Azara Blog: Fitzwilliam Museum trainee

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Date published: 2005/02/20

The Cambridge Town Crier (owned by the same company as the Cambridge Evening News) had a job advertisement for a "Museum Trainee" at the Fitzwilliam Museum in the edition of 18 February:

We are offering a two-year traineeship at the Fitzwilliam Museum. The project is designed to assist individuals of African, African-Carribean, Asian or Chinese descent, who are under-represented in the museum workforce in the UK.
Appplicants will need to demonstrate:

It is quite amazing that such racist hiring practises are allowed. But indeed they are. Section 37 of the Race Relations Act 1976 says:

37.-(1) Nothing in Parts II to IV shall render unlawful any act done in relation to particular work by a training body in or in connection with-

where it appears to the training body that at any time within the twelve months immediately preceding the doing of the act-

(Section 38 of the Act continues in the same vein.) So racism is allowed.

In the particular case of the Fitzwilliam Museum advertisement, there is the usual ridiculous official British distinction between "Asian" and "Chinese". Where do these people think China is? Well, the British bureaucrats have decreed that only India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are in Asia. (And maybe Sri Lanka in a following wind.) So China cannot be in Asia, so must be, well in China. And Indonesia, Japan and the rest are, well nowhere. When you promote racist policies this is the stupidity you get into.

The people who run the Fitzwilliam also ought to at least know that (under the current view of the history of human beings) we are all of African descent. So we are all eligible. Of course they really mean "recently" of African descent, although they don't say what that means. What about first generation, second generation, etc. If you have an aunt who lives in Togo is that good enough? When you promote racist policies this is the stupidity you get into.

Finally, the worst thing about such a racist hiring practise is that it implies the Fitzwilliam (and other UK museums) have been racist in the past (in the opposite direction). So the people who benefitted from this racism, i.e. the people who now run these museums, are not the people who are paying the penalty for this racism, instead they are promoting the inverse racism. But most likely museums have not been racist in the past (well any more than any other British institution). The problem with museums is that they are middle class and so the real discrimination has been against people who are not middle class, and as it happens non-white people in the UK are a lot less likely to be middle class. When you promote racist policies this is the stupidity you get into.

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