When applying for such a competitive course like Medicine I was aware that there would be a lack of diversity in terms of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students who looked like me, and in particular of Caribbean descent. I was well aware that I had to work ten times harder than my white counter parts and those from top independent schools to even be considered for such a competitive course but I wanted to be a doctor so much that I did what it took to get there.
The proportion of students in the UK that are taught in independent schools is very small but there is a very large proportion of these students studying courses such as Medicine and working in top professions.
The lack of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) representation in other areas like the media and the arts is much the same in fact. Very recently the debate about the lack of non-white nominations at the Oscars has drawn much attention to this. I don’t think I will ever be able to de-sensitive myself to comments that suggest Black people just aren’t good enough, or that it is not about racism. The fact of the matter is, unless you have experienced racism or prejudice in whatever form you will never be able to truly appreciate and understand what someone of colour is or has gone through.
Only 16% of award winners were non-white at the Oscars, with Obaid-Chinoy the only non-white female winning an award. The Brit awards were much the same.
Whilst some may think that boycotting the awards was not the answer, rather working for change ‘on the inside’, the fact is we have to stand united if we want to see an improvement in the current situation. Will Smith was absolutely right when he said children watching the Oscars will not see any representation of themselves. When do we see representation of ourselves in a significant proportion in a positive light, whether as barristers or actors? Personally, I don’t think I could sit there and attend a show knowing that that the majority of winners and nominees were white- it would be hypocritical.
There is so much black talent out there but there are not enough opportunities. It does not matter how talented you are if you are not given the opportunity you will never be able to progress and reach your potential. One example is of Idris Elba who had to seek opportunities in America because there just wasn’t enough opportunity in the UK. Now he has become an incredibly successful actor, among one of his successes is ‘Luther’ the BBC television series. Despite his achievements in the UK and the US there was a colossal uproar when he was one of the popular choices to play James Bond, with the preference of course being a white male. David Oyelowo has been cast to play James Bond in an audio version of the film- audio?! I say no more.
It is incredibly sad that in 2016 there are still so many barriers to success and such ignorant opinions. It is so important that we continue to work hard, to keep pushing and breaking down barriers for the future generations.