Featured

Dying to Live: Patel and Posse Policies

Flashing images of protesters, police, far-right supporting the police, fire burning and mentions of Jacob Blake returned a short focus on Black Death and Black Pain all whilst the debate about the relevance of the words in rule Britannia are in contemporary times was going on. A couple of weeks ago, a few of us had started to wonder if the furore, outrage and pledges following the murder of George Floyd had been forgotten. Had we moved on? And now after yet another incident of a Black man at the hands of the police, the first think that came to mind was.. really? Where were the officers when the whole world erupted because of police racism and brutality? 

Looking at racial injustice closer to home and I find myself swinging between outrage and apathy, between demanding change and being overwhelmed by the amount of injustice everywhere. Like the recent reported deaths of 5 people seeking sanctuary. I say ‘reported’ deaths as I imagine there are others who do not make the headlines or to the media. Others are dying as you read this article. Four were in the UK  going through the asylum system and  Abdulfatah Hamdallah drowned before he arrived. The horrific image of  Mercy Baguma being found dead with a toddler beside her lingers and I wonder what this child would think or ask of this government when he grows up and learns his mother died because of a piece of paper. 

This paper for most of individuals risking their lives crossing the English Channel, the meditarenean, climbing over fences, freezing at the back of lorries, surviving in camps, this piece of paper means life or death. And the majority of people who take on the treachaorous journeys are fleeing situations which are most likely instigated by colonialism meaning Britain had a hand in those conditions. Some are probably tired of hearing but it is iperative to keep foregrounding colonialism and coloniality because the past is really not the past and if anything there is a debt that is owed to the maangamizi and the like. They are running to the UK to survive and somehow dying to live. 

So whilst we point to the US and the visible racist institutions like the police (yet again), as calls and echoes to defund the police grow louder, we need to be looking at ourselves and at the invisible institutionally racist policies that come in the form of a paper. Policies and laws that dictate that one life is worthy and another unworthy, that one is believed and another is not believed and therefore results to preventable and unnecessary loss of fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, sisters and mothers like Belly Mujinga, Abdullah Ahmad Abdullah Alhabib and others.

We should go further and question the rest of the institutions that stand by and do nothing to fight for those whose statuses are not legalised. Who have been criminalised because of socioeconomic factors, birthright lottery and ethnicity. There are a lot of questions like; Where are the children charities, feminists, mental health organisations, education institutions, local councils and authorities? ..some of whom have immersed themselves in ‘race and anti-racism trainings’. Where are those who stand or swear by the equality act but step back from those with no recourse to funding which equals to being bystanders and complacency. Does all humanity have to be monetised? Are we humans before we are citizens? Where is the collective pressure on lawmakers? Why are they not supporting or reinforcing work that is challenging Patel and posse policies? Why are individuals who have defied odds and arrived in this country dying to live? 

Bob Marley asks, ‘how long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?’ Listening to Jacob Blake’s sister Letetra Widman poignant words ‘ I am not sad, I am angry, I do not want pity, I want change’ should be a rallying call to everyone out there. Because if you are not with us, you are for them. Time and time again we as Black activists, organisers involved in movements have said everyone should be actively doing something, racism is not a Black problem and pathologising whiteness would go along in overstanding that white supremacy has a lot to answer for. Those benefiting from the system should be doing more, much more because your silence is compliance, choose courage over comfort and this includes dismantling structures that continue to dehumanise and kill like the migration policies.

Article by Peninah Wangari-Jones

Featured

The Innocence of white women

Following the current situation involving Amy Cooper, it felt appropriate to repost this article published here two years ago… Anaïs Duong-Pedica reflects on white fragility, white women’s tears, and the innocence of white women.

Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Rose McGowan, Mary Beard… What do these women have in common apart from their popularity, especially within western feminist circles? They are white women who take advantage of their whiteness and who centre it in their feminism. Taylor Swift’s career capitalises on “playing the victim”, a status she can only claim because she is a white woman.  Lena Dunham has been in the middle of several controversies with regards to her questionable racial and feminist politics. Most recently, actor Zinzi Clemmons branded her a “hipster-racist”. Rose McGowan’s activism around sexual violence has been challenged by women of colour, especially Black women, who have demonstrated the ways in which McGowan’s feminism only supports white women.

Similarly, Mary Beard’s recent tweets have prompted many to pay attention to the continuing existence of racist and colonial ideologies among British leftist intellectuals. Her tweets sparked responses for two reasons: First, the wilful ignorance behind her tweets on the cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by Oxfam staff in Haiti and second, Mary Beard’s reactions to being challenged online. She first tweeted that she was crying, and then shared a selfie showing her crying and visibly upset. While this seems to have appeared childish to some, this type of reaction will not be unfamiliar to people of colour. In fact, while we have seen a few takes on white feminism emerge out of this, many people, especially women of colour, have written about this in the past.  

Crying, being visibly upset or stating that one is upset is a strategy used by white women when they feel at threat of being perceived as racist or accused of racism. These strategies can be called “moves to innocence”. They are emotional responses which are in part related to white fragility or the fact that white people’s ability to endure racial tensions is very low. Not having to think about race or to think of themselves as racialized render white people “fragile” to these conversations, as opposed to people of colour who grow up and live seeing themselves through the eyes of white people. 

These demonstrations of emotions are also due to the fact that some white people know or, at least, have an idea that they benefit from white supremacy and racism while at the same time understanding that it is unfair. White people, including white women, are invested in avoiding being seen as racist because of these conscious or unconscious understandings of racism as being unfair.

However, because white people are socialised and live in white supremacist societies, they are more invested in upholding white supremacy (which will ensure that their privileges are safe) than they are challenging it. This is why rather than prioritizing continued engagement, constructive exchange, reflection, and learning from their mistakes when they are challenged on their complicity in racism, too many white people prioritise deflection and avoidance.

 White women’s tears act as a shield against accusation of white privilege.   The white woman’s tears work both for the white woman and against the person who is making her uncomfortable (usually a person of colour). In this way, their function is twofold. First, they re-centre the white woman through her emotions and create feelings of empathy and compassion for the white woman. Consequently, race and racism are no longer the focuses, the white woman’s emotions are. After Mary Beard made her emotions visible, many replies showed support to her and called for those who engaged with her to be more compassionate.

Similar responses were triggered at Rose McGowan’s reading at Barnes & Nobles after having been challenged by Andi Dier, a white trans woman and activist, on her antagonism with regards to trans women. Rose McGowan became angry, stood up, raised her voice, then cried while Dier was removed by security. The audience tried to soothe McGowan by telling her she was “amazing” despite her clear abuse of power. In a similar fashion, many white women were quick to remind everyone of the importance of Mary Beard’s work, achievements and of her right to be human and imperfect despite her show of racism, therefore prioritizing her protection over a constructive dialogue around racism.  

The second function of the white woman’s tears is to shift the roles. If the white woman feels accused of racism, her tears turn the aggression towards the accuser. The one who is seen to have caused the white woman’s tears is now an “abuser”, a “troll”, a “bully”, a “harasser”. David Olusoga, a historian and friend of Beard’s, used the term “lynch mob” with regards to those who addressed Mary Beard’s racism. In these instances, the white woman and her feelings are centered and any attempt to remove her from the centre will be met with resistance by her and those invested in maintaining her (white) power. Moreover, because white women’s display of emotions is a strategy that deflects one’s attention from the issue at hand and re-centres the white woman as a victim, the creation of the victim, through tears, also creates, by association, a perpetrator/offender. If the individual who makes the white woman uncomfortable happens to be a woman of colour, and especially a Black woman, the binary victim/abuser will be reinforced. The white woman’s tears act as a way to differentiate her from the Black woman. The tears exacerbate the social differences between them. The white woman is innocent and upset, the Black woman is aggressive and angry. Even if the Black woman who challenges the white woman cries, her tears will not be valued as much as the white woman’s. Individuals are not equally assumed to be or seen as innocent.

Likewise, the display of emotions in order to appear innocent isn’t accessible to all equally. Maybe we can speak of a racial hierarchy of emotions that determines who can display emotions within particular social interactions and how productive or counterproductive these emotions will be. In this context, we need to question whose emotions matter and whose emotions are so valuable that they can be weaponized. In this sense, white women’s moves to innocence and fragility, more generally, are ways in which the status-quo is upheld. They are deployed to silence those who speak against racism (usually people who are not racialized as white) and to safeguard the privileges and comfort of white people, including white women. Many white people believe that western societies are post-racial in that all individuals seem to have the same rights and access to the same opportunities.

To believe that racism only manifests through extremely violent policies such as racial segregation, normalization of physical harm against racialized bodies or racist name-calling is naïve. Racism and whiteness are continuously changing. They adapt to their socio-political environments. If a racist practice becomes unacceptable (Racial segregation for example), acceptable racist practices will continue to exist and new racist practices will appear. In fact, in postcolonial western and predominantly-white societies, racism and white supremacy become less and less visible because anti-racist social movements have made many people conscious of the fact that they were unacceptable. Therefore, not seeing racism and white supremacy does not mean that they are not there. They may have taken more subtle forms, like white innocence and fragility.   At this point, it should be said that I am not problematizing the fact that white women have feelings. Being upset, sad, frustrated, angry are normal and expected in these situations. Social change is an emotional business. Rather, what I am problematizing is what is done with these emotions. If one has been socialised as white and as a woman, these strategies will come naturally. White women just do it, without necessarily thinking about it (although some do think about it).

Therefore, two important take away messages would be that white women realise and honestly acknowledge these behaviours and their consequences for those who are on the receiving end of white women’s innocence. White women have to internally resist what pulls them toward innocence, what tells them to interpellate particular racial narratives about themselves and the individuals who are making them uncomfortable. If the white woman makes herself a victim by the use of emotions, then she is responsible for also making someone an abuser. White women urgently need to engage, reflect on and be accountable for their actions without centering themselves. While many think that emotions are only “natural” and personal, they are also very much social and political and can be dangerous. As Aisha Mirza writes, white women are dangerous “because they’re allowed to be soft – innocent until proven innocent”.

Crying, being visibly upset or stating that one is upset is a strategy used by white women when they feel at threat of being perceived as racist or accused of racism. These strategies can be called “moves to innocence”.

Follow Anaïs on twitter here –  @anaisdpedica  

Featured

Let Go of the Baby

Repost date: 03/11/2020

NOTE: THE RACIAL JUSTICE NETWORK WROTE THIS BLOG 03/03/2019. WE ARE REPOSTING IT IN RESPONSE TO COMIC RELIEF’S DECISION TO NO LONGER SEND CELEBRTITIES TO AFRICA.

As another Comic Relief approaches, now in it’s 33rd year, Black and Brown communities all over the UK brace ourselves for a narrative that presents us, our worlds and ancestries through a white, smug, self obsessed lens. As the Black film world rocks at yet another white saviour film has won an Oscar, sometimes we have to ask ourselves, what’s up with white peoples?

Why is it that stories not centring whiteness will shoe-horn it in at any cost? Why when this is pointed out by Black and Brown peoples isn’t there an “ok, sorry, we messed up”. From Driving Miss Daisy to The Help and Green Book, the white saviour trope holds so much traction that a white personality, holding a Black baby, displayed across the media and social media, under the guise of helping the unfortunate, incapable Black people is still something that becomes heavily debatable. Whiteness doesn’t want to let go of the Black baby. It’s laughable in its irony. It’s depressing in its consistency. We hold our breath, we curse underneath it, we hold back tears and anger, dodge the build up and the evenings worth of shallow programming and are expected to interact in a normal way the next day.

You’ve agreed to “loan us our black art” but not all of it and at the same time insist that we’re again grateful. Black gratitude or a lack of it sits in the middle of the discourse about Comic Relief like badly made jerk. No one listens. And that’s perhaps the most telling thing of all, that our voices continuously get silenced whilst the fund raises money for ‘us’ and at the same time we’re offered training schemes and ‘diversity’ concessions when perhaps listening is the very beginning of all of that. Guilt pays, not reality. And that’s not our fault as communities have been vocal about Comic Relief since its inception. As it pits communities against each other and sets up a charity dynamic that further supports Britishness as benevolent helper, rather than exploiter. That might never change. A snapshot of the issues when you read David Lammy’s Twitter responses is all you need to know about where we’re at… He was respectful of Dooley, he commends her on her good work, he says he is in no way trying to put down Comic Relief’s work, just how the message is delivered. And yet. People claiming that it’s putting them off from giving, “since you don’t want our money, I’m giving elsewhere”, that calling someone white is racist, that without a white saviour, people wouldn’t give because Black pain has to be framed by whiteness? That he’s a bully (a big Black one) attacking a small white girl. And crucially, where would these countries be without white benevolence? But it’s hard to watch a whole country giving itself a pat on the back for ‘helping’ to solve the problems it helped create. If we do not understand Empire and its colonial legacy as real life, then whiteness can continue to pretend it had nothing to do with the problems in the first place.

What every Black and Brown person knows after hours of footage of diseased and plague ridden Afrika is that this view of Afrika directly relates to us in the diaspora. That kids in school the next day will be told how ungrateful they are, workers will have to put up with colleagues that ‘never knew it was so bad’. That white celebrity doesn’t concern itself with racism on a daily but will put up with going over ‘there’ to make a film and then go back to the plush hotel afterwards. And importantly that those over there are those that are seeking asylum. That those seeking asylum are those same ones that are being helped. That those people in the ‘country; Of Africa are a homogenous whole. That Afrika has no cities, no roads, libraries, universities or banks. That Afrika corrupted itself into poverty. None of the programming discusses colonial legacies. That once a colony was granted ‘freedom’ the British left and took out all that it could, extracting wealth and resources as it left and continued to try to influence governments, with brutality if necessary. Remember Mark Thatcher trying to pull off a coup in Equatorial Guinea? That those countries that are war torn are being sold weapons from British manufacturers. Britain continues to make money out of Black and Brown suffering. Since Comic Relief is stuck in a model that it refuses to change, let the films reflect all the histories and let go of the baby.

By Desiree Reynolds @desreereynolds @racejustice

13th Recommendation, Grounding and Provocation

Written by Mama D Ujaje

Mama D Ujaje

Find our 13th Recommendation here

Who are we that we can determine what is and what is not relevant to any discussion which concerns the fate of the Earth? We are the Earth. We are, in each element of our being, a part of the substance, feeling and memory of this planetary being. In recollecting this, we re-member ourselves as response-able for retaining the ebb and flow of planetary dynamics. But we are not alone.

Let us move into becoming more present: Now is a time of acknowledgement. We are surrounded by beings with as much right to planetary balance as we each and collectively have, if not more, because many beings have been here, long before we materialised as humans. Consider our elders: the rocks, the mountains, the soil, the trees, the grass and many species of animal, fungi and unicellular and acellular life. Consider each of these as having even older forms in ancestral states of being, going back into the where and when of time making that makes no sense to us – as humans. Yet…Do we respect our elders?

Now, as you are seated, hearing my voice, feeling the air on your skin, the soles of your shoes beneath your feet, or the carpet or floor surface, aware of the weight you place on your seat. Feel also the cloth touching your birth-skin. Then, remember. All of this is from the Earth. It has been sacrificed in service to you. Without being consulted, in the context of aggressive policy making, in the absence of grounded knowledge of the long term consequences of its extraction, as a response to certain individuals’ quests for personal accumulation and greed – in which we are all complicit by following habits, fashion, mindlessness and various protocols of ‘irrespons-ability’.

That it has come to you as various forms of convenience is also due to the ingenuity, repeated practice, application of intelligence and a lot of unpaid or underpaid physical, mental and emotional labour of those who came before us. Those we call Ancestors. Many of whom remain unnamed, uncited, considered irrelevant or whose memories have been erased. Yet -When did you, when did we last give thanks?

Take this opportunity now to move your breath into a place of gratitude. With each breathe, acknowledge to yourself your relationship to the state of things in which we find ourselves and as you breathe in, be inspired to move towards transformational change. As you breathe out, commit to leaving inaction behind, breathe away the staleness of old habits that do not serve you or us collectively, being assured that what we will be bringing today will support every breath you take to be of profound and meaningful consequence. Ase!

In traditional stories we are often enabled a last chance to succeed. Where the hero or heroine can reach their goal, achieve success, escape death or punishment. In many of these cases, the extra chance is enabled by a 13th spirit, the fairy, angel, sprite, witch, or nature being, one that has the power of undoing the spell or enchantment that has been cast by those who have power over the order of things.This extra embodiment of energy has the capacity to dissipate evil, to undo the terrible spell, to revoke the enchantment that everyone is fixated by. Often it has to be invoked to act against a kind of spell which has everyone apparently in a mode of deep sleep.I think you know what is coming!

The Racial Justice Network makes no claims of being magic or even of possessing extra resources of power and energy to undo what has been already done. What we do have, however, is a conviction that ‘another way is possible.’ Or perhaps that ‘Another way is necessary’!

Arundhati Roy said: ‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’ The inevitability of a solution arriving for a problem or challenge that has been brought into being is something we have demonstrated to us in what we refer to as nature: The dock leaf growing where stinging nettles abound. The appearance of the cleansing herb,  cleavers or goosegrass in spring just when we need to detox after gorging ourselves over the winter holiday. Our exposure to healthy soil rewards us with feel-good hormones when we cultivate it in the least harmful way.

So what this 13th Recommendation brings us is an invitation or a warning, you decide, to become aware of the toxicity of the current status quo and to remind us that many things have to change if we are to transform the system in a way that brings balance, stability and security for all being dependent upon our Earth system. And who isn’t? What it states is this: Colonial legacies and International perspectives on climate must be acknowledged and heard and factored in as a form of internationalism that brings Justice. Climate justice must be understood as being as relevant and critical as social justice. The Interconnectedness of oppressions and struggles must be realised across the diasporas and across the globe. Activist solidarity must play a central role in realising our aims.

What we can take this to mean is that in order for any human strategy to work we must recognise the connectedness of the past, present and future. Not as a linear and indefinite concept but as a cyclical feature of our existence. What this invokes is responsibility and accountability. What has happened in the past is brought into the present by simple (and complex) cause and effect. The person who feels this effect most is the best witness to the case: We must recognise that understanding colonialism to be a systemic injury to the Earth and all of her beings defines the beginning of transformation.

When we talk of the climate, we are also talking of the ways in which, during the current epoch, the so called Anthropocene, the entire environment in which we live exists in the form it does AS A RESULT OF HUMAN IMPACT at some time in the past. The claiming and shaping of Earth to suit the purposes of human greed creates what has been called territory. Territory is simply another word for Land. (Think: ‘Landed gentry’, ‘The aliens have landed’. To Land is to arrive and to claim territory!)

When people in the past colonised the Earth and ravaged her in the many different and terrible ways in which they did, what they were doing was territorialisation: creating territories over which they would have control. They referred to these territories as Land. Having control of territory meant creating a sense of having power. This was a power, however, that created trauma as it disconnected the Earth from the people and the people from the Earth.The Earth operates as a system, a delicately balanced system which responds to any and all changes to any and all parts of it.

The process of creating Land erases the integrity of the Earth which in turns creates Trauma: Trauma for the Earth and all her beings (being disfigured and misunderstood is a very terrible thing). It creates imbalances, now experienced as ‘climate crises’. Trauma for the humans involved in the process: those who were totally erased in acts of genocide and damaged through violent acts of separation from the elements of Mother Earth and Trauma for those who had historically experienced different scales of erasure, exploitation and extraction from their own. This resulted in multiple types of traumatised behaviours that have threatened and are threatening to shape our future responses to healing and resolution of the damage caused. Trauma for those who significantly perpetrated much of this violence and who are reluctant to cede control. They too are fixated by TRAUMA. REMEMBER: ‘SHE WHO FEELS IT KNOWS IT’.

People who have stayed committed to a part of the Earth for a long time, have had greater opportunity to witness what this commitment means, and so their knowledge ought to be respected and enabled to define the processes of seeking healing and resolution. We call these people  indigenous (meaning belonging to the Earth they live with) because in our shame/guilt we have lost the sense of responsibility that would otherwise be in place within us if we recognised that we belong to the Earth and not the other way around. So, what the 13th Recommendation brings to us is a reminder, a possibility to re-member again that what is broken, separated, segregated and infiltrated needs definitive acts of HEALING: of being recognised as a system which is being experienced by multiple beings, over time and space. This system has been and is currently still being deformed by trauma inducing colonisation in its many forms. and what this coming together represents is an opportunity for us to ACT, to Act by Becoming decolonial, to Act by developing decolonial strategies, to ACT by embracing our common humanity through an acknowledgement of past harm so that we can all engage in present healing.

Ase!

Find the reading of Mama D’s ’13th Recommendation, Grounding and Provocation’ below:

13th Recommendation, Grounding and Provocation

Hate Crime and System(ic) Injustice

A REPORT: BY THE RACIAL JUSTICE NETWORK

At the Racial Justice Network we understand the gravity of speaking to injustices faced by Black, Brown and migrant communities within West Yorkshire. 

Hate crime has become a growing public concern in recent times. Since the EU Referendum in 2016 we’ve seen a spike in recorded hate crime incidents. Brexit is just around the corner, and with that change happening conversations will begin to circulate through our everyday environments, environments which are inescapable for members of Black, Brown and migrant communities who are most at risk of experiencing hate crime. On top of this we need to look to the media and the discourse surrounding these conversations which are often spearheaded by agenda and profit. 

Our findings evidence police and justice system failures to adequately support individuals from Black, Brown and migrant communities, and have been known to delay or fail to effectively address complaints and reports of hate crime. 

Our report emerged as a result of individuals seeking out support through RJN as a last resort having experienced hate crime and police inaction themselves. We observed the similarities in their experiences of hate crime and thought it imperative to tell their stories

This report is not only attempting to remind us about this intersection of oppressions but begins to question what actions are being taken by the government, police and wider society to address these vital and important concerns of the intersection of Brexit, Covid-19 pandemic and the hostile environment policy as we move forward.

Content warning: Please be aware, some may find the content of the report distressing as there are real life cases of hate crime documented by participants in the report.

International Solidarity & the #ENDSARS Movement (video)

Project Officer, Sharon Anyiam, explores the #ENDSARS movement in Nigeria. As a Nigerian Diaspora, Sharon delves into what international solidarity looks like to her, and reflects on how the current issues faced by many across Nigeria, could have easily been her reality. 

It is important to address and strengthen our understanding of the global nature of the colonial legacies we seek to challenge, to offer solidarity and support when and where we can, and to share learning and resources within our immediate communities and beyond.  We stand in strength and solidarity.  

Find below our video to find our more about the ENDSARS movement: 

What is #ENDSARS?
Transcript

“Just because I dey abroad, no be say injustice back home no dey concern me!”

Just because I am living abroad, does not mean injustice back home does not concern me

We can be thankful for the incredible mobilising potential of social media whilst simultaneously angered, saddened and left speechless at overwhelming bloodshed of African people. Various hashtags have flooded the internet regarding human rights violations in several African countries.

#EndSARS relating to police brutality in Nigeria has seen protesters take to the streets of Nigeria, and various cities in the UK, demanding the world notice and act on the ongoing violation of human rights in the country.

What is the ENDSARS movement?

SARS is Nigeria’s special anti-robbery squad. The unit was formed in 1984 under military rule and has been rife with corruption in forms of extortion, torture, sexual assault and murder.

The endsars movement, started by protesters in Nigeria and gaining prominence on social media platforms, calls for the end of police brutality, and importantly, better governance of the country. The protest have resulted in casualties with protesters in Nigeria being attacked by armed people and/or police firing tear gas into crowds of protesters.

Unsurprisingly, protestors have been blamed for the increasing violence, but it’s time for the Nigerian government to change this narrative and acknowledge its failure to protect Nigerian people from decades of corrupt governance and police violence. The continued bloodshed has to end! Protesters have a right to be heard without fear of death.

As a Nigerian diaspora, it’s difficult to not imagine how the current issues faced by many in the country, across Africa, could have easily been my reality. This movement, similar to the Black Lives Matter movement, has shown the possibilities of Black solidarity but it has specifically shone the spotlight on the role of the African diaspora in raising awareness of the sociopolitical issues on the African continent. 

We cannot divorce our experiences of racism and oppression from colonialism, no more than can we divorce Africa’s longstanding sociopolitical issues from the remnants of being colonised. Thus, the goal for Black liberation is mutually entangled with the goal for African liberation. As many of us heard and responded to the calls for Black Lives Matter, it’s important we now hear and respond to the call of our African siblings in order for Black lives to matter everywhere.

#CongoIsBleeding relating to the silent holocaust in Congo where millions are losing their lives for Coltan

#ShutItAllDown – relating to protest against sexual and gender based violence in Namibia

#AmINext – relating to high rates and murder of women in South Africa

#AnglophoneCrisis – relating to the humanitarian crisis in Cameroon where anti-francophonisation activists and protesters are been jailed and beaten. 

#RapeNationalEmergency – relating to the increase of rape by 50% during the pandemic against young women and children Liberia 

#ChildTrafficking – relating to an increase in child labour and child trafficking from Burkina Faso and Mali to Ivory Coast and Ghana 

#Arrestcovid19thieves- relating to embezzlement of COVID-19 support funds by elite and senior government officials in Kenya

As the protests continue, we must be mindful to not over share and overconsume some of the violence that we are seeing so we can protect and preserve our energy for the work that needs to be done. 

For the diaspora of African heritage, and all who claim allyship, our role is to: educate ourselves on the various issues on the African continent; use our privileges and resources to amplify the voices and demands of these movements, whilst being mindful that we are not imposing our own solutions; and to engage with and support local and international BIPOC-led organisations doing the work to dismantle legacies of colonialism.

Track and Trace: Police and the Criminalisation of the Marginalised

by Racial Justice Network and Yorkshire Resist

Track and Trace animation source

Police will now be able to access Track and Trace information on people instructed to self-isolate. Those who fail to self-isolate face fines between £1,000 to £10,000. This latest government action will have a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities and those from lower income backgrounds (in particular migrants) who have already been bearing the brunt of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 report released by Public Health England in June demonstrates that those in BAME groups (term used in the report) are more likely to die from the virus. Risk of dying is 4 times higher for Black people specifically, and this percentage is increased for people born outside of England. The report found that people from Central and West Africa are 4.5 times more likely to die of COVID-19 while in the UK. The numbers are equally alarming for people from “the Caribbean (3.5), South East Asia, which includes Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam (3.4), the Middle East (3.2) and South and Eastern Africa, which includes South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya (3.1)”. A joint report by migrant organisations and campaigns found the hostile environment is having a devastating impact on migrants’ access to healthcare during the COVID-19 crisis. The report concluded 57% of respondents were actively avoiding seeking medical advice because of fear of being charged, their data shared with the Home Office and other immigration enforcement issues.

Police access to Track and Trace information is just another way the carceral state has infiltrated the healthcare and immigration systems in this country. Instead of addressing the systemic inequalities fuelled by white supremacy, Black and Brown people, migrants and those from lower income backgrounds are seen as disposable. What of those who simply cannot self-isolate? Why are we criminalising those who feel the necessity of having to go out and work because of the very real fear of becoming destitute? This is worse for migrants who have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) which means they cannot access any government help including universal credit. Nearly 1.4 million cannot access public funds due to their immigration status yet the demand to access government help has doubled since March. The police use of Motorola’s PRONTO software (Police Reporting and Notebook Organiser, PRONTO) which includes the biometric fingerprint app which connects police and immigration databases has been updated with COVID-19 penalty functions. This is the result of the emergency police powers granted by the new Coronavirus Bill on March 26th, 2020. This new development compounds the unequal impact of the pandemic with the discrimination and lack of accountability embedded in policing technologies. Big Brother Watch research examined fines given in England under the Coronavirus Bill and found that Asian people received at least 13% of penalty fines even though they represent 7.8% of the national population and Black people were issued 5% of fines despite being 3.5% of England’s population. How are we to trust the police, who are institutionally racist with our data?

This October we learned of the misplacement of 16,000 COVID test results which resulted in around 50,000 people not told to self-isolate as well as people receiving notifications that contradict official government guidelines. These technological “mishaps” combined with police access to our health information will deter people from downloading the app, entrench further mistrust in the NHS and government. But this is not new. Since the implementation of hostile environment policies several migrant organisations including the Racial Justice Network have demanded a firewall be put in place between the NHS and the Home Office immigration database as the sharing of this information deters people from seeking medical attention. Our #StopTheSCANdal campaign has urged for an immediate desist of police being able to access immigration database as it puts vulnerable and marginalised people at risk of being further criminalised such as the case of migrant women victims of domestic abuse.

In May of this year, we wrote a short intervention after receiving thousands of new followers in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests across the globe following the murder of George Floyd by police officers. We wanted to channel our rage into action making 5 suggestions on where to start. We want to recall two points:

“3. Hold systems to account. Hold cultures to account. Racism isn’t one person. It is historical and systematic. The lack of access to healthcare, housing, education, and employment have been embedded into the fabric of a racialised capitalist society for a long time. Change harmful systems to change society.

5. Solidarity can take many forms. Continuously reflect on your positionality, pledge on what you will do and can do and do not demand answers from an already traumatised community. Hold yourself and your surroundings accountable, learn from it and do better.”

This is the time of solidarity. This is time to turn hashtags into material action. Where is the demand that better working and pay conditions be applied to everyone so they are allowed to self-isolate without the worry of becoming destitute? Where are the screams to scrap NRPF? Where is the collective demand to abolish Hostile Environment policies which are putting migrant lives at risk? At what point are we willing to stop the increased turn of our health system into a criminalised one? Who does community care and solidarity extend to and who does it exclude?

Black Absencing: The Work of UK Academia

By an anonymous Black PhD student

University lecture hall
University lecture hall

In my first year of the PhD, a Black British friend also pursuing her PhD warned me that for a Black person, life in the UK (and UK academic life in particular) is a ‘death by a thousand cuts.’ Over the past few years, these cuts have been painful lessons through which I’ve learned to see the UK academic space as a site that structurally absences Black people, Black scholarship, and Black critique as part of its reproduction of whiteness. While I’m not yet ready to share my name with my story, I still want to share this experience. 

In fact, deep down 
they believe those colonialists were right
. Just perhaps just too violent...

I’m a Black PhD student at a UK university. I earned a scholarship to study in a department that prides itself on being one of the best in its field in the UK. This is a department with more than fifty PhD students, yet I have more fingers on one hand than there are Black PhD students. Not only are we few, each one of us is an international student. I would look around: We, the only Black students being trained, here, in this moment, in this department, and we are all international students likely to return to our home countries upon completion. It was within my first month here that I began to wonder: Where were the Black and Brown “home” students, those who would most logically make up the next generation of educators in this discipline in the UK?

In fact, deep down
they believe those colonialists were righ
t. Just perhaps just too violent.

You see it in the absence of Black and Brown British people they create in their academic spaces...

It was in my first year that I began working as a teaching assistant. Among the first, second, and third-year students I taught, I finally saw a marginally larger number of Black and Brown faces. After my first lecture, a few final-year students came up to me to tell me that I was the first lecturer they’d had who was not white. Their first. It made me angry, it also made me sad. When I brought this experience and my concerns to a departmental student-staff meeting, a white male lecturer spoke over me. I remember looking him in his eyes through his thick glasses. His face was pink. He said he himself had come from a working-class background, that he too was marginalised. I agreed he had his own experiences of marginalisation. But then he continued:

If I could work hard enough to get to where I was, so too could Black students,
he said.
Besides, certainly our department – one of the best in the UK – couldn’t lower its standards just to admit more Black and Brown students?
he asked 

I was stunned at his inability to see our different positions. That it wasn’t about an “attainment gap.” It was about an educational institution that very deliberately structures these absences. Only a Brown lecturer (who would very soon leave the department) acknowledged my sentiments. I looked around that room; more than a dozen other faces around the table, all of them white, and all of those white faces were silent. They avoided eye contact with me. They seemed uncomfortable and eager to move to the next agenda item. This was my first painful lesson about whiteness in UK academia: apathy, denial, dismissal.

In fact, deep down they believe those colonialists were right.
Just perhaps just too violent.


You see it in the absence of Black and Brown British people they create in their academic spaces.

You see it in their silences…

I’m tired of the whiteness of the academic curriculum. I’m tired of the academic curriculum and its production of whiteness. Sitting in these lectures, discussing which white man said this, which white woman said that. At best, a passing reference to Audre Lorde and the ‘master’s tools.’ The irony: They are the master, these are their tools! Do they really not realise that they are the master and these are their tools?

I have noticed the amazing ability of white academics to build their credentials and careers off of their Black and Brown PhD students, Black and Brown research assistants, Black and Brown geographies. Discussing their own ideas of you between themselves, comparing their interpretations of you has become their critical theory. 

In fact, deep down they believe those colonialists were right. Just perhaps just too violent.

You see it in the absence of Black and Brown British people they create in their academic spaces.

You see it in their silences.

You see it in their module reading lists and citation practices…

Amidst everything happening since I started my programme, decolonial thought became a space of criticism, a sanctuary, a way of understanding and thinking out of everything happening around me and happening to me. Incorporating it into my research meant articulating my justifications and plans to my supervisors, which I did through lengthy written pieces like literature review, conceptual framework, and methodology. My primary supervisor, a white woman, provided limited comments. I knew she was busy, overloaded with departmental work and teaching. I also assumed that moving away from her research interest might have informed her lighter engagement. Then she volunteered to organise a session on this topic within our critical theory group. I was surprised but hopeful; I asked to work with her, and I ended up doing the labour of providing the text for our group to read and think over, structuring the session, and facilitating the conversation. 

Two months later, I learned from a classmate, another white woman, that my supervisor had selected this same theme as topic for the next issue of a departmental journal that she would be editing, and that this classmate would be the assistant copyeditor. All I could think about was that these two white women would be editing a journal issue on a topic that I’d devoted intellectual and emotional labour toward, challenging structures in my department (and facing opposition), and organising spaces in which to instigate critical discussions. The cut-cut-cut-cut-cut of white UK academia was wearing me out and wearing me down. When I approached my supervisor, I was emotional

‘I’m very sorry,’
I had it at the back of my mind to mention it to you,’
‘Of course I’d love for you to contribute something, you are such an important voice on this in our department,’
she’d said
‘I’ve learned so much from you,’
she’d said. 

Another painful cut: When they take your labour, your ideas, and transmute it into their own achievements. This special issue will further their names, their reputations, and their careers in UK academia (and likely even more widely). But of course this supervisor would like me to contribute. I’ve been such a valuable voice on this issue in our department. She’s learned so much from me. Without me, would this have even been possible? And let’s not forget that she actually needs Black (and Brown) people’s contributions to legitimise this issue as ‘decolonial.’

In fact, deep down they believe those colonialists were right. Just perhaps just too violent.

You see it in the absence of Black and Brown British people they create in their academic spaces.

You see it in their silences.

You see it in their module reading lists and citation practices.

You see it in their academic politics…

This is Black absencing at work. This institutionalised antiblackness is part of the long afterlife of slavery and colonialism in which we live. I now see the UK academic system as an intellectual industry that funds itself through Black and Brown international students’ fees while framing white research into our communities as ‘global challenges’; as a system in which white academics co-opt our labour and knowledge for their own aggrandisement while invisibilising our critiques, in order to perpetuate white scholarship and theorising. One obvious example is white scholars’ co-option of the framework of intersectionality without citing Black feminist scholars. 

So, what next? One form of self-care I can do — that I am doing — is to withdraw myself from their spaces, to literally absent myself. From that department, from that journal issue, from the ‘critical’ spaces they create. To, at least for now, shift from fighting to recuperating and rebuilding. Which means now, more than ever before, relying on my relationships and kinship with Black scholars, especially Black women scholars, who have experienced and are experiencing the same cuts that I am experiencing, so that we build our own spaces, our home places, in order to heal together. I want to surround myself in the beautiful possibilities that emerge when we come together as Black scholars to not only reflect on and critique the UK academic system, but also find ways to think and exist beyond it. In the words bell hooks (1990: p. 384):

‘Despite the brutal reality of racial apartheid, of domination, one’s homeplace was the one site where one could freely confront the issue of humanization, where one could resist…where all black people could strive to be subjects, not objects, where we could be affirmed in our minds and hearts…where we could restore to ourselves the dignity denied us on the outside in the public world. This task of making homeplace…was about the construction of a safe place where black people could affirm one another and by so doing heal many of the wounds inflected by racist domination. We could not learn to love or respect ourselves in the culture of white supremacy, on the outside; it was there on the inside, in that ‘homeplace,’ most often created and kept by black women, that we had the opportunity to grow and develop, to nurture our spirits.’

References

Eddo-Lodge, Reni (2017). Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. 

Hartman, Saidiya (2007). Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

hooks, bell (1990). ‘Homeplace (a site of resistance).’ In Yearning: Race, gender, and cultural politics. Boston, MA: South End Press.

Sharpe, Christina (2016). In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham: Duke University Press

By an anonymous Black PhD student

13th Recommendation, Grounding and Provocation

Who are we that we can determine what is and what is not relevant to any discussion which concerns the fate of the Earth? We are the Earth. We are, in each element of our being, a part of the substance, feeling and memory of this planetary being. In recollecting this, we re-member ourselves as response-able for retaining the ebb and flow of planetary dynamics. But we are not alone.

The Thirteenth Recommendation – adding Internationalism to the Climate Agenda (for Leeds and Beyond)

Back in July 2019 RJN were asked to become a part of the Leeds Climate Change Citizen’s Jury oversight panel. In our limited capacity, we were able to contribute some thinking to the recruitment process and methodology as well as providing testimony as commentators to the jury. At every stage of our engagement we were keen to emphasise the need for an international framing and to ensure that colonial legacies, climate debt, and the various struggles/ solutions already in existence from the Global South were considered.

RJN was allocated 15 minutes in one of the 9 sessions (30 hours in total) to deliver our testimony, and 15 minutes to field any questions (this shared presentation from RJN director Peninah Wangari-Jones and trustee Sai Murray, together with filmed interview questions posed outside the session, can be seen here).

Aware of the voluminous critiques on the whiteness of the UK climate movement and the sidelining of global majority voices we hoped our testimony would be afforded status as a vital underpinning to any recommended action for the city. However, on attending the November 2019 launch event to announce the 12 recommendations, no international framing was included.

Our existing work of engaging with global majority activists continued.

January 2020 saw RJN travel to Kenya to learn, skill-share, strategise and decolonise; and in March 2020 we held the next in our series of Collective Conversations on Race and Climate Justice: Our interconnected struggles. Out of these experiences and the enthusiasm shown by participants who would go on to form a dedicated Race & Climate Justice collective, the Thirteenth Recommendation was birthed.

We continue to do this work and to connect with individuals, communities and organisations locally and globally who have this consciousness embedded, and who demonstrate a desire to build in solidarity and work together for true planet repairs.

The 13th Recommendation is conceived therefore as a statement rather than an amendment or addenda. A foundation statement to underpin all other 12 recommendations and without which they are redundant.

THE THIRTEENTH RECOMMENDATION   

[working draft Sept 2020]

Act local, think global. 

There can be no climate justice without addressing the international impact of actions on a local level. 

Leeds is not an island – any and all recommendations on action moving forwards must take account of and engage with: 

  • Colonial legacies and the climate debt owed to the majority world from exploiting countries (such as the UK)
  • International perspectives on climate justice and the many solutions already being modelled by frontline activists and communities in the majority world.
  • Climate action as climate justice as social justice – the interconnectedness of oppressions and struggles, specifically: race, gender, class, migration, geography.
  • Solidarity to indigenous, Black, and brown communities whose livelihood, land and lives are disproportionately threatened by the destructive neocolonial practices of extractive industry and multinational corporations.
  • Solidarity to all those facing the brutality of fortress Europe, the Hostile Environment, and the institutionally racist security, prison and policing infrastructure. 

**************

A note on the significance of the number 13.

Capitalism is not in sync with nature. 

The present day Empire recognises and tries to contain the power of 13 (note the significance of symbology on the American dollar – 13 stars, 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 leaves & berries on the olive branch, 13 arrows…); the 13 original US colonies; the 13th amendment to the US constitution…

The partitioning of time under the Gregorian calendar into 12 hour days and 12 oddly numbered months is a patriarchal ordering at odds with the rhythms of mother nature.

There are 13 major joints in the body.

The moon orbits the earth 13 times a year.

The 13 month, 28-day calendar is, and has been, used by many ancient and indigenous cultures throughout history.

The 13 month moon cycle corresponds with the menstrual cycle.

The number thirteen holds power.

The Thirteenth Recommendation will be launched next month on the 13th October 2020.

Sign up to The 13th Recommendation: Climate Justice, Internationalism  and Coloniality event, by clicking on the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-13th-recommendation-climate-justice-internationalism-and-coloniality-tickets-122031979937

Meet Sankofa Afrika- a study group empowering community through education

“We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.” – futurist Buckminster Fuller

The name Sankofa means; we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone or been stripped of can be reclaimed, revived, preserved and perpetuated. This is exactly the aim of the group. We know that the history presented in our schools has been systematically altered to conceal not only the atrocities committed by the empire but the power and beauty of the civilisations it attempted to suppress. 

Reflecting on the continent’s history without the lens of imperialism. Create a counter narrative to the images of famine and wars that have persisted to aggrandize European charitable aid, glossing over the colonial legacies and neocolonial corruption. The history of the continent is that of ancient civilisations and dynasties, rebellion and fortitude. It is the story of all humans, life originated in Africa. This information encourages both individual and wider societal change. 

Education has transformative power, breaking down the barriers built by misconceptions and stereotypes that separate people in our society across the world. For people of Afrikan descent this knowledge instils pride, deeper awareness and empowerment. For people of European, or non-African heritage, it broadens perspective and encourages an appreciation of the contributions and achievements of the Afrikan diaspora and Black people throughout history. 

Sankofa Afrika is an educational community seeking to empower the Afrikan diaspora by redistributing knowledge of their African heritage. Classes are delivered by respected community educators Kwame Gad and Malcolm Phillip, who credit this learning as having given them clarity and a sense of self and purpose. Kwame and Malcolm have steadily been agents for healing, learning, repair and social change. Both Kwame and Malcolm were taught for over four years by internationally renowned historian, teacher and author Robin Walker and have since taught this history for over five years with his support and acknowledgement. They have extensive formal and informal teaching experiences along with first-hand experience living and travelling around the continent. Using these tools, skills and understandings Kwame and Malcolm seek to create broad empowering change. 

MISSION STATEMENT: To empower the global community through  knowledge of their African heritage and to make that information relevant and accessible to a 21st century audience.

Last year, sessions were held face to face in Leeds, to adapt to current guidelines these upcoming sessions will take place through virtual classrooms. In this way the intention is to make this information with its tools, concepts and ideas, accessible to all and make a positive change to our knowledge of Afrikan history. See Sankofa Afrikan history promotion video here

Tasters sessions will take place Tuesday 15th September at 6-7.30pm and Saturday 19th September at 10.30-12pm. Tickets are free, but we ask that if you are able you would make a donation click here, sign-up via Eventbrite HERE 

Email: SankofaAfrikanStudyGroup@gmail.com

Twitter: @SankofaAfrikaEd 

Instagram: @SankofaAfrikaEd 

If you would like to sign up to Sankofa Afrikan Study Group newsletter for updates, articles and resources, please follow this link: https://sankofaafrikanstudygroup.substack.com/welcome 

Written by The Sankofa Afrikan Study Group collective

Corbyn Is Right – British History Lessons Need An Overhaul

People from the Caribbean arriving at Tilbury, Essex, to start new lives in Britain, 1948. Immigration policies involving the Windrush generation are included in the proposed black curriculum. Photograph: Contraband Collection/Alamy Stock

LABOUR LEADER Jeremy Corbyn has argued that British history lessons need to be rewritten to recognise the devastating impact the Empire has had on its former colonies and across the world. This call places him in direct opposition to the Conservative position that has shaped the current curriculum over the past few years.

Under education secretary Michael Gove, the curriculum – already unable to meet the needs of Britain’s diverse population – grew increasingly white-centred, narrow, and nationalistic. These changes were heavily criticised by activists, historians and teachers themselves. Although not the first to acknowledge bias in the curriculum, a 1985 report by Lord Swann highlighted the need to move away from an ethno-centric curriculum in order to provide students with an education relevant to a multicultural society. Unfortunately, right-wing politicians have remained committed to an education that distorts reality. With racial minorities accounting for an ever-increasing proportion of state school populations, the regressive changes imposed by Gove move further away from the recommendations of Swann and do little to meet the government’s aim of providing a ‘first class education for all’. In interviews I carried out with black mixed race males, I found high levels of dissatisfaction with the current curriculum and, like Corbyn, students feel there is a great need for change. Students feel the current curriculum is heavily biased, and this was evident in the conversations I had with interviewees. One, called Max, said: “Everything is white contribution. Even to the point where in RE, even Jesus is white. I didn’t like it how everything was white contribution, nothing of other countries. Not even just black people, nothing of what other countries have done.” His experiences are not uncommon and the awareness that the school was providing him with a whitewashed curriculum led Max, like others, to become disillusioned. The curriculum taught in schools clearly does not match with the knowledge that students gain from outside of school. This was conveyed by another student I spoke to, who argued: “Black people did have civilizations, great civilizations, they still do today but the way that we are told in school, and the way that things are put in school, is that they were all like running around in their jungle.” This dissatisfaction leads many to seek education outside of school through conversations with families, attending supplementary schools, and finding their own reading materials. Unfortunately, this often set students at odds with the school. Teachers and academic researchers have found that students work better when the subject is something that they can relate to.

The current curriculum fails to do this and the absence of racial minorities in the curriculum raises concerns about the absence of role models for future black and mixed race students. Whilst many spoke about the need to introduce more black history into the curriculum, others recognised a specific need to highlight the presence of mixed race figures. People like Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Barack Obama, and Mary Seacole all provide opportunities to discuss the presence of mixed race figures and to consider the close links between black and mixed race experiences. As one interviewee described: “It’s like you’re teaching us about stuff that a lot of us don’t care about; about the Tudors, and royalty, and all of these famous bloodlines…Henry and his wives; I don’t give a damn.” The curricular emphasis on remembering names and dates leaves little room for exploring the social and political context of historical events and misses a useful opportunity for students to discuss how race, class, gender, sexuality and disability impact upon lived experiences. The absence of frank and open discussions of how race and racism impacts life was a key criticism raised by those I spoke to. As one individual put it, schools need to create a space for “real talk” about race. To ignore the topic, can leave individuals ill-equipped to deal with the realities of daily life in a world where race remains important.

According to the Department for Education, preparing students for experiences in later life is a key aim of schooling. In contemporary society, this must include racism in its various forms, from the individual to the institutional. Those individuals who were made aware of racism at an early age felt that they were better able to understand, and therefore overcome, challenges they faced in school and in wider society. A more diverse curriculum would not just benefit racial minority students, but would also benefit white students and lead to greater integration. However, at present, the curriculum promotes a message of white superiority that devalues the important contributions of racial minorities, while breeding racial ignorance and intolerance.

My research suggests there is a very real desire to understand the way that contemporary society is shaped by events of the past. In a world where the economic inequalities of today are still largely shaped by the legacies of slavery and colonialism, this is not possible until the school curriculum begins to reflect the realities of race and racism. For decades, schools have failed their diverse populations. Until the curriculum is overhauled, a more diverse and culturally competent teaching force is employed, and schools introduce clear and robust anti-racist policies, it seems unlikely schools will meet the needs of their students. Remi Joseph-Salisbury is a PhD candidate at the University of Leeds with broad interests in race and racism, particularly in the UK and US ___ This piece originally appeared on the Voice, and was written by RJN’s trustee Remi Joseph Salisbury

Labour leader has called for the national curriculum to reflect the true impact of colonialism

Reducing ‘Drop-Out’ Rates for Black Students Means Institutional Transformation, Not Individual Support

Image: George Edwards, via Warwick Globalist

Earlier this year the government urged universities to reduce the ‘drop-out’ rates of Black students. With Black students 50% more likely to drop out than their peers, the universities minister Jo Johnson argued that “there needs to be much greater support” for ‘BME’ students. Yet this seems little more than rhetoric, and reflects only a superficial interest in racial equality.

The idea of ‘support’ presupposes that drop-out rates are a consequence of the failures of individual Black students. This is a misunderstanding. Rather than ‘supporting’ individual Black students, the government should turn its attention to the institutional transformation of universities. Low retention is not the problem in and of itself. Rather, low retention rates are indicative of systemic problems. Universities are predicated on the transmission and perpetuation of white supremacy. Therefore the struggle is imagining an education that is liberatory, emancipatory, and able to bring about social progress that benefits us all.

In recent years, as more students of colour have reached university, there has been an increase in student-led campaigns, from the I too am… initiative to Why is my curriculum white?, Why isn’t my professor Black?, Rhodes Must Fall, movements to decolonise the university, the emergence of a Black Studies Association, and the introduction of a Black Studies degree at Birmingham City University. Bolstered by international movements, there is a palpable wave of dissatisfaction across the UK. Rather than relying on the abstract and uninformed musings of privileged white politicians, these movements show a real desire to bring about change that extends far beyond the empty rhetoric of Jo Johnson and the Conservative government.

What these movements have in common is a commitment to radical change in the university. The students and academics involved in these movements are not calling for ‘more support’ to survive in white supremacist institutions. They are calling for a transformation of those institutions.

Earlier this year a Warwick student returned to her halls of residence to find racist insults scrawled on her bananas. The university’s response was seen as slow and inadequate. Whilst there was some condemnation in the mainstream media, this focused largely on the individual perpetrator. Although the Warwick incident was particularly shocking, students face racial microaggressions on universities campuses on a daily basis – something the I too am… campaign sought to bring attention to. What is needed is a greater understanding of how the white supremacist underpinnings of the university creates a climate in which racism can manifest at this micro level.

As the Why is my curriculum white? initiative has demonstrated, with a Eurocentric curriculum that erases the experiences, contributions and achievements of people of colour, it is unsurprising that students of colour experience racial microaggressions, and drop-out at such high rates. In a society stratified along racial lines, race must be central to curriculums. This is not just about the tokenistic inclusion of Black scholars on reading lists, but about a movement to decolonise the curriculum. Why isn’t my professor Black? highlighted the shocking underrepresentation of Black academics in universities, but since the launch of the campaign in 2014 the percentage of UK-national Black staff on academic contracts has stayed the same. The transformation of higher education would certainly include a radical change to the disproportionately white body of lecturers and professors. Despite Johnson’s rhetoric, however, it seems little has been done to listen to this important movement.

The Rhodes Must Fall campaign highlighted how the very architecture of universities can act to oppress and marginalise students of colour. Had Oxford university listened to campaigners they could have demonstrated a real commitment to racial equality in higher education. As events played out, however, it became clear that the will of rich white donors was far more important than the experiences of Black students. How are Black students expected to feel welcome on university campuses when those campuses memorialise white supremacy, colonialism and slave labour? Of course the Rhodes statue is just one prominent example of a problem that manifests in many institutions. At UCL for instance, students take classes in a lecture theatre named after the eugenicist Francis Galton.

If the government and universities are truly committed to improving the education of ‘BME’ students, they don’t have to look too far for a starting point. Students and academics of colour have pointed the way. All that is needed is an ability to listen and a real desire to bring about change. This piece originally appeared on Novara Media, and was written by RJN’s trustee Remi Joseph Salisbury