Do we really believe that in 2020 students need educating on how to respect Black people?
As a black student racism has unfortunately been a large part of my university experience. For the offending student, racism can be dismissed as a minor slip up or two; for me, it has marred my university experience. Early on in the last academic year of my undergraduate degree, I was on the receiving end of racist harassment. I used my students Report and Support service to make the university aware of what I had gone through. The first meeting was promising – the support advisor could understand that my treatment was in fact racism, as opposed to the usual gaslighting I expect from white staff. I thought that for once I would be on the receiving end of justice. But I was wrong. After my initial meeting I would have several more with student support – if they replied to my emails. Sometimes I would be ignored for weeks, and then months. This lack of communication would be followed up with a meeting with a different member of staff, who would be dismissive, and in my opinion wilfully ignorant. At one point a member of staff told me that unfortunately some students were bigots. In another meeting I had to break down whether they thought that my treatment would be appropriate for them to direct at their only Black colleague. When I insisted that I wanted my case to be dealt with, they would dismiss me as “well spoken” and comment on how articulate I was – another micro aggression – instead of actually listening to my request. In one meeting a member of staff told me that, he, a straight, white, cis-gendered male, could empathise with my experience of racism – the same experience of racism he failed to even identify, causing me to spend my time and energy explaining the incident to him. That isn’t to say that he himself had never been bullied or marginalised because of something he had no control over. However, his comment was not helpful to my situation. Sometimes I feel that my skin colour has become so politicised that it becomes my entire identity (does that sound better?) Throughout my time at university I have always known that a racist student can easily identify me as someone to marginalise and abuse, but I could never identify a racist student just by looking at them. Having that be a possibility within every interaction that I went through as a student was exhausting enough in itself. I spent the majority of my final year battling with my university. I had to fight to get them to take serious and fair action regarding my situation and time and time again they suggested making the perpetrators take ‘race equality training.’ This is something that I have heard a lot about, mostly through my involvement with this campaign. I guess it's similar to the consent training that universities roll out, but, similarly to sexual assault, universities fail to take allegations of racism seriously. What I don’t get, personally, is how a student who deliberately targets and treats Black students unfairly will change during a one-hour workshop. This is not a repercussion but a shallow attempt at virtue signalling by universities. I want to end this piece by asking you what I asked my university – do we really believe that in 2020 students need educating on how to respect Black people?