#NoRacismInUniversity #WeAreNotSkinColour

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Faith Mkwesha
Faith Mkwesha signed this petition

#NoRacismInUniversity #WeAreNotSkinColour We request Abo Akademi University Rector and The Minister of Education to stop racism of all forms to black, brown, and all racialized students, researchers happening at Abo Akademi University and also other universities in Finland. Examples of racism and racist practices that happened at Abo Akademi University are (1) Head of the department (HOD) failed to solve racism complaints by student and researcher who are black African immigrants now living in Finland. The researcher found a racist card on the office door, the HOD did nothing to support or protect the researcher from racist attacks. One student informed HOD of racial harassment from another student, instead HOD put racial separation of time in place, a black student coming at night. HOD failed to manage racial conflicts instead, labels the complainer an angry black woman. (2) Human Resources Director (below will be referred to as HRD) sent documents written in racist discourse and refused to withdraw the racist document. HRD also accuses the student victim of having not done enough to end racial separation of time at the department.  (3) Infantilising black adult people. The Rector says black adult Ph.D. students and Ph.D. researchers are children, infantilizing black adult university researchers and students is a racist colonial discourse which says black adults are perpetual children, Racist documents send gaslight and refuse totally to acknowledge racism, but name it as mistakes, misunderstanding, schism, and the atmosphere has not always been good, clumsy, unconscious racism, unintentional racism, not overtly racism etc. This all shows how racism is deeply entrenched in the university, and willful ignorance on racism and the racial trauma caused by racism, microaggression, racial violence, and racial discrimination on the students and researchers and staff. 

Racist Practises of all forms.

1. HOD failure to manage racist and microaggression complaints and acting in complicit.  A racist card on the University office door: black immigrant woman researcher found a racist card on her university office door telling her to go back to her home country. The researcher showed the HOD the racist card, but, she did not do any support. The sender knew where she came from because the researcher had commented on politics in newspaper articles, thus, she felt she was under serious danger and unsafe because anyone could have access to the door during the day. The university has an obligation to support all including researchers whose funding they have accepted at the University. Their failure to do so for a black researcher is racial discrimination and racial negligence that endangers researchers in the university. Part of research is community engagement and commentary on topics a researcher is an expert, so, the researcher must be protected when at the university offices.

Racial separation of time. In another case, a black student reported a case of racial harassment by one student who felt uncomfortable with her black body. In a meeting in 2015, the HOD recommended that they avoid each other in the passages, and recommended racial separation of time. She has been going to university at night for years, until now. We read this as racial segregation of time and it is racist. In another case, HOD failed to solve racial harassment when white students and professors shouted at a black immigrant researcher at a Christmas party in January 2018. The three professors including HOD shouted at her again a week later in another incident at Abo Theatre. She sent emails requesting them to stop, and one professor became unhappy in the process and decided to center herself and her feelings in the process. HOD now put pressure on the black researcher to talk to this white lecturer who had suddenly become the focus and derailed all the issues the black researcher had made. Instead of just listening to her request many racist emails were sent to her. HOD failed to resolve the crisis and decided to label the complainant black researcher "an angry black woman" a racist image meant to silence black women, thus, now HOD was actively engaging in racism herself. 

2. Racist documents. HRD uses racist discourse in the report he sends. HRD reply to the black researcher who filed a complaint about the racial segregation of time is now blaming the black student who is referred to in terms of "dark-skinned or black-skinned student and researcher" in the university communication, which is also racist. Black identity is a social construction, her skin is not black neither is the researcher's skin black. Racial hierarchy of skin colors has a colonial history that has grave consequences for black people, and it is very unprofessional for the HRD  to use this racist language. In addition, HRD seems to blame the victim, "If the matter at (the department removed name) in the times would have been treated openly, the misunderstanding, that racial segregation of time occurs, is likely to have been taken out immediately. Now the question really came up first during the mediation process that (name deleted Professor) initiated on the subject in May 2018. The delay probably affected the misunderstanding. However, Professor's actions cannot, in any way on the basis of the investigation material, be regarded as racist." (Human Resources Manager, 7.2.2019). So, the question we have is whose fault is it that the black student has been on the night shift to access university resources for so many years?

3. Infantilising black adult university students and researchers. A suggestion that the university fund for some research on racism and the experiences of black and brown students, researchers and staff, since most of them say they lacked tools and knowledge on racism, racial bias, how to relate with black people or deal with the racial conflicts etc. The rector's replay was "at the moment we also have research in progress in a related topic. Research which we hope can contribute useful information to Åbo Akademi, but also to other organizations. The supervisor of the doctoral student describes the work as a study aimed at gaining an understanding of how ethnic minority students (especially black students) in Finland and the United States experience schools, and how those schools support their sense of well-being and ability to access further opportunities." (Rector, 29.11.2018). We replied that research on children in schools cannot solve adult university students, researchers, lecturers and staff in university. We find this suggestion of research on children in schools racist, and infantilizing black people taping into a colonial racist discourse that black people are perpetual children and are thus, offensive.

The minister should know that what is happening at Abo Akademi University is an indication of a wider problem of racism, racial violence, harassment, microaggressions, marginalization and dehumanizing treatment of those from minority ethnic groups and international students, researchers and, staff in Finnish universities. The minister needs to consult widely among the racialized groups, and experts in diversity and inclusion, including those from Sub-Saharan Africa and those experiencing religious racism.  Also, language is weaponized to exclude international students, researchers, and staff, yet, internationalization includes inclusive languages and pluriverse knowledge. There is a need to include critical thinking and history of slavery and colonialism and anti-racist curriculum because what is evident from Abo Akademi is a lack of knowledge on race matters.   

Racism is a racial justice issue, and the university needs to have mechanisms in place to solve racial discrimination and racial harassment quickly. But, the complaints filed took nearly a year until all trust was lost. Since the university has refused to engage with SahWira, we now have this campaign to present to the minister of Education in Finland and The Rector Abo Akademi University so that mediation between the SahWira and Abo Akademi University opens up discussion on behalf of the aggrieved, and way forward for anti-racist/diversity/inclusive reforms at Abo Akademi and all other universities in Finland can be initiated. 

SahWira Africa International Requests/Demands

1. Abo Akademi publicly apologizes to the students, researcher, black people, People of Color and all non-racist white people offended, and withdraw racist documents and emails they sent to the black researcher and student they imply is a lier in the reports.

2. Abo Akademi University and other Finnish Universities have clear intervention policies on racism, diversity, and inclusion paying particular attention to black people of African descent, and all racialized ethnic groups of people.

3. Hold the staff that has practiced racism and racial discrimination or incompetency in carrying out their responsibilities accountable.