Statement in support of Bahar Mustafa

We would like to share with you the following statement from the Feminist Postgraduate Forum at Goldsmiths, University of London that addresses racism and sexism on campus:

We, the Goldsmiths Feminist Postgraduate Forum, want to express our full support for Bahar Mustafa. Mustafa is the Goldsmiths Student Union’s Welfare and Diversity Officer who is currently facing targeted racist and sexist attack in the press, online and at the university.

The campaign against Mustafa first received national and international attention when Mustafa hosted an organising meeting for BME (Black/Minority Ethnic) women and non-binary people. The invitation to this meeting included the request that white men not attend. As a group, we want to express our support for BME, women, people with disabilities, LGBT*QI and non-binary people only organising meetings. We see these spaces as politically necessary and we understand and support the need for minority groups to meet as students at the university, in all workplaces and without. There is a long history of the existence of such spaces within social movements. We reject the notion that it is racist to exclude white people or men from organising meetings about racism and sexism, as this entirely ignores the hegemonic power structures that make such meetings necessary. Universities are institutionally white spaces, in which non-white students and staff routinely face racism. They are also institutionally sexist spaces, which privilege men in numerous ways. Spaces to reflect and organise for those who face these forms of structural disadvantage allow those directly affected to address their experiences with and strategise their negotiation of such structures.

The attack on Mustafa and on the use of safe spaces in political organising demonstrates the need for such spaces. It exposes the overwhelming ignorance about racism and what racism is that is all too common in our society. It also highlights the way that, too often, political energy has to be directed toward explaining racism and sexism and other forms of discrimination to those who do not experience it and do not understand it. This is tiring work, and places a significant burden upon those who not only encounter racism, sexism and discrimination daily, but are also tasked with explaining it to those who are invested in denying its existence. Safe spaces provide a temporary reprieve from this work of confrontation and explanation. This allows room for… actual organising!

In organising a BME women and non-binary only meeting Mustafa was doing her job. She is the Welfare and Diversity officer at Goldsmiths, elected on a manifesto that promised to proactively fight for students and promote the needs of the most marginalized in society.

In attempting to defame Mustafa, the right wing press has dug up tweets using the hashtag #killallwhitemen. Again, the response to these tweets demonstrates incredible ignorance about racism, the social structures of power we live within, as well as about history more generally. We understand the use of this hashtag as pointing to the many structures of power which protect white lives and male lives over all other lives. We also understand it as a satirical take on popular ideas of the ‘angry feminist’ and ‘angry black woman’ etc. Finally, we support the right of minorities to be angry at structural racialised violence, and to express this anger through shared language and humour.

We call for the university to support Mustafa, who has been a victim of extreme racist and sexist abuse. A statement in support of Mustafa should be issued immediately, as well as a retraction of any statement that implies that BME only organising in any way contributes to racism, as opposed to being a direct response to the experience of racism.

We also call on the university to actively support safe spaces for minority groups to meet. The vitriolic response to Bahar has absolutely underlined the need for spaces without white men present – the need to have safe space to think, discuss, create communities and organise without being attacked and shouted down.

Finally, Goldsmiths must invest in teaching race theory/critical race studies, in building awareness of racism and in dismantling white supremacy. The response to Mustafa has demonstrated the incredible ignorance which exists around these issues. We need to support better understanding racism, and the responsibility for this cannot rest on BME women and nonbinary folk alone.

Signed,

The Feminist Postgraduate Forum:

Linda Stupart, Leila Whitley, Tiffany Page, Mijke Van Der Drift, Heidi Hasbrouck, Chandra Frank, Ella Fegitz, Rosario Fernandez Ossandon, Alice Corble, Lieta Vivaldi, Lee MacKinnon, Sarah Burton, Louise Rondel, Morgane Conti, Phil Thomas, Linnete Manrique-Robles, Marlene Haring, Rose Delcour-Min

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