Student blog: Where do we go from here?
Written and illustrated by Tamara Asidi (BA Illustration), Co-Founder and Co-Officer of the NUA Students Union BAME Society.
For the first time since being at NUA, I’m seeing Black and non-Black students work together to demand change against anti-Black racism both on a national and local level.
It’s wonderful seeing so many members of the NUA community standing in solidarity with victims of anti-Black police brutality. But as posts are being uploaded, petitions are being made and emails are being sent, I can’t help but feel frustrated.
As co-founder and co-officer of BAME Society, I’ve spent a lot of the last two years working to try to make changes at NUA.
As many have noted, there is a lack of representation of people of colour, let alone Black people, when it comes to teaching staff. My Co-Officer and I spent over a year going back and forth with the university to get funding to bring in lecturers of colour as it was important to us that they were paid for sharing their time and knowledge.
Eventually this led to the creation of the Creatives of Colour lecture series. In between this, we curated an NUA Library stand for Black History Month to bring Black artists, history and culture to the forefront, we spoke to Student Support about bringing in a Black mental health professional and had discussions with senior management about making systemic changes while also trying to run regular society meetings.
The majority of these were advertised around the campus, through the Students’ Union or on the BAME Society Instagram.
So you can imagine my surprise when I see people within the NUA community, who have never shown support or interest in our events or the changes we were making, suddenly become very vocal.
And that surprise turns into frustration because I keep finding myself asking the same question over and over again- where were you?
I’m seeing people within the NUA community call for more Black lecturers and lecturers of colour and yet they didn’t come to a single Creatives of Colour lecture. I’m seeing requests for our library to provide resources and yet that library stand was left relatively untouched.
I’m seeing people demand that senior management listen to calls for change and yet when we had an open meeting with the academic registrar, they didn’t show- and it goes on.
Yes, NUA has a lot to answer for when it comes to these issues. As an institution they have failed to make anti-racism a part of the culture and sadly it is being reflected by a lack of practical and consistent engagement by the NUA community.
These were moments where we, as community members, could have shown that these issues mattered by showing up and engaging in numbers. I can’t help but feel let down by a community that will boldly claim to want these changes and want to support Black students but opportunities to show that support are met with silence.
It shouldn’t take the murder of an innocent Black man to spark engagement because solidarity is not just something you do when everyone is watching, when it’s trending or when somebody is killed. It is a commitment to show up and show out every time- no matter how big or small the act of support is. And it starts here, in the spaces we inhabit every day.
The lack of self-awareness coming from newly self-proclaimed anti-racists worries me because I’m wondering how long that spark will last and whether Black students will be left to shoulder the burden of dismantling racism yet again.
Students shouldn’t be taking on this burden at all but, as we’ve seen in the past few weeks, when we apply pressure collectively and amplify the voices of Black students, we get a response.
And this cycle of complacency followed by performative activism is not going to get us anywhere. Only starting to notice the way racism takes form in our university now is not something to pat yourself on the back for.
There are people who have been trying to make changes within our community long before it became news. Ask yourself why you weren’t aware of these efforts, ask yourself why you didn’t show support and then find ways to do better.
Imagine the difference that could have been made had we all been this engaged and this supportive of Black students consistently. Remember that this is not something that ends with an Instagram post and that we have to make continued efforts to uplift and support Black students in tangible ways- right here, right now.