constructively about making sure that it is a fit future for us all.