The Victimization of BME Student Activists

I’ve been without my laptop due to technical problems (charger just kicked the bucket). When I purchased this MacBook some 6 years ago, I never thought that it was at a time when I had PhD funding and had the financial ability to fix and replace things quickly and efficiently. Now, as a financially poor yet spirited campaigner, technical problems can really limit my ability to speak, communicate and share ideas with other fellow activists and supports. I guess this is a caveat to say that if you don’t hear from me for another few weeks, it isn’t because I’ve dropped off the face of the earth, or have nothing meaningful to say or express; it is because the technical situation hasn’t been resolved yet.

Nevertheless, many interesting discussions have begun concerning the rampant neoliberalization of higher education as a result of the wave of student occupations happening throughout Europe and Canada. However, I want to briefly devote this post, given that the NUS Conference in Liverpool is currently in full swing, to the on-going victimization, bullying and character assassination that are affecting BME student activists both in and out of the NUS.

Last month the Black Rep on the NUS LGBT Campaign, Noorulann Shahid was mercilessly bullied and excluded at the NUS Women’s Conference by white Labour-leaning activists. Shahid writes:

“I want these people and their faction to know and understand the implications of their consequences, and that their dirty and frankly childish tactics have had a seriously detrimental effect on my mental and physical health. As a disabled individual, this process has been very draining for me. It has also overshadowed my whole conference experience which has been disappointing, as I was not able to enjoy myself or network with other delegates as much as I would have liked to because of having to go through this ordeal for two whole days. I have barely been able to look after myself and practice self-care, which is difficult enough being disabled. Apart from enduring this ordeal, I have, as have many others in attendance, been targeted by Twitter trolls which has been racist, misogynistic, sexist and Islamophobic. I have developed a thick skin when it comes to trolls but I still found the constant barrage of tweets to me very upsetting and draining. NUS Women’s conference holds a sentimental value for me as it is the first NUS event I ever attended and my experience as a first-time delegate was very positive overall, and my memories of this are now tainted by the experience I’ve had this year.

The whole conference was full of micro-aggressions and the process of me being excluded has sent the message tome that student politics will actively shut you out if you go against the status quo, if you call out basic white people, and if you dare to even challenge white supremacy. The overall connotations of what has happened to me has told me that my voice can and will be actively silenced because I am a threat to the factions that have held a stronghold within NUS centrally and in liberation campaigns for years. All my faith in NUS and NUS’ autonomous so-called “liberation” campaigns has vastly diminished.

I believe that student politics is a microcosm that mirrors the political establishment that govern our cities and countries. To those who then turn around and ask: “why are so few BME people involved in politics”, and “where are the women or other marginalised groups”? My experience in this election will give you all the answers you need. The political establishment works to actively silence our voices, trample and stamp on us and shut us out. And then they get on the podium and pretend like they care for marginalised voices. Don’t be fooled by that nonsense.”

The deplorably racist/ableist treatment of Shahid at the NUS Women’s Conference is not a isolate or individual case. Many of you who follow my blog know of my own mistreatment by two NUS staff members who called the police on me for simply trying to speak and engage with other student activists about this campaign at the 2014 NUS Women’s Conference in Bradford. I need not go in depth about the institutional racism within the NUS and how many Black and POC individuals our respective issues are marginalized and isolated within this organization.

Yet, the issue isn’t just the NUS alone. I am reminded of the experiences I’ve had in majority white-leftist student activists spaces that have also engaged in similarly racist bullying tactics against Black and POC individuals. At the moment, a particularly vicious smear campaign has been waged against Abdi-Aziz Suleiman, who is currently running for the NUS VP Union Development position by white lefty Women’s Militia types.

It’s no wonder why so many BME student activists find student government and student activism such an emotionally and mentally exhausting endeavor.

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About justice4sanaz

For 3 years, Sanaz Raji, a non-EU international student from the United States, has waged a fearless and brave fight against institutional aggression, bullying, and racism from the School of Media and Communication (formerly the Institution of Communications Studies) University of Leeds. The School of Media and Communication took away Sanaz's scholarship in August 2011, only 2 weeks before the start of her third year into her PhD studies. The School of Media and Communication breached their own procedures and rules concerning evaluating student progress. By taking away Sanaz's scholarship, the School of Media and Communication prevented her from continuing her studies in addition to having a decent standard of living with food and shelter that all students expect as a human right. In waging her battle for equal rights for non-EU international students, Sanaz was evicted from her university accommodation in May 2014, threatened with an ASBO (anti-social behavior order) and now fighting against deportation. All non-EU international students should have the right to challenge their universities for their failings without the threat of harassment or deportation. Justice4Sanaz is a movement to redress the failure of the student movement to discuss the myriad of ways that non-EU students, especially those who are people of color, are silenced, bullied and threatened within the neoliberal British university system.
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