WHITE COLLEAGUE LISTEN!*

Dear White Colleague,

We write to you as Black and Global Majority** colleagues and students as members of the ‘Revolution or Nothing Network’ in wake of the recent resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the urgent call for universities, subject associations and research organisations to address racism.

Listen to our truths.

As we start this new academic year driven by COVID-19 related challenges, we have all been galvanised into rethinking and reorganising effective modes of delivery for our disciplines. We write this letter urging you to recognize that this is an opportune moment for you to also reckon with and commit to do better with regards to issues of race and racism in our fields. The resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement is a stark reminder that equal importance needs to be placed on addressing racism in our fields with the same sense of urgency as has been demonstrated in the ability to adapt our curriculum delivery for this year. As we consider the advocacy for our disciplines in COVID-19 contexts, we call on you as an ally and an accomplice to engage in a meaningful examination of our fields’ white supremacy and racism and how this manifests in the predominant whiteness of our departments, our research and our curricula.

Racist actions, left unchecked, become racist structures

Over the last few months, several Open Letters have been aimed at and called for institutional change and action. This collective voicing of our concerns is instead addressed to our individual colleagues, friends, and peers. It asks you to recognise and undo your roles in upholding racist structures and systems of oppression. When responsibility is passed on to an “institution”, it absolves the responsibility, culpability, and complicity of individuals in perpetuating racist power structures. But it is individuals who make up institutions. John Amaechi offers a powerful articulation of white privilege for you to understand your role in being invisible to your own position of power.

It is therefore no longer enough to intend not to be racist; we need you to be actively antiracist. What we need from you is actionable and meaningful change. And so we urge you to move from private expressions of solidarity to real public actions that enable meaningful change for us, your Black and Global Majority colleagues and students.

UK Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies have not yet understood what systemic racism in the field is

As representative organisations for our disciplines, TaPRA, SCUDD, SDR, DSA and others have written public statements of solidarity and commitments to anti-racism. But before organisations and individuals serving on them can be anti-racist, you must first understand racism. Statements without actions are not helpful. But actions without a re-examination of what have been foundational racist values for our fields are not helpful either. Many statements of solidarity have noted that “there is more work to do.” We urge you to consider that the “work” required is not only generating a list of actions, but an accountability of how and when these actions are delivered and to what effect. Most importantly “the work” requires a fundamental reexamination of the racist values that shape our fields. Otherwise, these statements amount to no more than performances of solidarity and apology — and, as theatre, performance, and dance scholars, you should be most aware of the limits of such performativity as empty gestures.

Racism continues to be perpetuated in dominant understandings of the field

Racism in our disciplines manifests as both epistemic erasures and appropriations as well as microaggressions and overt racist behaviours.

Our fields are underpinned by and built on values that have historically privileged colonial knowledge systems. These knowledge-systems have in themselves been, and continue to be, produced through processes of extractions from and appropriations of the labour and intellect of Black and Global Majority thinking and making.

  • Despite this, our disciplines continue to centre white Euro-centric epistemologies in current scholarship and curriculum content, placing less value and visibility on paradigms beyond these frames.
  • White colonial research methods perpetuate unequal power relations that continue to silence already marginalised peoples, by speaking for and about us.
  • Research is validated by prescriptive and colonial modalities of written enquiries to be considered REF-able, and these value-judgements exclude and further marginalise alternative and embodied modes of knowledge-production that are deemed to be less “objective” and ultimately less valuable. Even as our fields recognise practice-research as valid modes of scholarship in the UK, these modalities are and have been historically validated by white structures and thinking.
  • When scholarship turns attention to discourses on marginalisation within our fields, there is a systematic erasing and absence of race and racism from these discussions and a denial of such negations.
  • To validate these erasures, colleagues co-opt African American legal studies scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw’s coinage of the term intersectionality and claim that the absence of race from discussions is compensated by the presence of discussions around gender, sexuality, class and disability. This is a fundamental misuse of Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality which recognises the compounded impact of these different structures of oppression on the lived experience of racialised peoples, thus placing race and racism at its heart. Kalwant Bhopal provides further examples of how the misuse of intersectionality manifests across UK Higher Education.
  • White scholars too often theorise and draw on Black and Global Majority intellect and practices without due acknowledgement of their own positionalities and the power asymmetries that drive their enquiries.
  • White scholars too often continue to either omit Black and Global Majority scholarship that are foundational to their areas of enquiries, or to co-opt Black and Global Majority intellect without due citational acknowledgement.
  • Recent research projects on race and racism in our fields undertaken by some white colleagues tend to centre their own voices and prerogatives, while ignoring the labour and intellect of Black and Global Majority colleagues whose scholarship is integral to these enquiries.
  • Colleagues’ conflation of diversity and decolonisation manifests as a cosmetic window-dressing solution by merely adding a few more Black and Global Majority authors to their reading lists, without any acknowledgement, understanding or interrogation of discourses and practices of power that their curricula choices continue to uphold.
  • Colleagues are eager to champion diversity which fails to dismantle power; in fact it keeps it firmly in place. For instance, Black and Global Majority heritage colleagues are invited to contribute to scholarly and publishing initiatives as lone, temporary, and / or replaceable stand-ins, resulting in tokenistic gestures of inclusion. Funding bodies in our disciplines claim their commitment to diversity initiatives while upholding racist structures and practices within that deters Black and Global Majority scholars from either applying or being successful with their bids.

All these inherently racist practices have habitually led to sustained and continued erasures, appropriations and marginalisations of knowledge-systems that exist and are generated outside of these white, privileged and colonial frameworks.

Racism is experienced by Black and Global Majority university staff and students in our departments and disciplines

Over the last eighteen months, several events hosted by London Theatre Seminar (May 2019), SCUDD (June 2019), TaPRA (September 2019), and DSA (August 2019) and others have initiated conversations about race and racism in our fields and in our departments and classrooms. And yet:

  • Theatre and dance departments continue to be dominantly and oppressively white — this is both in terms of the positionalities of faculty members and their inability to acknowledge and / or address the epistemic racisms in our fields.
  • These departments and institutions continually fail to direct sufficient time and other resources to actually make an antiracist impact.
  • Representative organizations in our disciplines continue to elect predominantly white executive board members.
  • Research and PhD projects by white colleagues that speak for Black and Global Majority communities continue to be funded without our voices being present in the research.
  • Anthologies are published by all-white editorial teams and contributors.
  • Journal editors and editorials boards in our disciplines are predominantly white.
  • On the whole conference panels and keynotes continue to centre all white speakers even as more racial diversity is evident in some instances.
  • Black and Global Majority colleagues and students are constantly called upon to speak on and educate white peers on race and racism, without any recognition or regard for the emotional labour required of us to do so repeatedly, and in the face of relentless defensiveness and hostility.
  • Black and Global Majority heritage scholars who require visa and immigration support are frequently disadvantaged despite having flourished under and graduated from UK PhD systems and contributing to fields that they are then erased from, due to lack of institutional affiliation. This pipeline problem is particularly notable in Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies departments in the UK, and is a bigger struggle that requires the dismantling of institutional and departmental whiteness.
  • Many white colleagues are unaware of UK visa regimes that place significant limitations on study and career prospects of Black and Global Majority colleagues and students from outside the UK, and how these regimes play out on their lived realities in brutal and violent ways.

This is on top of the endless experiences of overt racisms, everyday racisms and microaggressions we are routinely subjected to as Black and Global Majority scholars:

  • I was called “angry” and “difficult” in staff meetings when raising the same concerns as my white colleagues.
  • A senior scholar showed a racist image during a presentation and when questioned told me that I was “misunderstanding a lot of complex history behind it.” In that same seminar another senior scholar made a racist joke during the Q&A. Everyone in the seminar was too “polite” to challenge these two professors, or perhaps they were scared to.
  • I am regularly told that my English is very good.
  • My name is constantly misspelled and/or mispronounced by colleagues despite being repeatedly corrected.
  • Colleagues comment upon my “tan” in Zoom meetings.
  • I have been told to wear a sari when delivering content on Indian dance.
  • I am randomly asked to peer review work about any Asian performance form, regardless of where in Asia it is from.
  • I had to take time off work as the stress and frustration of all the emotional labour and no material change took its toll.
  • I was offered an hourly-paid job, but not given a contract, as the department needed to address their ‘diversity problem’ and I would be that token face.
  • The predecessor of my job, a good friend, was pointed at and described by a colleague in a meeting as ‘the diversity hire’.
  • In my first job in academia in Britain, I went to the library to look at the drama materials. There was not a single play by a Black or Asian playwright on the shelves — literally not one. By the time I left there were plenty, but why was it up to me to notice this deficit and make amends?
  • In a list of plays for incoming undergraduates to read over the Summer holidays, every playwright was white, all apart from Caryl Churchill were men, and most of them were dead. This list was shown to me as if it were something to be proud of.
  • I took over a course on writing for theatre. In the course content, every recommended play and text book to read and theatre production to see were by white writers and theatre makers. It is as if we just don’t exist in their idea of scholarship and artistry.
  • I was running a physical warm up, I referred to an artist of African descent, my (white) co-tutor stepped in to offer a reference on a more ‘serious’ note, and proceeded to discuss white practitioners (LeCoq etc). I felt totally undermined in front of the students.
  • Upon raising (anti-black) racism in my place of work, I have twice had responses from white men that ‘it hurts’. It was as if their pain was relevant at all, with no recognition that I live my life, and that we as Black people in Britain and the USA live our lives, inside the daily pain of racism. I should have asked, how much does it hurt?… Out of 10? Where does it hurt?… There was little awareness of why their separate but similar responses were so deeply problematic.
  • An Asian colleague who had worked at my university was not even interviewed for a job, even though he had taught in our department (and another in the same university), had run an outreach programme over the course of two years (specifically aimed at Black, Asian and disadvantaged young people), has a PhD, is a highly respected and accomplished, performed and published playwright and poet, theatre maker and workshop facilitator, was an Associate Artist in the department and his photo is still used on our website. He would have been the one other Global Majority person in our department, aside from me. I am the only Black lecturer at the moment. It was (supportively) indicated to me (off-the-record) that he probably did not get an interview because of REF. When will academics see that REF is rigged, REF perpetuates a culture of discrimination?
  • The Principal and Head of Faculty of my (Russell Group) university put forward a proposal to employ Professors, on fractional posts, purely for REF purposes. However, the Principal explicitly stated that these appointments could not be advertised and that departments should employ people already known to us. Colleagues in my department proposed the names of two white women to be appointed in this way, as part-time Professors. Part of the rationale given was that these two suggested white women were ‘feminists’. I was appalled and literally banged my head on the table. I later argued, with support from others in a school meeting, that hiring Professors in this way would be avoiding equal opportunities and the spirit of equal ops laws that we have fought for in Britain since the 1960s! As a school we thankfully voted against employing REF positions without an equal ops process so to a degree my / our resistance was a success. However, four white male Professors voted against and two of them proceeded to make a joke about it in the meeting. I do not understand how these white colleagues do not see that this is all deeply painful, exhausting and unnecessary. The white male Professors’ joking response lacked any empathy or understanding of the seriousness and stakes of this discussion. Further to the comment above, the next time I saw one of the white male Professors who voted in favour of employing Professors for REF without an equal opportunities process, was in the staff kitchen. He was eating lunch. He looked at me, seemingly nervous and said ‘Cajun chicken’. I said, sorry? Meaning, ‘what?’ He went on to say that he was eating Cajun chicken and it tasted really good. I wondered, what was it about me that made him think of saying ‘Cajun chicken’ rather than saying “hello, good afternoon, how was your day or sorry about the upset at the meeting”. ‘Cajun chicken’. I’m a vegetarian! For me it revealed that he saw me through the lens of a stereotype about Black people.
  • In my first meeting with a Professor at Goldsmiths, she took me into her office, and rather than asking about my research, my previous posts or how my day was going, launched into asking me which one of my parents was black, my father or my mother? It was so offensive and insidious. Why did she want to know which of my parents was Black? How was this relevant to anything at all to do with my job? That Professor has thankfully now left Goldsmiths.
  • A white female academic in my previous university continually marked Black and underprivileged undergraduates down on a first year BA module. The low marks were repeatedly noted at exam board. In one year 9 students (roughly 10% of the cohort) were going to leave the university only with a ‘pass’ degree, because of repeatedly failing this hugely problematic exam. It went on for years, nothing was done though I and others tried to challenge it. This person went on to falsely accuse a Black male scholar of ‘physical intimidation’. An independent investigation was held and it was found that her claim had no basis at all. Many of us Black scholars rallied around to support our colleague. We challenged the university at the highest level of management but the white woman was given a year’s fully paid research leave and eventually moved to another department. She is still working at the university. The personal and professional cost to the accused Black scholar and to us all, was so high. The accusation cost her nothing. It was scandalous. When will white academics step up and speak out when they see these injustices happen? Racism is a fire started by white people, why are we the ones perpetually left to put the fire out? We are the ones who get burnt! Even writing on this document is a great personal risk as it is almost impossible to be anonymous. I do not see any of my white colleagues risking anything to challenge racism. As Ignatiev and Garvey have written in their brilliant book Race Traitor, white people must be traitors to whiteness, this is what anti-racism means, it means betraying that which has put you in a position of supremacy, and it does not matter how many of us are your friends, colleagues, lovers, partners or even your children. It also does not matter how much you write or express your anti-racism. Action is what is needed. Knowing us or reading this document is not your passport out of the struggle. Do something that makes a positive difference. Take action that costs you something. If you want to know how change is made follow the money and you will find the strategy.
  • A white colleague put a Black Lives Matter sticker on their door. Then a couple of weeks later they took it down. It really hurt. It was as if it was just a fad, just a hashtag, just a moment.
  • I am repeatedly told by library staff and senior management if I could “prioritise” academic resources published by British press or similar. Throughout my PhD, I was continuously marginalised in my department and at TaPRA because my research focused on non-white playwrights and practices. I experienced major institutional failings (my white supervisor: 1. refused to read a complete thesis draft — said she does not have the time, 2. Refused to issue a report needed for my funding. When I complained to head of department, they sympathised but did nothing)
  • Being one of the few non-white attendees at TaPRA made me feel like I didn’t belong and that I needed to justify my presence at every turn.
  • I convened a working group at TaPRA for several years and in that time there was never a black or brown keynote speaker and only a handful of black and brown delegates.
  • One year the venue for the conference was a space named after a notable family historically involved in enslavement and no one said a word.
  • Funding structures reproduce racial inequality. Being on fixed contracts (as minority ethnic people are statistically less likely to secure permanent positions) means I am unable to apply to, or be named as a co-investigator on major grants.
  • When making theatre with British Muslim youth as an international doctoral student, I was pushed to clear my project with university solicitors responsible for administering the university’s compliance with the Prevent agenda. I was asked by these solicitors to report on any suspicious statements made by those I was working with — in effect, being asked to spy on my “research subjects” — even though our work was not at all involving any topics related to extremism and some of these youth were students at the same university. Failure to do so risked completion of the degree and my precarious visa status. Subsequent attempts to publish about this episode in peer-reviewed (white) journals have been met with derision and dismissal, in a way that implies that this type of episode is unique to my circumstance and not indicative of a broader structural issue in British theatre/performance academic spaces.
  • In my former university department where I was hired on a permanent/full-time basis, I was not granted a full research sabbatical even when I fully qualified for it, as my teaching labour was considered indispensable to the department. So while other colleagues enjoyed 100% research time on their sabbaticals, I had to teach while writing my book.
  • I was mistaken by a white female professor more than once for the only other Asian academic in my former School despite the other academic looking nothing like me.
  • I am frequently interrupted and talked over in meetings, and my ideas taken up by others with no acknowledgment.
  • When I pointed out that institutional gendered racism was preventing my ability to pursue my PhD research, the head of my school decided to refer me to the well-being department without having any prior conversation with me.
  • I used autoethnography in my performance as research, when I had to share in an all-white PhD seminar environment, my experiences were systematically belittled and discarded as not “scientific/ objective” enough.
  • As an unfunded PhD student I had to attend meetings with a little human, the head of graduate studies pretended to play and be happy with the presence of the little human in my presence. Then complained that I was “performing motherhood” during seminar.
  • When I raised the point that my department was white, a professor teaching courses on postcolonial and decolonial theatre and performance studies replied that “one might argue otherwise”. If personal experiences are discarded even facts are when emanating from a Black person in white institutions.
  • I was told, “You’re actually advantaged by the system because your ethnicity means you’ll be more in demand for places now looking to hire people of colour.”
  • Wanting me in the room/panel/post-show conversation only to “comment on race”, and never because of my research.
  • When I was doing my MA in 2017, I attended the one and only seminar about race and the contemporary in theatre that year. I was the only black student in the class but not the only person of colour. I began to notice that a fair few of my classmates kept looking at me when they raised a point of discussion, as if I was the fount of all racial knowledge.
  • I was expected to act as de facto cultural and linguistic intermediary for a group of white senior scholars at a conference in Asia although my role there was as an emerging academic trying to get my research heard. This ranged from explaining local contexts (not even my own) to ordering food for them at restaurants.
  • I have been asked for tips on “diversifying the curriculum” because a white senior scholar “did not know where to begin”.
  • During a presentation on decolonial aspects of my research in my geographic region, a white senior scholar told me quite drily, “I can sense you’re very passionate about this” — implying this was my fight, not theirs.
  • This same white senior scholar went on to suggest that if my “new” practices were not transferable to classrooms in the UK, then my work was not universal enough.
  • When I was the only non-white scholar interning at a UK archival institution, no one expressed any interest about my work or background — yet I was expected to understand everyone else’s.
  • When I asked for an external supervisor who shared my ethnic identity, as my research involves autobiography, I was told ‘I don’t know what it is about some women of a certain background being difficult to work with’.
  • I had a supervisor roll her eyes and walk out of a talk about racism in academia by a South Asian woman as she was ‘Not going to be lectured on privilege by a woman who went to Cambridge’.
  • For most of my research and work, I have been the only person of colour on staff, and the only person of colour studying.
  • I have consistently been told that the scholars from the Global South that are experts in my field of study are not ‘credible sources’.
  • I have consistently been asked to write about an ethnic group I do not identify as.
  • When I tried to raise the issue of addressing racism within my department through staff training by emailing the person in charge, I was told that ‘nationality’ was addressed in staff training, and that I in fact needed to educate myself and be more aware of the plight of students with Scottish accents, and the discrimination they face within academia. I am Scottish, with a Scottish accent. They had assumed I was an international student because of my name.
  • After attending my first symposium, where throughout the day the White academics made no real attempt to pronounce the patois in the Black playwright’s work correctly, I was approached by a White academic I had greatly admired and informed that she liked that I didn’t use any complicated language in my paper. The experience of that day was devastating.
  • I have an Indian student (A) who had an experience with a peer (B) who refused to pass him a book and said ‘what is the magic word?’ three times before telling the student that the word he was waiting to hear was ‘please’. When B was told by another person in the group that what he was doing was very mean, B said ‘I’m just trying to teach A some English manners’. (Note: acronyms do not reflect their actual names).
  • My paper proposals were rejected three years in a row to a UK conference working group which I felt best represented my area. When I mentioned this to one of my white female colleagues, I was told I should probably apply to the Asian people working group. (The same papers were accepted in international conference settings and London-based universities.)
  • Until I actively voiced out how I didn’t want to simply categorise my work under Asian Studies specifically, the assumption about my work was that it was always “Asian” and “postcolonial.” It took a lot of mental health support to engage a shift towards a more complex mindset within my UK/Euro-based academic community so that I didn’t pigeonhole my work, my worth and my identity.
  • A senior white male professor and I got into a heated debate in front of an entire international seminar group, when he made a comment that we should “get over” post colonialism and move on already.
  • I witnessed a student ask a question to the white female lecturer in a big hall that referred to “people of colour” as “coloured people.” The professor lauded the white female student for her question and did not address the careless use of the term.
  • That time when a white feminist colleague recommended I read an article written for Vogue by Meghan Markle on ‘passing’. She said I’d find it really interesting.
  • Many white colleagues including my line manager, a white woman, witnessed a senior white male professor speak aggressively to me in a departmental meeting and said / did nothing to reprimand his behaviour or support me.
  • All my attempts for promotion and progression at my institution have been consistently blocked or rejected over the years in favour of my white colleagues who were successful even when my competences, skills, and qualifications were superior. The justifications given by white senior managers have been vague, biased and contradictory. The procedures for assessing applications have not been followed correctly or in a fair, transparent and impartial manner. In the several conversations I had with senior managers around those issues, I was given conflicting and misleading guidance in addition to communicating unevidenced assumptions about me, questioning my intentions and commitments. The resulting experience over the years has been damaging for my motivation and career progression, and it deeply affected my confidence, trust and mental health. There has been a clear disparity between my experiences and those of my white colleagues in terms of promotions processes, but also regarding other privileges, leadership opportunities, or simply the validation and recognition .
  • When I discussed proposing new modules in the past grounded on my research interests on the relationship between performance, politics, identity, and postcolonialism, they were often received by white colleagues with resistance and lack of enthusiasm. Some questioned how those subjects can be positioned in the (white) curriculum. The one-off few lectures I managed to introduce here and there have been evidently successful among students with a positive impact on their practice and thinking, but with little validation from most white colleagues. Interestingly, in the current attempts to respond to wider pressures to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum, those subjects are now proving essential, with many questions asked among white staff on how they can be absorbed now into the whole curriculum. Questions that were raised in the past, by a small minority of colleagues, around the whiteness of the curriculum, and which were received with resistance and hostility by white colleagues, are now resurfacing as problems (identified by Black students and students of colour) that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
  • I was asked to justify how and why my work on public panels with creative industry representatives on racism and the arts could be deemed ‘research’.
  • In my attempts to actively propose and initiate actions to address systemic racism for both students and staff, I (the only person of colour) have experienced resistance and defensiveness from some white colleagues. I noticed how when the same propositions/suggestions were made by white colleagues they were received more positively. I found the inability and resistance of some white staff to confront and self-assess issues of race, racism, and white privilege quite disconcerting. Overall, the labour of trying to mobilise anti-racism action among all white staff has been significantly draining and emotionally triggering. I felt that my experiences in that context were rarely acknowledged.
  • When I was asked what difficulties I faced in my research, I brought up that I felt isolated being the only Black PhD student in my cohort, and how difficult it was to talk about in front of a predominantly white peer group. I was told by the seminar leader that I should consider putting those feelings to one side and move on, without any sincere acknowledgement of how that might affect my mental health and professional performance.
  • I was cut short by a while male chair at a meeting from being able to present my points fully in response to another white male colleague’s aggressive tone.
  • I have been tacitly singled out as my cohort’s ‘Black student’, and made to feel as though my research and presence are a box-ticking exercise to fulfill diversity targets. When the issue of racial discrimination inevitably rears its head, I am repeatedly told that there will be ‘another one’ (Black student) in the next cohort, as if to say things will be better so I should stop complaining, without the acknowledgement of the emotional and cognitive labour that goes into navigating whiteness on a daily basis.
  • My communication style has been at times labelled as ‘aggressive’ or ‘provocative’ when I simply considered myself as being direct and clear.
  • In a predominantly white University staff and student body, and exclusively white research leadership, I am isolated in my research interests which are in the area of Black and Global Majority issues, while the University insists on supporting research going for external funding which is collaborative and works across departments. And hence the continuous struggle to achieve promotion.
  • I am asked to work on three University wide Equalities committees, while white colleagues progress up the research ladder with their non teaching time intact.
  • I organised a conference with my executive producer who was a white man. It was a quite complicated thing but somehow it was all miraculously under control; so the executive producer and I decided to stand at the entrance to welcome people as a nice thing to do. Shortly a white male who was speaking (at my invite) arrived. He entered the door and made a bee-line for us looking at my white male colleague. He then addresses my white male colleague and without even looking at me he hands me his coat to hang up. I was pissed off but had neither the wherewithal nor the awareness to cope with it. Looking back I wish I had dropped it on the floor. This is but one episode in a lifetime of episodes.

It’s either a revolution or nothing

The racism, epistemic and behavioural, we have articulated in this letter requires action, but more importantly, these actions must be driven by a fundamental intellectual shift in the field. This can only come from a deep interrogation of power, how power operates in the fields currently and your role as a white colleague in upholding it. This is also only possible through a deep investment in making space to visiblise and acknowledge, through the cracks of coloniality, the extracted Black and Global Majority intellect and art that is already foundational to our fields.

And so we demand your commitment to “the work” :

  1. A shift from vague commitments of allyship to practicing actual friendship, collegiality, collaboration and solidarity as a way of knowing and being with currently marginalized scholars.
  2. Gain consciousness about race and racism in every aspect of your teaching and scholarship and move towards the journey of practising antiracism. Decentring whiteness can also mean addressing absence. Start to address the colonial histories of our texts and our disciplines. Be aware of how research-led teaching can perpetuate preeminent power structures. Diversifying the reading list is a starting point, but this must be accompanied by scholarship and pedagogical tools to transgress racist habits and discourses
  3. Rethink the centre. Consider the foundational texts, figures, and practices of the disciplines and fields. Know the histories of why these are considered foundational and actively undo them.
  4. Cite your Black and Global Majority colleagues, especially when their research and scholarship is central to what you are working on. If you are a white person working on a project about racism, consider co-authoring with the people upon whose intellectual expertise you are drawing.
  5. Work to dismantle white gatekeeping. For example, publishers must look at their structures of commissioning and challenge all white editorial teams, projects that do not engage with foundational Black and Global Majority scholarship pertinent to the enquiries being made, and actively seek and support projects from our communities outside of the white networks within which you currently operate.
  6. Institutional structures like the REF, TEF, KEF and funding structures perpetuate the silencing of people and knowledge systems that fall outside the remit of what is considered ‘valuable’ by these mechanisms. While we all recognize this it is not enough to question these structures, in the immediate term, actively work to transform them.
  7. Create and fight for concrete, transparent and more just hiring processes. For example, at the end of an interview panel if all else is equal, and of the last two candidates one is Black or Global Majority, the post should go to the Black and/or Global Majority candidate.
  8. Do the work of dismantling white supremacy yourself — don’t keep asking for validation from your Black and Global Majority colleagues in your endeavour and acknowledge fully and compensate our labour in the process.
  9. Question the constituents of a panel, editorial board, research project etc before accepting an invitation. We know that some organizations would currently fail to deliver projects on this basis. That doesn’t mean it cannot be a goal to work towards.
  10. Challenge your institution’s implementation of Prevent training, and if need be, refuse to undertake it.
  11. Desist from framing ‘the attainment gap’ as a responsibility placed on Black and Global Majority students, and start to understand it as ‘institutional failings’ based on and driven by white privilege.
  12. Advocating for our disciplines requires us to work on the pipeline. Identify the barriers to academia, create new models of funding, redistribute resources in order to actively enable and nurture Black and Global Majority scholars from undergraduate through to PhD study. Hire us as ECRs.

The last few months have made it abundantly clear that we have collectively come together to address the crisis of COVID-19, reimagining the delivery of our disciplines overnight in order to ensure financial stability for our universities and departments. It is therefore equally possible to address the racism that is endemic in our fields. Let’s move away from excuses such as “this needs time”, because the time to do this work is long overdue, and it is now.

Mojisola Adebayo
Sọlá Adéyẹmí
‘Funmi Adewole
Siân Adiseshiah
Oladipo Agboluaje
Roaa Ali
Swati Arora
Sylvan Baker
Dzifa Benson
Melissa Blanco Borelli
Topher Campbell
Ameer Choudrie
Broderick D.V. Chow
Nadine Deller
Misri Dey
María Estrada-Fuentes
Lorna Gangaidzo
Giselle Garcia
Raimi Gbadamosi
Sam Girdham
Lynette Goddard
Matthew Gough
Víctor Ladrón de Guevara
Nesreen Hussein
Kene Igweonu
Valerie Kaneko-Lucas
Mercedes Lewis
David Linton
Vanessa Macaulay
Arya Madhavan
Asif Majid
Persis-Jadé Maravala
Avanthi Meduri
Royona Mitra
Sharanya Murali
Sreenath Nair
Stella Odunlami
Funlola Olufunwa
Adelina Ong
Prarthana Purkayastha
Hannah Marie Robbins
Jo Ronan
Cristina Fernandes Rosa
Azadeh Sharifi
Kathryn Singh B.E.M
Corrie Tan
Gabriel Varghese
melissandre varin
Zhibo Zhao

*We take the cue from Hazel V Carby’s 1982 article ‘White Woman Listen! Black Feminism and the Boundaries of Sisterhood’ in the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies edited anthology Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain published by Routledge.

**We mobilise this term in this letter while remaining conscious and cautious of the very tensions inherent in any and all labels of identifications. We further reject the problematic nature of state sanctioned terminology such as BAME and ‘minority ethnic’, that us as racialised peoples are defined by. Black and Global Majority, while not perfect, attempts at signalling a political, collective and positive identification, so that we are not categorised in relation to whiteness.

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An informal network of Black and Global Majority Scholars in UK Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies.

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