On 2nd March, Stand Up To Racism Society held a public meeting about the road to genocide and institutional racism. It came after a recent incident at Manor Bank halls, where a group of black Newcastle students were subjected to shouts of “you don’t belong here” and “fucking n****r”.
“The Road to Genocide”, the first panel, was kicked off by Smajo Beso, a Bosnian genocide survivor, and writer/blogger Emyln Pearce. They contrasted multicultural Yugoslavia’s path towards genocide with South Africa’s democratic transition after Apartheid. One key idea was the philosophy of ubuntu: “I am human because you are”; to humanise racists to understand and eliminate their racism.
Next, Nicu Stoica spoke about racism facing the Roma community. The largest ethnic minority in Europe, it has a six-hundred-year long history of slavery, discrimination and an often-ignored genocide at the hands of the Nazis known as the Porajmos. The Roma people are still seen as second-class citizens and disproportionally suffer police brutality, discrimination in medical treatment and poverty.
Alana Barnett, Jewish Society President, shared her pride in her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, and urged that we listen to survivors while we still can, especially as Holocaust denial is on the rise. After bringing back Jewish Society from near disappearance, her priority is to provide support to the Jewish students here on campus.
Stand Up To Racism’s Yunus Baksh closed the first panel, warning that listening to racists like Tommy Robison makes another genocide not unlikely (as happened in Rwanda and Yugoslavia in 1990s). He said that genocide starts with marginalisation and dehumanisation; both present in UK. Baksh highlighted the necessity of anti-racist movements ensure a future without genocide.
The second panel – “Institutional Racism” – began with a screening of “Stansted 15 on Trial”, a documentary about the prosecution of activists under anti-terrorism laws. The panel was lucky enough to be attended by Nathan Clack, himself a member of the Stansted 15, who emphasised the necessity of direct democratic action to put a stop to deportations that unlawfully put the lives of migrants at risk, as we saw with the Windrush scandal.
Kemi Adediran, Afro-Caribbean Society President, criticised the focus on individuals, when it is structural racism that must be dismantled. She advocated the eradication of whiteness as default and underlined how racism is embedded and fundamental in our society.
Abu-Tayeb Khairdeen of the Islamic Diverty Centre followed with a breakdown of why Islamophobia is ingrained in our institutions. He referred to racism as an industry since it is profitable for the state (in terms of colonialism, slavery and imperialism) and decried the normalisation of racism by mainstream politicians and the media which has seen half of British mosques attacked. For him, education is the key; we must learn about Islam to combat racism.
Finally, Nita Sanghera, UCU Vice President, spoke universities’ inaction when it comes to racism, motivated by the marketisation of education that makes them hesitant to expel students (their source of income) even in cases racism. Inspired by the student’s climate strikes, she called for the sleeping majority in UK to wake up and fight for equality.
With over 100 people attending across the two panels, it was a great success and signals growing anti-racist presence felt on campus.
The event is a precurser to a UN anti-rascism day march in Glasgow on the 16th of March.