[Content Warning: Racism, Anti-Blackness, Police Brutality]
On Monday 25th May, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was murdered by a police officer who pinned him to the ground with a knee to his neck until he couldn’t breathe while 3 other officers stood by and watched. Since then, across America and the world, protests have erupted against the ongoing police brutality inflicted upon Black Americans, with demonstrators demanding justice for George Floyd and his family, and all other victims of racist murders by the US police. This has led to an outpouring on social media over the last week, lamenting and grieving the loss of another Black life and expressing anger at the racism that drove the killing.
We must recognise that George Floyd is one of many Black people to have died at the hands of white supremacist state violence in the US, and across the world, including here in the UK. The popular notion that racism in the UK is less violent than in the US, and is instead covert or subtle is a myth that normalises and erases the violent racism that is inflicted by both people and structures in this country daily. “British racism is only subtle insofar as it is left unspoken, forgotten and tolerated” (Rami Yasir). Its consequences are violent. We must also hold the following lives in memory as we fight for justice, still recognising that there are countless others who have fallen victim to racist violence:
Breonna Taylor. Nina Pop. Tony McDade. Ahmaud Arbery. Regis Korchinski-Paquet. Belly Mujinga. Darren Cumberbatch. Cynthia Jarrett. Mark Duggan. Stephen Lawrence.
We stand in uncompromising solidarity with those demonstrating against this incident and anti-Black systemic racism across the US and the world. We are aware that the Students’ Union has failed the Black community and students of colour in the past, grappling with this is imperative in our commitment to being actively anti-racist. We have and will continue to take proactive steps to do better by interrogating our practices, educating and training our staff and amplifying the voices of the Black community.
Some of you may be aware of the abhorrent, racist photographs mocking the murder of George Floyd that were circulated online over the weekend that involve alleged University of Warwick applicants. We have received confirmation from the University that the people pictured are not Warwick applicants and would not be welcome if they were.
However, we recognise that these images instilled fear in many Black students and members of the Warwick Community. Although these students will not be enrolling at our University, racist behaviours like these have and continue to occur at Warwick. These are unacceptable, not because they exhibit a lack of ‘respect’ and ‘dignity’, but because they are racist. As an Officer Team we are committed to holding the University to account in embedding anti-racism at all levels of governance and in its disciplinary processes, pushing them to do more to meaningfully tackle the racism that is rife on our campus.
What you must do now
Many of you may have had the privilege to scroll past the social media posts and news stories thinking the content of these is not affecting you, or that it is not your problem. Please recognise that the discomfort you may feel in confronting this is incomparable to the experiences of the Black community. You have a duty to do more and to do better, both now and in the future. We all must be continually anti-racist, without passivity. In order to do better, you should:
Sign these petitions
Email your MPs and Minneapolis Police Station using this template: https://docs.google.com/document/d/11SBzyuj_NZYDAqncb7JEzekt2cMlf6RmDpUjV9EGZgM/edit
Donate, if you can, to:
Support local and transnational activism. Follow and reach out to existing activist groups online, and engage in the peaceful protests taking place across the country. We have included guidance below on how to do this safely.
Support anti-racism groups and campaigns at Warwick, such as Warwick Anti-Racism Society, The Black Women’s Project, Warwick Speak Out campaign and BAME Creatives. (See the resources section)
Research and educate yourself about these issues and share your findings with your networks.
Listen to the experiences of marginalised groups, without asking questions or inserting your thoughts.
Open your eyes to anti-Blackness and call it out when you see it, even when it’s uncomfortable. Don’t make excuses that people are too old to change or too young to learn.
Report any incidents of racism or discrimination. You can find information regarding how to report hate crimes here: https://www.warwicksu.com/help-support/crime/hatecrime/report/
Stop sharing graphic videos of Black people being murdered. Instead, use your platform to share news stories and updates, especially if your timeline is not very diverse.
Wellbeing guidance and resources for the Black community
Further to this, we understand that due to the highly traumatic nature of the events this week and the wave of media response that has followed, many of our students may be requiring additional wellbeing support to mitigate the catastrophic impact these events can have on our mental health, in particular our Black students who may be experiencing racial trauma. The following text outlines what you can do if you have been affected by the events of this week, as well as information surrounding what you can do to support anti-racist activism.
Racist incidents, like those we have witnessed over the last week, can have harmful mental health effects, in particular for Black students and people of colour who may suffer from repetitive racial trauma as a result. This is especially the case when incidents are accompanied by graphic footage. This trauma can manifest in different ways and may lead a person to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor concentration, insomnia and/or irritability.
If you feel that your mental health has been affected in this way, remember that there is professional support available to you. The Local Mind website is a useful way of finding out what services are available in your area. They also have an information page that outlines their work specifically with Black men. The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network also specialises in culturally competent care for people of colour.
Outside of professional support, you can support your own mental health by:
- Allowing yourself to feel and express emotions. It is okay to feel grief, take some time to process your feelings without the pressure of productivity.
- Discussing your experiences through open conversations with people you trust and who will have a mutual understanding.
- Eating well and exercising, as trauma can take a toll on your body and immune system. This will help to release tension.
- Engaging with activities you enjoy will help to promote a healthy mind, body and spirit. This may also help to release “pent up” feelings, particularly if these activities can facilitate expression, such as painting, writing or singing.
- Taking time away from social media. Although it can be hugely beneficial for connecting with allies, gaining campaign traction and distracting yourself, it can still take a toll on your mental health. Adapting the type of media you consume can help to prevent this, replacing news stories with films, music and art that celebrate the Black community.
- Ignoring requests for emotional and educational labour as many Black people are being inundated with messages requesting a walk-through understanding of white privilege. You are not obligated to respond to these people. Education, learning and unlearning is long, difficult and painful - everyone must do the work themselves. You are well within your rights to set boundaries.
- Empowering yourself through resistance can help to combat feelings of hopelessness and help you deal with stress and trauma.
Injustice is happening globally and here at Warwick, and it is the responsibility of the privileged to learn, reflect and use our voices to fight for change. The resources listed below are a good starting place for this.
For those feeling traumatised, hurt and upset by what is happening around the world, we encourage you to prioritise your wellbeing at this time. Please use the wellbeing guidance and resources that we have included and look after yourselves.
We stand with you.
Black Lives Matter.
The Sabbatical Officer Team
Other organisations to donate to include:
Upcoming UK Protests and Demonstrations
Black Lives Matter has released key peaceful protest dates in London. If you attend, please remember it is crucial you wear protective gear and know your rights as a protester. The details are:
- Hyde Park - Wednesday 3rd June, 1pm
- Parliament Square – Saturday 6th June, 1pm
- US Embassy – Sunday 7th June, 2pm
Wellbeing – reading
Wellbeing – professional support
The first three books listed here are available at the University library. However, please support the authors and local bookshops by buying a copy yourself when possible.
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin Diangelo
- Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire – Akala
- Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise your Privilege, Combat Racism, and Change the World – Layla Saad
- How to Be an Ally if You Are a Person with Privilege – Frances E. Kendall
Black Lives Matter has also put together an essential anti-racist reading list here: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/82461._BlackLivesMatter_Reading_List_%C2%A0.
- 13th - Ava DuVernay’s Netflix Documentary on the Prison Industrial Complex
- When They See Us – Ava DuVernay’s Netflix Series based on the true story of the Central Park 5
Societies and Communities at Warwick
Further anti-racism resources can be found here.