On 11 February, Newcastle University’s Stand Up To Racism society held a rally on campus, in response to recent allegations of racist behaviour towards Asian students.
The behaviour occurred in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, which began in China. The incidents, which are alleged to have been perpetrated by both Newcastle students and members of the general public, included a student leaving the Robinson Library when a Chinese student appeared, and other East Asian students being spat on.
The rally was intended to raise awareness of, and discourage, such behaviour. It occurred in front of the Arches, and featured appearances by numerous guest speakers.
Students’ Union Welfare and Equality Officer Sara Elkhaward was amongst those in attendance. Asked to comment on the significance of the rally, she said ‘…Hopefully events like this will spark solidarity [with East Asian students] but also really bring people together to call out racism… We’re hoping for more of these events to happen on a regular basis, not just when incidents happen, but just as and when we’d like to stand up against events like Coronavirus racism…’.
Ciaran Wakefield, President of Newcastle University’s Stand Up To Racism society, held similar sentiments. Asked how he felt about allegations that students at Newcastle University were amongst those who had perpetrated racist offences against East Asian students, particularly on online forums associated with the university, he stated ‘It’s always disappointing when that happens, because we have such a diverse community here… and I know the university makes a special effort to breed inclusivity… but of course when you’re hiding behind a screen it’s very easy [to insult others], so that’s why we’ve come out here, to show that isn’t acceptable. By having a rally… we cut through a lot of that racism’.
When further asked what students at Newcastle can do to ensure they are not ‘part of the problem’, or spreading racist beliefs, Wakefield said ‘I would always recommend doing some research yourself… look online, fact-check… I’d recommend staying off Facebook… I’d also go and talk to the community. These communities might seem culturally different… but if you make the effort, you can find out so much by just asking people [about their experiences]. There’s also a series of societies that… want you to come and learn about their cultures… There are so many places that we can go to find out more about these communities that are supposedly different from us’.
To find out more about Stand Up To Racism, and future events they plan to hold, visit ‘Newcastle University Stand Up To Racism’ on Facebook.