The GSA Supports Black Lives Matter
By the GSA Sabbatical Team
In view of the recent episode of brutal violence against George Floyd in Minnesota, the GSA would like to stand in solidarity with people of colour and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. As a postgraduate student union, we have a responsibility and duty to recognise and actively oppose how racism is intertwined with public institutions. This blog shows some of the reflections of the sabbatical team during these times.
The criminalisation of people of colour is a reflection of the structural violence that is still pervasive in our countries. We shouldn’t need to explain racism with data, as there has been extensive literature, testimonies, discussions and political stances that have acknowledged institutional racism over the years, but if we look at some of the statistics in the UK we find that:
- In the UK, black people make up 3.3% of the population, but 12% of police incidents using force involve black people.
- Between 2014-18, black people were 7x more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.
- Over 50% of British youth in prisons are ethnic minorities. Black people are detained under the Mental Health act 4x more often than white people.
- In 2018/19, 76% of hate crimes in England & Wales were racially motivated hate crimes (Home Office, 2019).
- In 2019, 1 /5 police officers were found to have an ethnicity bias strong enough to impact their behaviour.
These are just some of the reasons why we believe we need to take a stance against systemic racism being reproduced on a daily basis through direct violence, cultural violence and symbolic violence and condemn these events.
WHAT THIS HAS TO DO WITH HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE UK?
Did you know?
- In the UK, fewer than 1% of UK university professors are black.
- Across the sector, the number of racial harassment reported to universities is rising.
- Nationally, students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME) face an awarding gap of 13% (UUK, 2019). This means that BAME students are 13% less likely to achieve a 1st or 2:1 upon graduation, compared to white students.
- Many graduate-level jobs and post-graduate courses (and related bursaries) have 2:1 degree or above as a minimum entry requirement. This means that minority ethnic graduates are less likely to be able to benefit from these opportunities, which impacts on the job market and the academic pipeline.
- PoC are more likely to face barriers to access to university support services, and complaints procedures. It can also be seen in the physical inaccessibility of university buildings and accommodation; in the justification of transphobia in academia as “freedom of speech”, or in the gender and ethnicity pay gap and casualised contracts across the sector.
- The way institutions are governed, for businesses and for profit turns education into a commodity only affordable to a privileged few, rather than a right that should be accessible to all.
- Widening participation for postgrads
- The number of black professors within UK academia is directly related to the accessibility of graduate degrees. There is a limited amount of research within this area.The culture created in academic departments does not create environments for black students students to achieve to the same level as their white peers. This needs to change.
WHAT CAN WE DO AS A SU?
At the University of York, relevant data regarding PoC at our University is currently publicly unavailable. The GSA are calling on the University of York and will lobby for the following things:
- To explicitly recognise and address the BAME awarding gap in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy (You can find the current strategy here).
- To conduct an investigation report into the BAME awarding gap and publicly publish this alongside a set of recommendations on how they are going to improve it.
- To ensure this work is produced with PoC and for PoC, working with staff, students, BAME networks and representation groups.
- To ensure safeguarding and support for students reporting harassment and hate crime at University.
- To undertake external equality gap audits.
WHAT IS THE GSA DOING ABOUT IT?
We pledge to educate ourselves, as well as our members, to the injustices facing people of colour and condemn discriminatory attitudes. We pledge that when we see or experience racism, we will call it out and make sure the appropriate disciplinary processes are in place. We pledge to create spaces and experiences for vulnerable groups of students to feel safe, so that they can have a space to build community and flourish. We pledge to always ensure that underrepresented student groups have their voices heard; through our representational networks and democratic processes.
We want to be held accountable and responsible as an institution, therefore as sabbatical officers we would like to propose to our GSA Council a series of policies that the GSA can commit to. In that sense we will be working to:
- To provide compulsory unbiased training for our staff members, officers and volunteers.
- To create specific events that provide a safe space for vulnerable groups of students.
- To prioritise liberation issues in our SU Strategy.
- To produce a Zero-tolerance on harassment for the GSA and other relevant policies.
- To elevate our voice nationally in order that the Office for Students, and HEIs in the UK and across the wide, commit to increase the number of PoC and other minorities as students engaged in postgraduate study.
- To work with stakeholders and anti-racist organisations such as Unis Resist Border Controls.
- To deliver a Diversify and Decolonize York SU Vision for the university.
During the next few weeks we are going to host several events to enable our students community to reflect and discuss collectively on racism and discrimination.
Thursday 4th from 16:30-17:30 our VP Wellbeing and Community will be hosting an online discussion of the documentary 13th, on prison abolition and criminalisation of African Americans. Find the link to our FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/256631265666746/
Tuesday 7th from 16:00-17:00 our VP Wellbeing and Community will be hosting an online discussion of the chapter ‘We have to talk about systemic change’ in ‘Freedom is a Constant Struggle’ by Angela Y. Davis. Find the link to our FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/262418224963149/
WHAT THE STUDENT COMMUNITY CAN DO?
Position yourself against institutional racism
- Challenge your own racial biases and inform yourself about white privilege and social inequities. You can find some recommendations in the next section.
- Join a virtual protest. Make a poster, picture, or photo and explain why you care about this issue. You can use statistics of your local area or acknowledge the name of people of colour that have been hurt or killed or failed by the justice system. You can use hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter #BLM #GeorgeFloyd
- Talk to your family and friends about the issue. We invite you to share the stories of real people, humanizing statistics and data. Speak kindly to your loved ones on prejudice and privilege, hear them out and appeal to their empathy. Look up for resources, i.e you can find some guidelines on how to talk to your kids about race. Finally, and most importantly, be patient.
- If you are a US citizen or have a US post code, sign the petition ‘Justice for Floyd’: https://act.colorofchange.org/sign/justiceforfloyd_george_floyd_minneapolis
Write a letter to your MP
- We would encourage you to write a letter to your MP and urge them to take a stance and support Black Lives Matter in the UK. For example, you could ask them to support a freeze on delivery of rubber bullets and tear gas to the US. There are several template letters on this matter that you can find online. Please take a minute to personalise them.
- You can check who your MP is in the following website: https://www.writetothem.com/
We encourage you to reflect on your own context
- Advocating and educating ourselves to end police brutality against black people, different ways white supremacy is reproduced in our everyday life.
- Why I am no longer talking to white people about race- Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Me and White Supremacy -Layla F Saad
- White Fragility- Robin Diangelo
- Natives – Akala
- White Women Fear –
- About Race podcast with Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Brit(ish) – Afue Hirsch
- Palestine and Ferguson -Angela Davis
- The fire next time – James Baldwin
- Minor feeling – Cathy park hong
- The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander
- Good Talk – Mira Jacob
- How to be antiracist -Ibram X. Kendi
- I’m Still Here -Austin Channing-Brown
- This book is anti-racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work – Tiffany Jewell
- Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People- Mahzarin R Banaji
- The color of law – Richard Rothstein
- Are Prisons Obsolete –
Social Media Accounts
You can follow civil rights activists and different organisations advocating for people of colour rights in order to be informed. Here are a few suggestions:
- Black Visions Collective
- Twin Cities Coalition
- Justice 4 Jamar
- Mona Chalabi
- Munroe Bergdorf
- Candice Brathwaite
To support in the US:
Black’s People Justice Fund: https://secure.everyaction.com/lFZFGA1BpUa9kyYYgSxSKw2
Minnesota Freedom Fund: https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/
Rebuilding the community: https://www.welovelakestreet.com/
Non-profit media reporting on racial injustice: https://unicornriot.ninja/
Louisville Community Bail Fund: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/louisville-community-bail-fund/
To support in the UK:
Black Lives Matter UK: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ukblm-fund
The United Familes&Friends Campaign (UFFC), coalition of those affected by death in police, prison and psychiatric custody: https://uffcampaign.org/
UK wide-funding pool to support individuals and communities working towards racial justice: http://resourcingracialjustice.org/
The Majonzi COVID-19 Bereavement Fund to support members of the BAME community who have lost loved ones to COVID-19: https://www.ubele.org/covid19-supporting-bame-communities
If you can’t donate: Zoe Amira has posted a video on youtube with multiple ads throughout the video. 100% of the ad revenue from the video will be dispersed between various blm organisations, including bail-out funds for protesters. You can turn off your adblocker and put the video on repeat without skipping the ads. Let it play on loop in the background: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bCgLa25fDHM