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 :

More recommended books, resources, and advices for white colleagues at:

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