In solidarity with Black students against institutionalised racism.
Arts SU stands in solidarity with Black students across the UK and the world protesting the racialized murder of George Floyd. We condemn, in the strongest terms, the police violence unleashed on protesters in the U.S. We believe in the power of protest and we will continue to agitate against institutions that use violence to silence minority voices.
Arts SU wants to reiterate that a safe space will always exist within our organisation for our Black students. As officers from BAME backgrounds, we are committed to representing and protecting the rights of UAL’s BAME community. We condemn the systemic discrimination of BAME persons, and we condemn in particular the anti-blackness that pervades not only the U.S. criminal justice system but every system worldwide, including the United Kingdom. We recognise and call to attention that Black people suffer particular injustices and historical atrocities that are beyond comparison.
We at Arts SU believe that UAL has fallen short of their claim to be an anti-racist institution. We believe that even as good work is carried out by BAME staff, it is irrefutable that the institution is managed and operated by an overwhelming white majority. We would point to the comparably low figures of Black teaching and support staff, let alone Black staff in senior positions, as evidence of institutional inequality. We believe that UAL can be anti-racist only if they commit wholeheartedly and actively to anti-racism.
We call for UAL to actively make anti-racism a priority in its operations moving forward. We call for UAL to deliver on their promise to embed mandatory anti-racism training into all staff development. We call for UAL to continue and redouble efforts regarding the attainment gap and decolonising the curriculum, work that has been initiated by the SU. We implore UAL, once and again, to rethink their outsourcing of their cleaners, the overwhelming majority of whom are from BAME backgrounds, and the Elephant and Castle development which will increase gentrification to the detriment of the local BAME community. We implore the management of UAL to consider their own privilege and make a personal commitment to be actively anti-racist allies.
At Arts SU we believe that non-racism and anti-racism are not the same thing; we recognise that anti-racism is not just a belief but a lifelong, active effort against the system. We strive to be ethical representatives and allies, forgoing ego.
We have a legacy of BAME sabbatical officers including Anita Waithira Israel, Hansika Jethnani, Bolanle Tajudeen, Sahaya James, Katayoun Jalili, and Annie-Marie Akussa who have led campaigns such as UAL So White, Decolonising the Arts Curriculum, and the establishment of International Student Orientation. These have all aimed to address racisim and discrimination in our communities. We are proud to be one of the only Students’ Unions in the country with a Black woman Chief Executive. 40% of our staff at all levels are BAME and we have invested in anti-racism training for all staff, delivered by UAL alumni from Shades of Noir.
But this is not enough. We still have work to do. We are continuing to facilitate and encourage our white colleagues to educate themselves and become better, more actively anti-racist allies. We will continue to invest in training and development for our staff so that the onus does not fall on Black staff to be teachers. We will continue to develop our work on race equity with our student groups, ensuring that all our spaces are inclusive and welcoming. We will focus our efforts next year on building partnership with smaller arts collectives which support the development of Black and Minority Ethnic Artists. We will call out racism wherever and whenever we see. We strive to be an organisation that can call itself anti-racist.
Despite our BAME heritages, we all have been birthed into a world of anti-blackness; we have been conditioned to accept anti-black thoughts and actions against us and our colleagues. We work with an institution that bears inherent inequalities. Even as we do our best to support our Black students, still others suffer under our office. We are entrenched in an unjust system, but we must resist – not only in times of crisis but every day.
As your elected officers we are committed, for as long as we are in office, to embed anti-racism into our daily work. We are committed to carrying on the SU’s work on attainment and decolonisation. We are committed to promoting communities and safe forums for Black students.
We are committed to fighting for the rights of UAL’s Black community against the systemic injustices of the institution. We welcome your criticism as well as your support.
We hope you all are able to stay safe and healthy amid these harrowing times. We encourage any student affected by racism at UAL to reach out to us; we are in your service.
Amber Goneni Campaigns Officer (She/Her) Pinky Latt Welfare Officer (She/Her)
Eleanor West Activities Officer(She/Her/They)