If universities are to combat racial inequality in Britain, they should be talking more to the people at the sharp end

I was well into my thirties before I realised that The Sneetches, Dr Seuss’s fantastical story of bird-like creatures whose star-bellied variants looked down on the plain-bellied sort, was about racism. I’d known the book all my life – my mother read it to me when I was little. But it was only when started reading The Sneetches to my own children that the penny finally dropped.

When it did, I couldn’t figure out why I’d been so dim. After all I’d grown up amid the tense sectarianism of Northern Ireland; and I’d seen plenty of the world, encountering different cultures, histories and ethnicities while working in Europe, America and Asia to forge a career in science. By the time I settled in multicultural London with my young family, I thought I had a good working knowledge of our diverse, fractured societies.

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