Image Credit: Airman 1st Class Rebecca Imwalle
WITH BLACK HISTORY month running into its 32nd year in the UK, the University of York ran its annual events and lectures in support. However, the programme came under heavy scrutiny regarding the lack of representation in regard to who led the programmes organised by the University. The programmes consisted of various events of talks and meet and greets with BAME officers to familiarise students with the network.
The problem in which students have identified is with some of the lectures being led by white speakers, and the lack of effort by the University to find black lecturers who can speak from personal experience in discussing black history. Nouse approached YUSU's BAME PTOs for a comment on this issue. They said: "Black History month is a month dedicated to celebrating black talent and a chance for us to reflect on the struggles overcome by our ancestors and the ones we still face. For this reason, we thought it was really lazy and offensive for the university to hold a Black History Month event with a predominantly white panel.
A white person cannot fully represent the extent to which an issue has affected black people as it is not part of their lived experience. This is a cause for concern because this is the only month that focuses on Black people and the failure of the University to get black speakers for every event highlights how little they actually care about black students here.”
The actual lectures taken by the white speakers have also fallen under much scrutiny and criticism, with one lecturer sparking debate over appropriate language in consistently using the word ‘negro’ whilst discussing the impact of colourism in Jamaica. The lecturer in question used the word in quoting contemporaries, and through census categories from the period that mentioned it. With the university of York statistically being known as a university that is predominantly white, black history month is a great way to expand discussion and hold debates over why this is in order to raise awareness. The other speakers that took lectures however were well received, with Kevin Hylton, the first black Professor in over 75 years of Carnegie history taking a lecture on ‘Lets talk about Race’.
Nouse contacted the university for a comment on the issue and they told us: “We are committed to providing a platform for a range of diverse speakers and voices at the University and we will continue to work hard to achieve that. The University celebrates and values diversity. “Through our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and action plan we will continue to improve the diversity of our staff population and encourage ethnic diversity across all levels of employment”