In light of the global uprising against police violence and anti-blackness in general, many organisations such as ‘Free Black Uni’ and ‘Reroot.Ed’ have gained attention. Part of me is pleased. But, equally, I’m tired of this – why should we always go through this emotional labour of teaching non-black people, mainly white people, to care about and learn our histories?
It is frustrating for us to have to constantly educate people on racism, as if it hasn’t been an issue for centuries. In the words of Amanda Seales: “this is my time.” Now people want to become more ‘woke’ or aware about these injustices, they must research and learn for themselves. Prior to these global protests, when black people were trying to educate others on racism, people chose to remain silent. As Warwick students in particular, it’s not that hard to pick up a book and read about how racism exists violently and how it manifests institutionally.
Why did my school feel the need to have a police officer to ‘handle’ black students? It normalised the control of black people, and normalised police involvement.
Take our university as an example – the bias against black people here is sickening. I remember a resident tutor being all too quick to shut down a celebration for a friend’s birthday. We were apparently making too much noise, yet when white students are doing outrageous things, they don’t receive the same response.
Why is that? Institutions clearly view ‘blackness’ negatively. We are all aware of institutional racism but do we truly know the meaning? At my secondary school, we had a police officer who would always be called to ‘fix an issue’ or intervene when black boys were in some trouble – the slightest bit of trouble – instead of calling their parents. I reflected on this in light of the current uprising and realised how educational institutions perpetuate racism in the most subtle ways. Why did my school feel the need to have a police officer to ‘handle’ black students? It normalised the control of black people, and normalised police involvement.
Educational institutions perpetuate racism in the most subtle ways.
Although I have never experienced any ‘serious’ incidents with campus security, I am not going to invalidate the experiences that my peers have faced. I remember s strolling around Westwood campus with a friend when campus security began questioning us. We were asked if we were Warwick students and they demanded to see our ID. That really frustrated me as, even after we verbally confirmed we were Warwick students, they still insisted on seeing our ID. It may seem minuscule to others, but I classify this as a micro-aggression.
In this era, it is annoying to see the university use the acronym ‘BAME’ in their initial response. I was disappointed, but not surprised. They may as well have said that they don’t care about their black students. Umbrella terms such as BAME, BIPOC, and POC ignore the experiences of black people. And, they tell us that whiteness is the default. There’s still anti-blackness in almost every community, slurs and negative phrases in almost every language to describe black people, and you still want to call me BAME? What part of this is unclear? The term ‘black’ is not a slur either.
Terms such as BAME, BIPOC and POC ignore the experiences of black people. And, they tell us that whiteness is the default.
Credit must be paid to WARSOC (Warwick Anti-Racism Society) and our SU officers (Tiana and Chloe) who help to cultivate a space for black students to discuss these issues and how to navigate these situations. But when the university wants to ‘decolonise’ and utilise black students as their resources, sometimes they are not paid. How is it appropriate to exploit me as a resource without recompense?
Remember, the UK is racist too – many black people have been killed by the police, it’s not just in the US. Don’t forget Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burell, Leon Briggs, Cynthia Jarrett, Mzee Mohammed, and the countless other black people who have been murdered by police in the UK. Finally, if you are more concerned about statues being taken down than black people being murdered, or how we deal with racism, you are part of the problem.