Oxford Union criticised over 'tasteless' Colonial Comeback cocktail served during debate on British Empire

Oxford University debating society in 'racism' row over cocktail offered as part of refreshments following a debate about the British Empire

Siobhan Fenton
Friday 29 May 2015 17:04
Menu offered at The Oxford Union featuring 'The Colonial Comeback' cocktail and a pair of hands in chains (Photo by Adam Cooper)
Menu offered at The Oxford Union featuring 'The Colonial Comeback' cocktail and a pair of hands in chains (Photo by Adam Cooper)

The Oxford Union has come under fire after a cocktail called “The Colonial Comeback” was listed on its menu as part of refreshments for a debate about the British Empire.

The cocktail was advertised as a “Reparations Debate Cocktail” and featured an image of black hands in chains.

The Oxford University debating society was holding a debate that evening titled, ‘This House Believes Britain Owes Reparations to her Former Colonies’.

Speakers included Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the UK, Aloun Ndombet Assamba and former Conservative MP Sir Richard Ottaway.

Student Adam Cooper posted a photo of the menu on Twitter after spotting it at the Union bar. The cocktail has prompted backlash online, with students labelling the drink ‘offensive’ and in ‘poor taste’.

Nikhil Venkatesh, Oxford University Student Union officer for Black and Minority Ethnic Students told The Independent: “Reducing centuries of violent oppression to a humorously named cocktail is simply unacceptable.”

“We are still living with the damaging legacy of colonialism and Oxford itself was complicit in it. Sadly Oxford, and especially the Oxford Union, remains dominated by privilege, which is why inconsiderate episodes such as this can occur.”

Annie Teriba, founder of Oxford Blacks Students’ Union and People of Colour Officer for Wadham College, told the Oxford student paper Cherwell: “I am horrified that the Union thinks it's okay to trivialise centuries of oppression and racist violence in the form of a refreshing drink. For some students, including myself, colonialism is a hard pill to swallow, especially as it's legacy continues to visit violence upon black bodies.”

“I shall be expecting an apology and explanation from the President for allowing the bar of an institution I paid money to join to be decorated with colonial pornography.”

When contacted by The Independent, The Oxford Union declined to comment on the matter.

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