Cambridge’s ‘racist’ May Ball: Pro-slavery song heard at launch of St Edmund’s College event
The Hon. Sir Jonathon Espie Porritt, 2nd Baronet, CBE, is a British environmentalist and writer, perhaps best known for his championing of Green issues and his advocacy of the Green Party of England and Wales.
Saturday 22 March 2014
Cambridge University officials have vowed to address complaints of “racism” which were made after the chanting of a pro-slavery song at the launch of a college’s May ball.
St Edmund’s College became embroiled in controversy after The Independent revealed this week that Gone with the Wind had been proposed as the theme for its black-tie event, sparking objections from students who thought it racist.
It can now be disclosed that the ball’s organising committee tried to avoid a row by changing the name to The Beautiful South. However, this failed to appease the offended students, who believed the new theme also had racist connotations even though organisers stressed it would be “a representation of the contemporary American South”.
Tensions increased when a group at the launch party for the black-tie event started chanting “The South will rise again”, the anthem sung by the pro-slavery Confederates in the American Civil War.
Members of the organising committee managed to stop the singing, but the incident caused deep disquiet at St Edmund’s, which is one of the most multi-ethnic colleges at Cambridge University. Around two-thirds of its students are from non-UK countries.
Alex Davis, a Cambridge student, said: “Selecting ‘The Beautiful South’ as a theme was both insensitive and a careless choice. Students singing “the South will rise again”, added insult to injury. It is a shame a minority of students are damaging the college’s good name.”
A spokesman for Cambridge University’s Black and Minority Ethnic Campaign group (BME) said: "The ‘I, Too, Am Cambridge’ campaign aimed to give all those who self-identify as ethnic minority students, or those who felt discriminated against due to their cultural identity or background within Cambridge University, an opportunity to have their voices heard.
"Therefore similarly, the CUSU BME Committee believe that open dialogue should be had concerning the May Ball procedures currently in place."
A college spokesman said: “Some people are upset and we’ll address that because that’s not something we want people to feel,” he said. “There was no intention to cause upset.”
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