Megan Farrimond discusses the importance of translating online activism into action on campus.
Being trapped in a social media bubble can make it easy to get caught up in the idea that your activism can only extend as far as through your computer screen, with lockdown making this idea all too real. But as uni starts back up, we have to make sure to incorporate this wave of youth activism into our “new normal”.
The much-needed amplification of people of colour only exists when those with privilege make space for them at the forefront of the action. As we return to campus, it is important to mobilise and know the student societies in which those voices are needed. As we transition outside of our comfortable spheres sharing Instagram posts, we have to make sure the content reflects in our efforts during uni. We as students have the potential to influence the University’s principles and policies and create a more diverse student body. No matter what your background is or your subject area, you are in the position to make our campus more inclusive.
By simply posting on your Instagram story and not working on direct action you are contributing to the 24-hour news cycle we have created through the fast-moving media; these issues are worth more than a day’s attention and cannot be forgotten.
As students, we are in a position where we have access to so many resources to help aid us in the fight against racial injustice. We have no excuse to sit back and only engage with what we view to be palatable content. It is important that through our move to campus-based activism, we hold universities accountable for their portrayal as progressive and inclusive institutions. It is important that through recognition of institutionalised racism, universities recognise that they, as an institution, are part of the problem.
In the wake of a mass Black Lives Matter resurgence, prompted by the brutal murder of George Floyd, many university societies voiced their support. The Glasgow University African Caribbean Society and the Glasgow University’s Students of Colour Network wrote an open letter to the University which addressed concerns surrounding the racial injustices faced by Black and ethnic minority students at Glasgow University. The letter acknowledges the University’s initial condemnation of the murder of George Floyd but highlights the lack of resources that the University made students aware of in order to make aware the racial injustices in both the US and here in the UK. Token gestures, such as posting a black square on social media or the media “blackout” which highlighted a shared sense of solidarity, were often used by institutions to appease the masses at the time. Clearly, real change was needed. The open letter also set out the societies’ suggestions to the University, which included a compulsory anti-discrimination and anti-racism talk during the Freshers’ Address which highlights the University’s “zero-tolerance” policy on racism. They also set out a demand for a clearer and more accessible racism reporting tool. The current system, which some Black and ethnic minority students have raised issues about, is not publicised enough and the process in which the University handles complaints is not made clear to students.
The open letter also highlighted that in a recent equality report Glasgow was shown as having fewer students of colour than the majority of Russell Group universities, at all levels of study. This is a further indication of the much-needed push for an inclusive and accessible environment in which students of colour are able to raise any issues that they face.