Last Updated on April 24, 2020
A women’s studies educator for Oxford University penned an opinion piece for The Huffington Post, explaining how she wants her university to lose the Covid-19 vaccine race, simply because those leading the research are too white and male, as opposed to more progressive research groups.
If a United Kingdom based university were to win the vital race to find a cure for the deadly coronavirus – which has already claimed more than 180,000 lives around the world – it may help perpetuate the function of “British excellence.”
In the opinion piece for The Huffington Post titled, “I Teach At Oxford, But I Don’t Want It To Win The Coronavirus Vaccine Race,” the author begins by writing:
In need of a question for your next Zoom pub quiz? Here’s one: “We’re getting used to seeing either Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock, Robert Jenrick, Rishi Sunak or Michael Gove wheeled out on to our screens at 5pm. But why is Jenrick the odd one out?”
The answer: he’s the only one that didn’t go to Oxford. (He went to Cambridge.)
Oxford, that symbol of British excellence. Producing the finest minds in the world and, if this week’s news is anything to go by, leading the race to develop a vaccine against Coronavirus.
The author then tackles a potential issue arising: wealthier countries hoarding supplies. If Britain were to come up with the vaccine, the could pose themselves as world saviors–which would, of course, be a bad thing.
Next, the author explores the lack of diversity in the leadership of the research.
We’ll forget the lessons that the pandemic has taught us so far: that the UK and the US are in fact not exceptions at the global stage. That we are not only vulnerable but can also afford to learn lessons from countries, regardless of whether we have a special relationship with them – such as South Korea. That being white, male and Oxford-educated may not be the only criteria for effective leadership (the countries whose responses have been most widely praised, Germany and New Zealand among others, are all led by women).
And finally, a potential cure arising in Britain would allow for patriotism or jingoism to creep back into the UK–Downing Street could posture as savior of the world once again.
But do our Oxford-educated leaders think like this? Coronavirus is a global epidemic. Yet, rather than motivating the UK to take a proud role at the global stage, as leaders like Macron have urged, the UK is increasingly resorting to patriotism in response.
This war-time rhetoric is useful in instilling a sense that this is a moment when individuals need to make sacrifices and put the country first. But this time, the enemy is not a nation. It is a microbe. So why do our collective solidarities end at the border?
The race is on and researchers at Oxford are doing vital, life-saving work. But races have winners and losers. If my university is the first to develop the vaccine, I’m worried that it will be used as it has been in the past, to fulfil its political, patriotic function as proof of British excellence.
In conclusion, the author favors a more globally cooperative approach in dealing with the global pandemic.
As international supply chains have been hit by the recent lockdowns, more economically nationalistic rhetoric has entered public consciousness with Japan earmarking over $2 billion to help manufacturing companies located in China to move back home.