Writing about a subject as serious as racism is by no means an easy task– but I am in a state of acute outrage, tinged with genuine incredulity. The reason: information from part of the letting agency formerly known as YRLA shows that they take into consideration landlord objections to certain ethnic groups living in their properties. The fact that this kind of intolerance even exists is appalling.
Imagine a hypothetical landlord scrolling down a list of prospective tenants, and when they reach your name, stopping and crossing out your entire application. Their claim for this dismissal (although whether they would tell you their reasoning to your face is highly debatable) would be that you are an “unsuitable” tenant because of your racial origins. This is roughly what the list to which I refer is doing, but on a broader scale.
Something immediately offending in the story is that the University has known about the list since last term, but has simply failed to do anything about it. It raises the question of whether the University truly has the welfare of its students at heart, and where their power as a governing body lies. As the University lets out the property space themselves, they are the ones in a position to take action. Subsequent passivity despite reportedly having been informed over a month ago is, therefore, rather unsettling. By taking no action, the promotion of prejudice is permitted.
If this were a question simply about legalities in the case of international students, by law they must have a guarantor from the United Kingdom vouch for them in order to live in student housing. As such, after obtaining that trust, there is no fair explanation to exclude. Even given the grounds of freedom of opinion, international students whom this list discriminates against have just as much of a legal right to live in those properties as any student. They are, after all, just that: students attending the University of York. But this is where the implications of the list increase: it racially discriminates against home students as well.
It seems to me that this incident proves any claim of living in a wholly multi-cultural society where prejudice is deemed utterly unacceptable to be false. The University’s inactivity towards the actions of this agency betray a lack of acknowledgement towards the reality of the need for equality of opportunity.
The management of the agency in question appears to be trying to alleviate any implications, claiming that they may rightfully take a landlord’s personal preferences into consideration. Yet somewhere there materially exists a list on which these discriminatory ideas have actually been written, allowing racism to persist. What sort of relationship can be built when a pre-judgement of an individual is made and where personal character is not even taken into account?
It is a miserable thought that despite the labours of many against racial discrimination, ethnic equality is clearly still being questioned. Whether it is aimed at certain groups here at York as a whole, our Union, or specific individuals is immaterial, it still exists.
It remains to be seen what the University can do about the list, or if they can, whether they actually will. That blatant racism is occurring in such direct relation to our student population is worrying. Racism evidently pervades society today- it is a shame our young generation will have to learn the ways in which prejudice can significantly affect situations from real experiences, even as far as choosing student housing. It is up to us how much we tolerate – and hopefully the University will set a better example in the future by treating issues so fundamental to the integrity of our culture with the sensitivity they deserve.