Reverse racism does not exist. For that matter, neither do reverse sexism or “misandry”. This will continue to be the case until the existing hegemonies of society shift so that white people/neo-Europeans are no longer the dominant racial group in society and men are no longer the privileged gender. These are fairly simple statements but unfortunately appear to be concepts which a depressing multitude of people either cannot grasp or are unwilling to accept.
We must unpack the reasons why it is vital that these spaces for people of colour, women and gender minorities and other oppressed groups are not only allowed, but encouraged to exist. This is especially relevant with regards to the persecution that women and people of colour are faced with when they attempt to enforce these spaces.
An especially current example of this is the lamentable furore which has arisen around an event recently organised at Goldsmiths, University of London and facilitated by the Goldsmiths SU Diversity Officer. It contained the polite request that boundaries were respected by the people invited to only attend the event if they were women, or non-binary, people of colour.
The officer is now being castigated as racist and discriminatory for daring to suggest that at some events it might be more effective if it was only open to certain parties who belong to the oppressed groups in question. This is a very effective way of silencing minorities who dare to speak up for their rights. This instance is a supreme example of members of the status quo lashing out angrily when their privilege and power is threatened.
People, and particularly women, of colour are continually bullied and demonised for daring to speak out about oppression in a way which does not fully conform to the standards set by the oppressive class themselves. The only way to challenge privilege and achieve liberation is by allowing the voices of the oppressed to be heard.
In this situation, the people who belong to the most marginalised groups were being allowed to have the safe space to express themselves, talk and organise in the manner they wish. This is not a new concept, and it is for these reasons that the liberation groups exist even at the level of the NUS. Those who argue against them make claims of promoting ‘equality’, and accuse the organisers of such events of discrimination.
The struggle is for emancipation from the social constraints placed on us by virtue of our gender, race, sexual orientation, ability or class. Therefore, when people from oppressed groups decide on a course of action, it is not the place of those who would claim to be supposed allies to dictate the criteria of their self-determination. Instead, the voices of those from oppressed groups should be listened to, and taken as guidance on how to act.
The manner in which the diversity officer, who is herself a woman of colour, has been hounded by a plethora of tabloids, as well as white supremacists, serves to demonstrate how far we are from removing barriers and discrimination within society. BME women and gender minorities are made to feel unsafe and uncomfortable in many environments and this by extension leads to their exclusion.
This is why self-defining spaces are so important. Edinburgh University BME group would like to extend a statement of solidarity to the hard-working officers involved in this action at Goldsmiths, and call on all who claim to serve the cause of anti-racism and anti-sexism to show support.
Image: Goldsmiths London