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Chante Joseph explains the position of black students at the University of Bristol. 

Hello Epigram readers,

Welcome to my first and final read of 2017, sit back and enjoy the shade and get ready to feel uncomfortable.

The day in the life of a black Bristol student is far from amusing, whenever I pucker up the courage to leave my house getting to my 9AM on time is the last of my worries. Trying not to roll my eyes into the back of my skull every time I see a white student dressed like the seventh member of N.W.A is certainly a more challenging task.

black bodies and culture are commodified and fetishised but the people are ignored.

No shade though Harriet, I know this is you just expressing your individuality in the most creative way you can *sips tea*. In all seriousness, Amandla Stenburg makes a strong point when she asks ‘what if white america loved black people as much as they loved the culture.’. We see this reflected in many societies and it is certainly not confined to the west. Across the world, black bodies and culture are commodified and fetishised but the people are ignored.

 

 

I remember being in PRYZM for the first SCORE of the academic year and being asked by a white girl in first year where my ‘Black’ was from and how in her culture the way I was dancing ‘wasn’t very acceptable’ but she thought I could dance ‘very well’. Two questions came to mind firstly: What kind of bizarre and intrusive question is that? Babes, I don’t even know you. Secondly: What culture? Do not front sis’, I know you’ve seen Taylor Swift’s Shake it off video.

This is exactly the issue, black students are not seen as humans we’re seen as cool props, we define the culture but we’re not credited with it. You want the cool black friend but not the socially conscious one because they’re ‘too angry’, or, you like when we’re sassy and preppy but when we have to call you out you we’ve ‘got attitude’. You cannot win as a black student.

These incidents have sparked many issues, notably the lack of response by the university chancellor

How does this relate to Bristol you ask? Why are you so angry Chante? It’s come to light that students at Bristol have faced a series of racist attacks *pretends to be shocked*. For many people, hearing about racist attacks is, unsurprisingly, a complete shock. They have the privilege of never experiencing or identifying racism which places them in an all too comfortable bubble.

These incidents have sparked many issues, notably the lack of response by the university chancellor who proceeded to list several services that students should go to, dismissing their actual problems and not reflecting on the fact that university has a lot of work to do.

 

Though the role of the university is incredibly important in this, these issues require a response from all of us. Realistically, your long facebook statuses and white tears really mean nothing if you do not challenge the racism in your own families and your friendship groups. Please, do not complain on Facebook about your racist uncle if you did not attempt to challenge him. It’s boring, I’m tired and you won’t get any sympathy from me.

these issues require a response from all of us.

It is very apparent that Bristol students have a bizarre obsession with black culture but are not too keen on acknowledging the issues that black students face. Whilst we’re on the topic of culture, let’s comment on this obscene obsession with Grime. I tackle this in my gal-dem piece on the Mercury Prize and heads up listening to Stormzy doesn’t mean that you’re not racist, it just means you’ve got good taste in music.

They continue to perpetuate a dangerous perception of black people

Let me tell you why dressing like you’re from Peckham when you’re from the Northern Powerhouse is an issue, I’d like to quote myself here:

This harks back to the age old idea that being black is cool despite our grievances and the suffering of our people. Middle-class white kids can take off their tracksuits and take off the accents when they’re tired of wearing our culture as a costume and walk into spaces to not be harassed or deemed a threat. They continue to perpetuate a dangerous perception of black people whilst simultaneously absolving themselves from any of the negative stereotypes attached to the culture. I see it as the equivalent of poverty porn and it’s disgusting.

I’d like to highlight that this is not solely an attack on the actions of white Bristol students as Black men are notoriously known for being flakey in their support of black women in almost every aspect of life. I would go as far as to argue that black men in Bristol are equally as responsible for the way in which black culture, especially surrounding black women, has been co-opted and abused by white audiences without a consideration for the lives of black female students.

 

This is due to them being complicit with racism and refusing to challenge the issues that affect us. As it stands there are four black female officers at Bristol SU and even more women of colour and no black men, in fact none of them even stood as officers to start with. In general they are heavily underrepresented in activist spaces with women always starting and fuelling the movement.

Racism is systematic and insidious and you will never be at one with a system that is inherently prejudiced.

I’d like to take some time to talk directly to all black students who are hellbent on denying the very existence of racism on campus as a means of appeasing their white friends. I really don’t know what you’re putting on your avocado and toast in the morning but it has certainly got you acting silly.

You have to understand that just because you feel you have assimilated into these structures, does not mean you actually have and it certainly does not mean you’re safe forever. Racism is systematic and insidious and you will never be at one with a system that is inherently prejudiced. All the vacation schemes and fun nights out in motion cannot protect you from systematic racism, in the words of High School Musical, we’re really all in this together.

 

Just because you do not feel you have experienced racism does not mean that it does not exist. In addition, It should not take being racially attacked in a club for you to understand the severity of the situation. If you do not acknowledge these issues unless they’ve impacted on you directly and so blatantly, I will not be starting any hashtags for you anytime soon.

I am honestly sick and tired of black students, particularly black men, gaslighting and insisting that people are simply ‘angry’ when they call out problematic behaviour. Many of you insist that we focus on the ‘bigger picture’ but do any of you even know what that is? Or are you simply trying to ignore a blatant issue and dismiss the concerns of your fellow students.

Many of you insist that we focus on the ‘bigger picture’ but do any of you even know what that is?

Racism, like any system of oppression at its foundations is a series of microaggressions and we all know the saying microaggressions are death by one thousand cuts. So instead of insisting that we are pedantic and going out of your way creating fear around call-out culture how about engaging with the issues at hand and then perhaps students can start to create a positive environment around them.

Out of all the incidents that actually take place not all of them are reported only giving a small glimpse of the reality of the black and brown student experience. I raise awareness of this because it is time white students stopped ignoring the plight of black and brown students and profiting off our culture and actually stood with us in facing these issues.

I want to leave you with this thought: If all the white girls wearing cornrows, bantu knots, fetishising black men and all the boys that dressed like Busta Rhymes circa 1980 religiously reciting Stormzy ‘Shut Up’ decided to actively campaign against racism as opposed to just appropriating the culture maybe we’d see some real change in society.


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