LONDON, June 25 — The head of Britain's Eton College said Tuesday he will invite back a black former student to apologise in person for racism he experienced at the top fee-paying school in the 1960s.
Simon Henderson said he wanted Dillibe Onyeama to feel welcome after he was previously banned from visiting Eton for writing a book about the racist abuse he faced there.
“We have made significant strides since Mr Onyeama was at Eton but... we have to have the institutional and personal humility to acknowledge that we still have more to do,” Henderson said in a statement.
“We must all speak out and commit to doing better — permanently — and I am determined that we seize this moment as a catalyst for real and sustained change for the better.
“I will be inviting Mr Onyeama to meet so as to apologise to him in person, on behalf of the school, and to make clear that he will always be welcome at Eton.”
The school's move follows anti-racism protests across Britain, sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, during a police arrest in the United States.
The demonstrations have focused renewed attention on racism in Britain, as well as the toxic legacy of its colonial past, including calls for it to be taught in schools.
Nigerian writer Onyeama, who graduated from Eton in 1969, wrote a book about his experiences at the exclusive private boys' school, near Windsor, west of London.
The school has become a byword for elitism and Britain's class divide.
Annual fees cost more than £42,000 (RM224,227) per year. Old boys include Prime minister Boris Johnson, and princes William and Harry.
Onyeama told the BBC he had been taunted on a daily basis by fellow students, and asked questions like “why are you black?” and “how many maggots are there in your hair?”
When he struggled in academics or flourished in sports, the students attributed it to his race, while when he excelled in exams he was accused of cheating, the broadcaster said.
After detailing his experiences in a 1972 memoir, he received an official letter informing him that he was banned from visiting Eton.
Onyeama said although the apology now was not necessary, it “compels the recognition that prejudice on the grounds of colour or race dehumanises its victims in a way that ordinary forms of prejudice do not.”
He added that his overall experience at Eton was “positive.”
Henderson said he was “appalled” to learn of the racist abuse Onyeama faced, and his “absolute priority” was to make Eton an “inclusive, compassionate and supportive community for all.”
“Racism has no place in civilised society, then or now,” he added. — AFP