The University of Westminster Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Network, which represents the interests and aspirations of Black and Minority Ethnic colleagues at the University, has released a statement responding to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on 25 May.
The Network's core ethos is to help drive race equality throughout the institution.
The statement reads: “How do we make sense of an on-the-street killing of an unarmed human by an officer who is meant to serve and protect? Do we see it as the product of an error or malice by an individual or part of a culture and system that is, at best, complicit and, at worst, a driver?
“We, the Black and Minority Ethnic Staff Network of the University of Westminster, want to express our outrage at the racialised killing of Black persons at the hands of the State. We call upon the wider University community to join us in solidarity, reflect upon our own silences, privileges and prejudices, and make our collective voice heard against racism, injustice and the dehumanisation that is befalling our fellow human beings in America, the UK and everywhere else where people are experiencing injustice.
“We understand that this is not a story about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Derek Chauvin or Amy Cooper. We must acknowledge the role of racialised privileges and racialised dehumanisations that blight our societies both in the global North and the global South. We need to own up to our own individual, local and national failings in this regard before we can make inroads into addressing the systemic biases that exist and drive our systems, institutions and societies.
“Sharing our University’s values of being compassionate, responsible and progressive, we emphasise that our lives are inter-connected and what happens in the wider society cannot but have a profound impact on either undermining or improving whatever gains have been achieved to date. It falls on each and every one of us - colleagues and students - to recognise the impact of this atrocity on our individual person and our interactions with others. We must build a conducive environment for ending silence, having frank conversations, speaking up against biases, seeking support when needed, and changing the status quo of BME colleagues’ relative absence from decision making. #BlackLivesMatter should be a wake up call for us to question hierarchies and privileges that prevent us from having equality, diversity and inclusion within workplace and in the wider society.
“We believe in challenging prejudices as much as in celebrating diversity. We recognise compounded levels of privileges as we recognise the intersectionality of discrimination. We also see and experience, every day, the dehumanising nature of societies’ ordering of different groups. We are humbled to receive full and unconditional solidarity from Women of Westminster (WOW) and LGBTIQ Staff Networks for this Statement. We welcome allies and hope for similar understanding and solidarity from the wider community of colleagues. Let us end the silence and educate ourselves in being anti-racist rather simply non-racist.
“We call on all of us to reject the myth that this form of racialised policing and systemic racism is a preserve of the USA. What happens here in the UK is no different. From the police’s ‘stop and search’ to incarceration using the Mental Health Act; from the disproportionate levels of vulnerability to COVID-19 and the blatant denial of its causes; from salary gaps to unequal distribution of positions of authority, from criminal justice system to educational outcomes. The list goes on. Black and Minority Ethnic persons in general, and black Britons in particular, face discriminations, unfairness and dehumanisation every single day. We do not need our own George Floyd to take this seriously and must start a process of challenging and healing for all concerned.
“We, the BME Staff Network, reiterate our commitment to work with the wider University community to say NO to racism, and to remind ourselves that the lives of our Black colleagues, students and others are just as important as everyone else’s life.”
The University of Westminster is committed to supporting diversity and equal opportunities. Westminster thrives to allow staff and students to reach their full potential, regardless of their age, disability, gender, gender identity, marital/civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origins, family circumstances, nationality, political beliefs and affiliations, socio-economic background, or other irrelevant distinction.
The University will continue to respect and value diversity within our communities of staff and students, to promote equality of opportunity, and to challenge and strive to eliminate unlawful discrimination.