Inaction on racial injustice is complicity: taking action together

Article

The following statement has been agreed between Goldsmiths’ Senior Management Team (SMT) and Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action (GARA), following the latter’s 137-day sit-in occupation of College building Deptford Town Hall earlier this year. It represents part of SMT’s attempts to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of institutional racism, particularly in the forms highlighted by GARA, and a recognition that senior management has paid insufficient attention to racial justice in the past.

This statement does not attempt to cover other forms of discrimination and inequality, and cannot be made on behalf of all staff and students: each has to be accountable for their own views, values and actions. However, SMT fully acknowledges its leadership role for the institution and this statement is therefore a mark of College management’s intent to tackle racism in all its deep-seated forms.

Goldsmiths must acknowledge that decades of a white-centric curriculum, drawing on Eurocentric thinking and philosophies, overseen by white-dominated staff working in buildings which house and represent white colonial history, have all the hallmarks of racialised power. It is an environment in which Black and minority ethnic students and staff have been marginalised, undervalued, unsupported and experienced racism.

As various recent reports have indicated, Goldsmiths is not alone in these issues. However, we do not want to be the type of organisation that hides behind the challenges of the wider sector. Two of our core values are ‘Respecting the individual’ and ‘Promoting access and diversity’. We have an additional duty to reflect our diverse local community here in South East London, in both our student and staff body.

Goldsmiths has not always paid enough attention to central principles underpinning racial justice and we deeply regret that fact.

If our professed values are to mean anything we need to listen more attentively to the voices of BME students and staff and act upon what they are telling us. We have begun to do that through the publication of a report into the experience of BME students at Goldsmiths. It makes for challenging reading for Goldsmiths’ predominantly white senior leadership and, indeed, all those engaged in teaching and supporting students across the College community.

While we know many colleagues will profess their deep commitment to racial justice, we acknowledge that many of us across the Goldsmiths community have not spent enough time to really understand what this means, and how inherited privilege manifests itself in the classroom or boardroom.

We all need to step up and challenge our prejudices, our insecurities and our complacencies. White staff and students have a particular responsibility to consider these issues, and how they affect their interactions with Black and minority ethnic staff and students.

Our various commitments to GARA and the wider College, agreed on 26 July 2019, are a next step on this journey. Those steps include mandatory anti-racist training for all staff, which needs to be implemented as part of a wider context of cultural and pedagogical change, which in turn needs to be driven by open, honest conversations around race and racism.

We will continue to work in partnership with GARA representatives, the Students’ Union, and our wider community of staff and students to meet our shared aims of creating a truly inclusive place of learning, free of all forms of racism and discrimination

Justice, fairness and fundamental human rights demand nothing less.

Goldsmiths Senior Management Team