Open Letter in Solidarity with Bahar Mustafa, Welfare and Diversity Officer, Goldsmiths.
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Open Letter in Solidarity with Bahar Mustafa.
In the last few days, our Welfare and Diversity Officer Bahar Mustafa has come under intense and sustained attack in the national press for her role in an organising meeting aimed at self-identifying BME women and non-binary people.
These attacks are based on a series of wilful distortions and omissions. To begin with, the event was an organising meeting, not a rally, as has been widely reported. As such it was a constituent part of a wider process involving hundreds of students who are organising for a democratic and inclusive university. This particular meeting was an opportunity for BME women and Non-binary people, who despite their courageous efforts in student and staff organising at Goldsmiths, often find themselves overlooked, to discuss their experiences and organise together in order to engage more effectively with the wider student movement. To portray it as a "diversity event", an "anti-racism rally" or even " a gathering to celebrate racial unity" as the original article's author dubbed it, is both a cynical misrepresentation and an insult to the BME students at Goldsmiths, who have political desires and abilities beyond celebrating "diversity".
Groups who face particular oppressions and difficulties meeting separately to discuss how best to support one another is not new or unusual. It is an important part of any political process. Many political and social organisations, including trade unions like Unison, have internal structures and networks to attend to the interests of ethnic minority members as well as members with disabilities or gender identities which put them at particular risk of discrimination or harassment. While we are all committed to a movement on campus which defends all students and staff, and ultimately to a society in which everyone is free among equals, we also recognise the importance of groups who face particular problems organising independently as part of the long road there. This is not, as has been suggested in the press, anti-white bigotry. Nor is it discrimination, in any sense of the word. The event in question is not a job or scholarship from which white people are barred from applying. It is an organising meeting involving just over ten people, convening to feed back into wider organising meetings.
We recognise that this sensationalist response to this modest project is part of a wider trope in reporting on student politics, which consistently portrays liberation politics as a totalitarian project which seeks to silence its opponents, and white men in particular. As a multiracial and gender-diverse community struggling to find our voice and working through our differences, we reject the imposition of this cheap story on our lives. Whatever our disagreements and differences may be, this is not how we wish to see them addressed.
Those of us who have had the privilege of working with Bahar, or who have needed her help over the last year, know how serious and committed she is to her role as welfare and diversity officer. We know that she works tirelessly on behalf of all students, that she is friendly, approachable, and to the best of her ability, open-minded and responsive. As members of the Goldsmiths community, we extend our love and solidarity to Bahar, who has been unfairly singled out for attack. We are proud to have a principled and courageous Welfare and Diversity Officer. We recognise that the harassment and threats that Bahar has faced as a direct result of the Tab article are an attack on us all. We are deeply concerned for our friend. We also know that this bullying must be resisted by all of us. The consistent and targeted harassment of BME women elected officers in our SU is cynical and cowardly. It is crucial that we make it clear, at Goldsmiths and beyond, that BME-led initiatives have the support and solidarity of many. We reject the attempt to tar these initiatives as "divisive" and "racist" and we extend our solidarity to everyone resisting marginalisation and isolation on a day by day basis.
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