The murder of George Floyd and the return to popular prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, alongside the clear impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black, Asian, and People of Colour (BAPoC), has given renewed impetus to an essential discussion over the systemic racism pervading our institutions. We, the newly elected representatives of QMUCU, QM UNISON and QMSU are grappling – like all others – with our own systemic patterns of privilege and exclusion, and we must confront the fact that we have not always done our best to enable discussion and action on this issue.
We consider that the appalling responses of Queen Mary’s Senior Management to the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as its repeated refusals to take the issue of systemic racism at Queen Mary seriously, indicate its failure to recognise its own role in the reproduction of such racism. Its response to COVID-19, similarly, has failed to understand and act upon the disproportionate effect of the pandemic and of its economic consequences on BAPoC on our campuses.
Anti-racism has been part of our work for some time, and was a central part of QMUCU’s Four Fights dispute which led to industrial action in the winter of 2019-2020. We could, however, have done far more focused anti-racist work, and embodied a more consistent intersectional approach. We cannot tackle the systemic racism at Queen Mary without doing more to tackle racism and the systemic centring of whiteness which often exists within our unions, however uncomfortable that is for some of us.
There are no easy solutions but, with the above in mind, the newly elected QMUCU committee, the QM UNISON branch committee and the elected representatives of QMSU commit our branches and organisations to:
- support and undertake anti-racist work wherever racial injustice presents itself at our university and in our union, whether it does so explicitly in the form of racial prejudice, implicitly through microaggressions and gaslighting, or systemically through structural factors, particularly but not exclusively reducing Queen Mary’s large race pay gap and the under-representation of people of colour in QM staff at various payscales;
- change our practices to give more space to comrades of colour;
- welcome and enable a continuous introspection in our practices, past and present, and in how they contribute to reproducing racism;
- endorse, actively reaffirm, and hold Queen Mary accountable to the demands that emerged out of the QM BAPoC gatherings (2019/2020), as well as the demands that are formulated by anti-racist activists on campus, in particular Decolonise QMUL and the African & Caribbean Society, and by members of staff who have actively called out systemic and institutional racism, sometimes to the point of leaving our institution, as was the case for former Diversity & Inclusion Manager Sandra Brown;
- use our positions and act to hold Queen Mary accountable to those demands;
- act to push the national-level UCU leadership, NUS leadership, UNISON leadership and our unions as a whole to call out racism wherever it presents itself, to support anti-racist work, and to be more consistent in embodying anti-racist practices and principles.
A working group has now been formed by QMUCU to establish ways to uphold these commitments. We welcome any union member or student to join, and invite contributions from both members and non-members on how we can do better as a branch to organise against racism at our institution.
We also invite all our members as well as members of our University community, but particularly those who are white, to respond to this opportunity to listen, learn and take action. Among others, and following the very useful suggestions by Loughborough UCU, we invite you :
- To sign and share anti-racist petitions, such as :
- US Justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor (no arrests or charges have yet been made in her death) and Tony McDade
- UK Justice for Belly Mujinga
- To make donations and encourage others to donate, for example, to emergency bail funds to help protestors who are arrested; to the families of Breonna Taylor, Belly Mujinga and Trevor Belle, UK anti-racism charities or Black mental health services
- Read a book, and/or organise a discussion or reading group:
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge discusses hidden histories and why Black people do not owe white people patience and education. It is particularly useful if you want to learn more about racism in the UK. There is a summary piece available for free from The Guardian.
- How to Argue With a Racist by Adam Rutherford is a short accessible and entertaining book that will dismantle much of what you thought you knew about the biology and genetics of race. (Spoiler: there are no discernible categories of race, and there is greater genetic diversity within each racial group itself than between groups).
- Superior by Angela Saini documents the worrying re-emergence of race science and its links to the political rise of the far right in the 21st century.
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad is a more action-oriented workbook option for those who want to take steps to reduce their complicity in racist structures.
- (B)ordering Britain by Nadine El-Enany is a brilliant new work that highlights the history and continued presence of racialisation and colonialism within British institutions and, in particular, legal frameworks.
- To consider the following while you’re preparing your classes:
- Yes! Magazine: Starting conversations about anti-Black racism
- Addressing Anti-Black Racism in Education Webinar
- Building the Anti-Racist Classroom blog article; recommended reading list; Student Journey Game
- The Teacherist: blog articles on anti-racist practice in the day to day classroom to dismantling an ethnocentric curriculum on a national and global scale. Developed by @MrPranPatel on Twitter.
More recommended books, resources, and advices for white colleagues at: https://ucu.lboro.ac.uk/lucu-statement-on-anti-racism/