The Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic Students Forum is one of the five student-led liberation forums within the Students’ Association. We aim to offer an intersectional safe space to students who identify under the BAME umbrella, although the term itself has been under controversy and debate, and address discrimination against ethnic minority students on campus.
In addition to having a role within the community, we engage in intellectual critical thinking on race and race equality, which positions us in a very important role in our university. University staff and institutional committees seek advice from us, which means we also educate the community on our lived experiences and what that entails, in order to improve university practice and policy.
We are proud to do the work we are doing, yet, as students with such an essential role at our institution, we find ourselves in a difficult position as students of ethnic minority background doing work staff would get paid for, for free.
Essentially, this is making us feel that our actions as a forum contradict our ethos regarding race equality. The fact that BAME staff and students are burdened with the work of countering and speaking against racism without the recognition that work deserves. Despite the fact that, our institution has pledged to fight institutional racism and inequalities in staff diversity in an effort to introduce an anti-racist culture in our community.
I suppose the question is, with whose efforts is it made with?
Starting with Black History Month, the forum will continue with the vision started by our amazing previous convener Anne-Marie Wilson, who worked to make the forum a channel for intellectual discussion, not only for the structural and cultural issues our community faces, but to celebrate our wins, work, and what makes us who we are. Such is the theme for this year’s BHM: ’Proud to Be’.
Proudly being ourselves also introduces the burden of being true to ourselves in a system in which that being is in itself an act of resistance. Therefore, this year the committee will be introducing projects and begin discussions with staff to bridge the disconnect between students and staff, and BAME people and White people, to work together in making sure the next committee can receive full recognition for their work and have that considered as important work experience after graduating. In equal partnership, BAME students no longer take the burden of solving racism on behalf of those whose problem it truly is, which requires our colleagues to step out of their comfort zone to understand more about our lived experiences. In the future we hope our university recognises that our work as students is not enough unless we have the support of ethnic minority staff members who are hired in specific roles to support us and bring our perspective into the very core of the institution.
Proud to be in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Students’ Forum is a multifaceted celebration of our joy and strength as a community to keep enjoying life and not shy from standing up to what we believe in.