Sabbatical Officer statement in relation to Black Lives Matter

When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak

                                                                                           -- Audre Lorde

We, the Sabbatical officer team, have taken time to think about how we wanted to express our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movements happening globally and Black students at Goldsmiths, while simultaneously creating short and long-term strategies ensuring that we, as a Union, protect Black students.

The state-sanctioned murder of George Floyd should not have sparked an uprising to recognise Black life and entrenched systemic anti-Black racism. Black people have been enduring violence socially, economically, politically and spiritually since the creation of racial capitalism and continue to, so when we say Black lives Matter, we mean all Black Lives. 

Black Trans Lives Matter.

Black Muslim Lives Matter.

Black LGBTQIA+ Lives Matter.

Black Disabled Lives Matter.

Black Sex Workers’ Lives Matter.

We must confront anti-Blackness.

We must confront sexual violence affecting Black people.

We must confront the ways capitalism needs racism to function and systematically oppresses Black people.

These struggles are linked, and we will always see it as so. As Angela Davis says:

'With our oppressors uniting, it is becoming increasingly clear that all our struggles for freedom are interconnected, and that no one will be free until we are all free. [...] If justice is indivisible, it follows that our struggles against injustice must be united.'

However, it's important to remember that when we speak of institutional racism, unions are not exempt. Anti-Black racism is intertwined with the fabric of every institution, every Union. Within these white spaces, we have Black activists striving to make a change, but they are met repeatedly with structural and internal barriers. Lots of organisations are admitting that institutional racism is something happening in their workplace. Yet we are not making transformative change, which is why we, as a Sabbatical officer team, must reckon with the past failures of our Union, while developing short and long-term strategies to strive to abolish systematic racism. 

What does accountability look like without our own Union reckoning with its complicity in violence? 

In our own Union, Black people's experiences are invisbilised, delegitimised, and concerns are not acted upon. They are not understood as systemic. There is a culture of microaggressions; poor BAME staff retention and representation; a systematic centring of whiteness, felt by both students and staff internally; a lack of training and political education; inadequate support and resources offered to Black students. Our Union cannot ignore the positions of power repeatedly held by white people. When this is the case, who is truly included or represented in our Union? 

As a Sabbatical team, we will commit to campaigning and dismantling the racist structures that create - and maintain - inequality at Goldsmiths College. However, our Union as an institution must also begin to adequately address the ways black people's experiences have been historically delegitimised, erased and concerns not acted upon, as is the experience of Black students and staff reported in Insider-Outsider report, and Race Matters. Often, there is a focus on white privilege and addressing unconscious, unintentional incidents of holding power; however, this statement speaks to an organisation shift from dismantling white privilege to systematically creating racial equity. 

So in the short-term, what will we do?

  • Create an Anti-Racism / Racial Justice Organisational Action Plan, including a review of HR policies 
  • Support Black Minds Matter and seek a partnership - (make funding available for BAME students to seek out mental health support)
  • Review of BAME staff and student experience at the SU - (previously promised but never actioned)
  • Support The Free Black University and its aims
  • Work alongside local Black businesses and support them
  • Improve BAME staff recruitment and increasing transparency in recruitment and promotions process, including mandatory anti-racist and political education 
  • Students Union to create a virtual and (hopefully non-virtual) space for just Black students/staff/community members to come together collectively 

These are our short-term plans, but material changes must happen at our Union to resist systemic racism. As a Union, we will work alongside students and in particular Black students to ensure that liberation is at the heart of every decision, policy and choice we make.

Our work on racial justice is inherently linked to Goldsmiths itself. We will continue to:

  • Support student-led solutions through ensuring demands of Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action are met and implemented 
  • Campaign to save BAME Staff Goldsmiths College are trying to cut 
  • Campaign for College to implement investigation into BAME Attainment Gap and address racial equity created at the College 
  • Push the College to pay specific attention to the effect of COVID-19 on Black + POC students and staff who are disproportionately affected

*This is an opened list*

We honour those who came before us and will continue the work of all the Black + POC staff/students who were silenced, erased and forgotten. It is our duty as a sabbatical team to recognise the past and continue to build the foundation of abolishing all forms of systemic oppression. It is important to note that 3 out 4 of the new sabbatical team are 3 Black women entering a space that has historically been violent towards Black staff/student members.

There are no other options but to radically reimagine, reenvision and implement a new Goldsmiths Student Union, and that is our commitment! 

Resources: 

BIPOC :  offer free mental health assessments (via phone) for North London residents)

Glitch UK: provides free digital self-care, self-defence training and advice for BLM activists and campaigners 

Growing Minds Hackney: offer phone consultations

UK Black Therapists/ Counsellors

UCL list of support and resources

NUS statement

In full solidarity and power,

The Sabbatical Officer Team,

Sara, Fowsia, Niquella, Lauren