At the wake of blacks all over the world standing up to condemn racism, the Eton college, one of the most prestigious schools in the UK, has come out to tender apologies to the first black person to complete his studies at the school.
Dilibe Onyeama, the Nigerian writer, who obtained his school leaving certificate in Eton college in 1969, wrote a book, after he has completed his studies and left the school, about the racism he experienced at the school as a black person. He was subsequently banned by the school from visiting as a retaliation to the book.
“We have made significant strides since” Mr. Simon Henderson, the headmaster of the college, said. He also told the BBC that he was “appalled” by the degree of racism meted out to the first black student of the school while he also admitted that they still have “more to do”.
The college is well known to have produced some of the highest ranking members of British society, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is the 20th British prime minister to have attended the school, as did Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and both the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex.
At the interview on the BBC, Mr. Henderson said “We have made significant strides since Onyeama was at Eton but – as millions of people around the world rightly raise their voices in protest against racial discrimination and inequality – we have to have the institutional and personal humility to acknowledge that we still have more to do,”
He said there is a plan on ground to invite Mr. Onyeama to meet him in order to apologize in person on behalf of the school and also “to make it clear that he will always be welcomed at Eton”.
“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,” he added.
However, Mr. Onyeama speaking to the BBC said that the apology was not necessary and will not change his view of the school which was positive on the whole. He added that the apology “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 previously has recounted to the BBC how he was taunted on a daily basis by fellow students of the school.
“Why are you black?”, “How many maggots are there in your hair?” and “Does your mother wear a bone in her nose?” was some of the many haunting questions he faced daily and added that the most humiliation he faced was being accused of cheating when he got seven O’level passed that got the entire school confounded.
“‘Tell me Onyeama, how did you do it?’ I am asked time and time again,” he wrote in his book. “‘You cheated, didn’t you?'”
He detailed all these experiences in a mémoire after leaving the school which didn’t go down well with the authorities then and subsequently got an official letter in 1972 informing him that he was banned from visiting Eton.