STATEMENT FROM STUDENT PRESIDENT:
BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT
I would like to start off this statement to explicitly state that the Students’ Association wholeheartedly supports equality for all as a general principle, and specifically supports the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the call for action and justice around the world. Equality and diversity is of the utmost importance to us, and we would like members of the black community - both within our academic institution and outside - to know that we support them without reservation.
We have been asked why the Students’ Association did not post about #blackouttuesday and while we understand why we have been asked, there are several reasons for this and we felt the importance to highlight why the Students’ Association did not post or participate, and would like to take this opportunity to provide an explanation.
First, we have been made aware - by members of the black community and various non-profits focused on racial justice - that participating in the social media blackout posts is in fact more detrimental to the Black Lives Matter movement than it is helpful. Blackout Tuesday was originally an initiative to go silent on social media, to reflect on recent events, and stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Myself and other Vice Presidents took part in this campaign initially, however, while these posts were generally well-intended, many advocates and activists have pointed out that it has inadvertently suppressed important information regarding the ongoing protests and associated police brutality, fundraising, and the general monitoring/dissemination of critical information due to hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter and #justiceforgeorgefloyd, being overtaken by black squares. It is also important to note that #blackouttuesday came into existence on a key democratic voting day related to the upcoming US presidential election. While this is not a UK election, many black activists have pointed out that suppressing information on such a day is not only concerning, but is counterproductive to the catalyst for action, which has included widespread encouragement to turn verbal support into productive action.
As a Students’ Association with a diverse student body, we make every effort to continuously educate ourselves on the best way to address and support such causes. BLM activists have explicitly stated that social media - and the associated hashtags - is used to keep people updated as to ongoing developments. Further, we have seen statements from members of the black community themselves advising that the source of #blackouttuesday is not entirely clear, and that it simply erases the platform that organisers have been using to share important resources. Black Lives Matter organisers have clarified that #blackouttuesday was not an initiative organised by them.
While we understand that many people may not be aware of this point and are participating in such posts to show their solidarity and support of the movement, we believe that listening to the black community and associated social justice organisations is of far more importance. We therefore felt that participating in #blackouttuesday, having the knowledge stated above, would effectively be "showing support" for the sake of showing support, and could harm the movement as opposed to helping. We understand that now is the time to use our privilege to amplify marginalised voices; it is not the time to participate in arguably detrimental social media campaigns simply to appear supportive and avoid scrutiny, without actually supporting in productive, more tangible ways. To put it simply: we do not want to engage in performative allyship.
Second, we did not and do not want to post "reactive" support statements. Instead, we would rather speak to minority members of our GCU community who are affected by systemic racial injustice and discrimination, as well as educating ourselves via advocacy organisations regarding the best way for us to support the movement at this time. We believe that the best way to do so is to (1) share resources aimed at educating white people on the history of racial injustice and how to be an ally (see links at bottom of post), (2) provide information on how to directly support the #blacklivesmatter movement (through actions such as donating to social justice organisations, signing petitions, and supporting black-owned businesses, to name a few), and (3) ensure that the Students’ Association is providing an inclusive and supportive space for black students to have an open dialogue with us. We understand that it is not on the black community to educate us; rather, the burden is on allies to educate themselves on the prevalence of discrimination and systemic racism in society, and to listen to the needs of the black community without burdening them to educate others in the first instance. Again, we do not want to engage in performative virtue signalling - whether well-intentioned or not - which, ultimately, can distract from and change the narrative of the movement itself.
Finally, we would like to apologise to any student of colour who feels that we have not shown enough support of them or the Black Lives Matter movement. We stand with the black community and unequivocally support you, the BLM movement, and the ongoing call for action regarding the death of George Floyd. We are always open to hearing about the ways in which we can support you better and the ways in which we are falling short, and will continue to educate on the violence and injustices faced by marginalised communities.
Love and respect
Tabitha Nyariki, Vice President SHLS said: “I am proud to be associated with an organisation with intolerance for racism, particularly in these times where cases of racism and particularly institutionalised racism are being brought to light. During my time with the Students’ Association I was involved in campaigns to raise awareness on racism such as Show Racism the Red Card Campaign and worked in collaboration with the University as part of a working group to come up with recommendation on how to address the Black Attainment Gap on campus. This is some of the work we are doing and will continue doing to ensure that there is equality within the organisation and ensure that all students, staff and members of our wider community feel included and fairly treated.”
Eseoghene Oluwaseun Johnson, Ethnic Diversity Network (EDN) Officer said “Ethnic Diversity Network is a cross-continental society in GCU that brings together students of varying Ethnic and/or Minority groups and stands for their rights and inclusivity here on campus. As part of the Students’ Association and working with the Officers, the EDN has over the years been able to improve the experience of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students while incorporating their various identities into the overall student structure. EDN also represents the interests of BAME students in the general National Union of Students (NUS) to ensure proper representation for everyone choosing to study in universities across Scotland and the United Kingdom.
Following the recent traumatic events unfolding in the United States of America and rippling across the globe, the EDN wants students of all ethnic circles to know that we are standing firm behind and with you. EDN in conjunction with the Students’ Association stands together for the rights of all ethnic students and supports justice for all people regardless of race or nationality. At the beginning of the month, EDN Officer Eseoghene participated in a Focus Group Discussion organized by NUS Scotland to discuss the issues of Race and Racism in Scotland’s Universities. The meeting incorporated sessions discussing students and staff reactions to racism, inclusivity on campus and in learning, experiences of racism in different universities, what has been the status quo and what needs to be improved upon to ensure that all BAME students studying here in Scotland and GCU specifically are not discriminated against.
It is with absolute confidence that we tell you that you are all properly represented in decision making processes that impact student life in GCU and in the UK, and the Students’ Association and entire University is working hard to make sure the rights of all BAME students are upheld and preserved. Over the next few months, EDN leadership is going to build upon its already existing platforms to increase participation of BAME students in the societies activities and improve discussions and actions around diversity and inclusivity across the Students’ Association.
On a final note, we commend the efforts of students who have stood together and strengthened one another and the larger global community during this hard and trying times. We have proven to ourselves and the rest of the world that we do not see colour but humanity, it is with PRIDE that we say we see you, we know you and we know what you stand for! We will keep striving for the world we can all be proud to call HOME. We therefore welcome you to join the society and grow with us as we build a unique student body and university; also, we are very welcoming of new ideas, suggestions, inquiries and will be eager to attend to you as you are our number one priority. Please keep yourself safe and we know we will all come out of this stronger than we went in; “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat!.”
Taking Up Space by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (Reni has said on Twitter that she does not wish to profit off of the death of a black person and asks people to borrow the book or if you have to buy it match the price of the book in a donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund- https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/donate)
Black Lives Matter Support the movement here
When They See Us
Teach Us All
Dear White People
No Country For Young Women
Say Your Mind, Slay In Your Lane: The Podcast