Writing by Rajni Kaur Davegun.
Artwork by Ellie Corben.
As a BAME student at Plymouth Marjon University passionate about supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement, I write the following statement on behalf of my friends and peers in the student body. No words can describe how deeply saddened and outraged I am by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery amongst others who have suffered systemic racism, injustice, and disruption to peace.
But how does this relate to us as a university?
Although at large these recent murders have occurred within America, the UK itself painfully has an extensive history involved in the slave trade, British colonialism, and systemic oppression. Racism, in its many forms e.g. the lack of diversity, inclusivity, and equality in many vicinities, is an international issue we all – whether you as a reader are white, black, or Asian – have a responsibility to actively challenge and oppose.
It is recognised for a variety of reasons that Plymouth Marjon University lacks diversity within its student population.
In 2018, the percentage gap point on between white entrants and BAME entrants at Plymouth Marjon University was 85.5% (accessing full time, all undergraduate courses).
This statistic, although aligning with the local and regional BAME population, is a clear example of the privilege we have amongst our student body. To an extent, it may be argued that amongst the student majority there is a lack of experience or true understanding as racism is not something we are likely to experience directly. Through the translation of anti-racist thoughts to behaviour, we can promote a positive and welcoming university environment and culture for students of all ethnic and racial backgrounds.
Experiences of black students at Marjon:
“Attending Marjon University as one of the very few black students that attend, I feel that I am held to a higher standard to not portray myself to others in the university as a stereotypical black kid from South London in terms of how I speak, act, and dress. Since I am an athlete as well, it feels that there are more odds against me as I feel that others could have a perception of me as “just an athlete” when in fact I am more than that.
There are times where I don’t feel like I am myself at times, but I just remind myself that I am who I am. I am unapologetically black!” Denzel Ubairo
“As a Black young woman, it has been a rocky journey. I’ve had to make a lot of drastic changes and decisions whether it be friendships or my own views on certain situations. This whole experience has made it very clear how important education really is. I’ve heard a lot of “but it’s only really happening in America”, or “the UK isn’t that bad”. Being able to challenge these views and educating not only myself but all of my peers on systemic racism, and how subtle yet life altering it is, and has been to many BAME individuals’ lives, has been not only empowering but motivating.
Seeing so much support and determination from my caucasian peers has also been so uplifting, since it has made me realise that we are all in this together.” Natalie Maseya
What can you do as a student at Marjon Uni to support the Black Lives Matter Movement?
- Join the BAME alliance! Get involved by joining the Facebook page “Marjon BAME Alliance” and attending future events to raise awareness, share resources, and support BAME students!
2. Take your dose of learning/unlearning! Below I have shared a variety of resources to broaden your knowledge and allow you to listen, absorb, and empathise with the perceptions and experiences of the black community.
Reflect! Is your “allyship” based upon convenience? Unlearning bias will require time, patience, effort, which is why I would advise taking a manageable approach of reading books/watching documentaries at a pace that suits you and prevents burn out.
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race- Reni Eddo-Lodge
- White Fragility- Robin DiAngelo
- Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority- Tom Burrell
- Queenie- Candice Carty-Williams
- Me and White Supremacy-Layla F Saad
- Hood Feminism- Mikki Kendall
- Americanah- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Angela Davis: An Autobiography- Angela Davis
- Black dignity In A World Made for Whiteness- Austin Channing
- How to Be an Antiracist- Ibram X. Kendi
Shows to watch:
Available on Netflix:
- American Son
- When They See Is
- LA 92
- I Am Not Your Negro
- Fruitable Station
- The Kalief Browder Story
- 12 Years a Slave
- Strong Island
- Brian Banks
- Dear White People
- About Race
- Diversity Gap
- Code Switch
- POD Save The People
- What Matters
- Uncomfortable conversations
- You’re pretty for A…
- The intelligence
3. Be AWARE of your privilege! There are a variety of different privileges you may have within society without realising it. Examples include white, gender, light-skin, CIS-heterosexual, socio-economic and religious privileges.
Acknowledging your position within society will allow you recognise how capable you are with your position and power to evoke change in both immediate and wider contexts.
4. STAND UP to racism when you see/hear it!
If you feel uncomfortable about speaking up when witnessing a racial incident, I ask you to reflect on how the target feels. It could be argued that as a bystander to verbal or physical acts of racism, you are exacerbating the burden of responding completely with the target.
Discussions about racism do not have to be confrontational. Offer time to chat about things further, educate others by sharing your views and resources you’ve found useful in aiding your learning. Calling out individuals is never going to be easy or comfortable but will lead to eye-opening conversations and changes within patterns of thinking.
Note this does not equate to shaming others! Who can deem what is “enough?”. Although you may feel you have done more than others, this is not an effective motivation for action. Please avoid blanket statements or posts about what people aren’t doing. Instead try to focus on yourself, locating your racism.
5. Engage in peaceful protests when possible.
- Public protests have been integral throughout history in ensuring the visibility, amplification, and success of social-political movements and civil rights e.g. LGBTQ+ rights.
- For future protests, involving mass public gathering, it is advised to adhere to social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines. This ensures that groups within society that are more vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the BAME groups, are protected and respected.
- For example: DO NOT SPEND ANY MONEY ON JULY 7TH! The Black Lives Matter movement is holding a nationwide economic blackout. With just one day of no spending by people of colour and allies, billions would be kept out of the economy. Let the abstinence from consumerism on this day be a statement.
For more information please refer to www.blackoutday.org
6. SIGN as many petitions as possible!
This is one of the most convenient means of getting involved in the movement. Change.org has many petitions around the course. I recommend sharing the petitions once you’ve signed them, to your friends/family/platform to increase the likelihood of government response.
Several important petitions regarding anti-racism within the U.K. include the following:
- Teach Britain’s colonial past as part of the UK’s compulsory curriculum
- Improve Maternal Mortality Rates and Health Care for Black Women in the UK
- Require all police officers to take Anti-Racism education
- Make black history a compulsory part of the national curriculum for all ages
- Introduce Gender and Race equity for GCSE English Literature set texts
- Make Anti-Racism training mandatory in all UK workplaces
- Introduce Mandatory Ethnicity Pay Gap Reporting
7. SPEAK! Have discussions with friends and family members and colleagues. Although some of you may perceive it to be “tiring” to discuss racism, I ask you to empathise and imagine experiencing racism throughout your whole lifetime?
- It is not appropriate to make colour blind responses e.g. “I see beyond skin-colour”, “I was taught to treat everyone the same “or “All lives matter”. These responses lack sensitivity as they ignore the existence and experience of BAME individuals, as well as diminishing the seriousness of systemic racial oppression as a whole.
- Please refrain from using “Colour-celebrate” responses e.g. “I am not a racist, I have black friends”, “I am not a racist, and I have POC in my family”. These responses are defensive without evidence. Proximity or association to a BAME individual does not make you exempt from thinking, saying, or acting racist.
- Engage in conversations with friends, family, and colleagues! Refusal to engage in conversations because it causes white people to be confronted with “uncomfortable-ness”, suggests that a white person level of comfort matters more than addressing oppression and discrimination. Speak with volume and pride to express your passion and support to the Black Lives Matter movement. However, be cautious and mindful of engaging in conversations that are uncivilised and leave if they make you feel as though you are being subject to verbal abuse. Try to calmly explain your perspective. If they do not engage with an open mind, move on, and get back to focusing on your own work for the movement.
- Typical concerns include not knowing what to say that’s “PC” or whether “anyone will listen to what I have to say?” These are clear examples of the issue. Staying silent and complicit is not helping our brothers and sisters of BAME backgrounds, but instead acting as a barrier to change. Silence is a complicit choice that perpetuates the violence and oppression towards marginalised groups.
- Please don’t remain silent, because you don’t want to get “too political”. To “stay out of politics” and opt-out of conversations is a privilege given to those who are not oppressed, directly harmed. I pose you to reflect whether you are refraining from sharing your opinion because you may think it might interfere with any relationships you have?
8. Support POC Organisations and businesses
Another way to uplift black communities in support of the Black Lives Matter movement includes supporting black-owned businesses. In an age of emerging transparency in many industries, we must be intentional with our purchases. Please research behind the brands you choose to support with your money. If you are not in a financial position to support black-owned businesses with purchases, you can also show your support by sharing and liking their products on social media to promote their business.
If you are financially fortunate enough to be able to donate, set up recurring donations. Although organisations such as Black Lives Matter may receive a surge in funding in such times of crisis, they will need funding all year-round. Instead of donating a large amount at once, set up smaller recurring payments to ensure consistent funding.
10. THINK! Are your words/behaviour harmful?
Use your sensitivity to avoid making racist compliments such as “You’re pretty for a black girl” or “You’re supposed to be smart, you’re Asian”. Comments such as these impose the ideology that one can only be accepted if they conform to western standards and stereotypes.
Please, don’t stop fighting against racism and inequality. I implore every single individual that reads this post today to hold yourself accountable for being an activist.
As this post reaches you at a time where Instagram feeds are slowly diluting in Black Lives Matter content I ask you to reflect the following: is your activism based on social pressure… and therefore forced?
Although racism exists as an issue from a macro-perspective, individually we all have to ability to control how we respond to it. It is time to execute our moral and ethical duty to amplify the black voices and struggles; no longer shall these be overseen and ignored.
Let’s not make the Black Lives Matter movement another trend – Black lives matter today, tomorrow, and every single day after that.
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