Uncategorized

Statement in response to remarks made by Dr Adam Perkins about the Somali community

TW: racism, anti-blackness (especially relating to Somali communities) and Islamophobia.

 

I would like to bring to everyone’s attention an incident which has taken place this weekend on Twitter. An academic by the name Adam Perkins, a lecturer in the Neurobiology of Personality at King’s College London, posted a series of racist and incredibly insulting remarks directed at the Somali community.

He stated that “Trump’s ban makes sense on human capital terms… people from ‘banned nations’ tend to be over-represented in crime and unemployment stats”. The fact that he refers to the vulnerable lives as “human capital” is distasteful in itself, but then goes on to imply that Somali’s chose to live in countries that will guarantee them social welfare (such as benefits in the UK) so that they don’t have to work – and ridiculously thought that providing Danish data would suffice. This is absolutely absurd. Additionally, according to him, Somali’s also don’t possess the “Scandinavian work ethic” that will supposedly allow them to work in the Nordic nations, and that Somali unemployment in the USA is 50%. There is absolutely NO evidence for this, and what on earth is meant by “Scandinavian work ethic”?  Lastly, he states that Although crafting his tweets carefully, evidently attempting to avoid any critique of his statements, saying “Danish data suggesting that welfare benefits taste sweeter to some cultures than others” is downright wrong and insulting. Also, why Danish data? Too lazy to find any British data?

As a British Somali, born from Somali refugees who have worked since DAY ONE upon entering this country, haven’t claimed a single penny in social benefits from the government, speaking little English, the fact that this lecturer can generalise is the most angry I have felt in a very long time. How dare you. Further statements which he has made which are completely untrue include: “Somalians don’t perform well either side of the Atlantic”, and that “if a migrant group is bad news I doubt national governments care much about the causes…”. Who said that the Somali migrant group was bad? Where is the evidence for this? The fact that he chose to pick on Somali’s alone says a lot.

As a society, it goes without saying that we completely disagree with the comments made by the lecturer, and absolutely does not represent the views of the institution. Academics must understand that they are utterly responsible to whatever they post on their social media channels just as they are for the words they say in a classroom, and such reckless tweeting, clearly made by this lecturer is a prime example that some may be unaware, or indeed neglect their duties of responsibility when expressing one’s views. Additionally, the Somali community at King’s now feel even more vulnerable to violence whether that may be physical or verbal, escalating the fear they already feel by recent events, especially with the rise of Islamophobia and xenophobia that has risen in the UK since Brexit, and now in the US by the inauguration of Trump.

At this crucial time, we must support ALL communities which are now subject to intense scrutiny and discrimination due to the actions of certain individuals with power, and would appreciate that ALL lecturers understood that whatever their comments, they will be held responsible for their remarks given their position of authority and trust. At the Intersectional Feminist Society, we demand that Dr Adam Perkins immediately apologises sincerely to the Somali community at King’s for which he has caused immense distress, and that he apologises for his offensive remarks about Somali’s without consulting solid evidence. We as IFemSoc extend our full support and solidarity to the Somali community at KCL and beyond with the distress caused by recent events.

With solidarity,

KCL Intersectional Feminist Society

 

*Article written by current BME Officer for IFemSoc*

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Black History Month, Black Women White Uni?, current affairs, Safe Space Policy, Uncategorized

BME Women, White Uni – Take Two

It has returned once again! This Saturday (22nd October 2016), our annual conference BME Women, White Uni commences to celebrate incredible, and dare I say, radical BME women.

The initiative began last year, and as Shruti, our Co-President last year (2015/16), brilliantly explains…

The idea is to celebrate the stories and the histories of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women at King’s, and to bring to everyone’s attention that their representation is missing from the hallways around us, from the history of King’s College London as we know it.

 Much has developed at King’s since last year. Black and Brown Shut It Down, #BlackOutTheWhiteWall campaign, the creation of the WoC and Non-Binary PoC Network, the Wall of BAME (at Strand Campus), the Open Doors initiative and last but not least, I Rise Magazine – due to launch its first issue next month. All of this was a direct response to the tireless campaigning by our BAME activists here at King’s. Those who rebelled against a white, privileged and male dominant curriculum (I’m a History student, reading what Etonians have to say about history is not fun whatsoever), by walking out of their lectures and seminars. Those who had faced intimidation, told straight to their faces to “wait for their time” to celebrate BME achievements in academia. The lone Muslim girl in her seminar strictly guarding what she had to say on certain topics because of Prevent. The lone BME who constantly feels overwhelmed. Due to this initiative last year – BME Women, White Uni can certainly be seen as the starting point of much needed and long overdue change to happen within the solemn – and sometimes exclusive walls of King’s College London.

But, the work is not yet complete. We must go further if they are to listen to us.

The aim of this campaign is to capture the diversity of BME women, as well as their accomplishments. However, as Shruti once again points out, this initiative absolutely does not claim to see each accomplishment and experience of BME women as ‘the same’.

 But it’s really important to make clear that we’re not putting this work out here as a collection that is representative of every BME woman on campus – every single one of them will have differing and varying experiences in one way or the other, and too often the problem with work like this is that it is expected to be reflective of the BME woman’s experience, or that one of us have been expected to speak for all of us. There’s a diversity and breadth to these voices that we did not expect to see when we began our work. 

It is obvious that all of our identities and experiences will be different. The experiences of Black women are different from Latinas. The experiences of a Muslim woman is different from a Hindu woman. The experiences of a cis woman of colour will be different from a non-binary person of colour. Although, the acronym BME is quite problematic in the sense that it assumes that every ethnic minority experiences the exact same prejudices and injustices. In that we are very totally different. Our experiences of making it in the world is so very different. However, it is this diversity that we want to celebrate. Rather than using it as a divisive force – it is uniting us BME women instead.

When I went to the conference last year, I remember feeling a bit of trepidation. I thought to myself, “Well, I’m a woman, I’m black, and I’m definitely an intersectional feminist”. However, little did I know how much my race and intersectionality intertwined. I vividly remember scribbling down my thoughts at that very moment, listening attentively to what each panellist had to say. One that hugely struck a chord with me at the time, and still does today, was Dr Deborah Gabriel’s defiant assertion “We cannot let them label us…to put us into categories”. I remember her saying these words with such power and rage, and given that I have such hideous memory – this is significant! When the panel discussions ended, I got that “I’m going to take over the world!” feeling that everyone pretty much gets after hearing such inspirational stories for hours. I was amazed.

Right now, I have the immense privilege of not just being the BME Officer of the Intersectional Feminist Society, but being able to organise the very conference this year. The conference will be made up of four panel discussions – BME Women in Academia, BME Women in STEM, BME Women in the Arts and BME Women in Politics and Leadership – and a workshop titled “Why is my curriculum White?”. Such discussions are meant to stimulate thought and debate, thinking about these real-life issues in an unapologetic way.

The schedule is as follows:

10:30 – 10:45: Introduction to the conference by Imaan Ashraf (Co-President of the Intersectional Feminist Society) and Rahma Hussein (BME Officer of the Intersectional Feminist Society).

10:45 – 12:00: Introductory Panel – BME Women in Academia

12:15 – 13:30: Panel – BME Women in STEM

13:30 – 14:00 – Lunch break

At the same time as lunch, workshops will begin.

13:30 – 14:15: Workshop – Why Is My curriculum White? (run by KPoC)

14:00 – 15:15: Panel – BME Women in the Arts

15:15 – 15:45: Workshops, Why is my curriculum White?

15:45 – 16:30: Panel – BME Women in Politics and Leadership

16:30 – 16:45: Last chance to partake in workshops

16:50 – 17:00: Closing remarks by your People of Colour Officer

We hope that you find the event intellectually stimulating and inspiring! I would also like to thank the People of Colour Association (KPoC) for supporting us through and through! Purchase your tickets here: https://www.kclsu.org/ents/event/3615/ (you know you want to!)

Love and solidarity,

Rahma and the IFemSoc committee

xxx

Rahma is a 2nd year History student at King’s College London. Being the current BME Officer of the Intersectional Feminist Society, she is also a political campaigner, as well as being the Founder and Editor of I Rise magazine – aimed at WoC and non-binary PoC – due to launch next month. If you’d like to speak about this event further, or have any questions, feel free to send her a message though Twitter. Also, if you wish to quote this article – permission to do so must be sought beforehand.   

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current affairs, Statement, Statements in Support, Uncategorized

Letter In Solidarity with Isoc & our Muslim Community at King’s.

This letter is to state that King’s College London’s Intersectional Feminist Society stands in solidarity with our Muslim Community here at King’s following the abhorrent acts that occurred last Friday (04/03/2016). For those who are not fully aware, two white men approached the sisters manning an Islam Awareness Week stall and began verbally attacking them. This eventually escalated to physical threats of violence, and a fellow sister had her niqab (full-face veil) pulled off by one of the men.  For a complete run down on what happened, you can refer to the Roar article or refer to Issa Ruhani’s post on the KCL Islamic Society page. However it is key to note here that not only did security fail to act in protecting Muslim students, but that the University has falsely reported the event to put themselves in a better light, where they have argued that they intervened with what happened. What actually occurred was that it was left to a Muslim brother to place himself in between the sisters and the perpetrators. It was only when senior staff were called that that action was taken, i.e. calling the police

What this letter of solidarity would like to make clear is four things:
(1)  There is a growing atmosphere of aggressive Islamophobia, in not just this University and other educational institutions but across the nation. This attack is just one example of the climate of fear and oppression Muslim students have had to mitigate against and navigate while attending this University.
(2)  The University has proven itself to be racist and Islamophobic in its deployment of ‘safety’ and ‘security’ over the past months.
(3) Right now is the time for our wider student body to rally behind our Muslim community, specifically our Muslim women, and commit to obtaining justice for  what has happened.
(4) Combating racism and Islamophobia at this institution and in wider society is integral to an intersectional approach. We urge all other liberation societies to join us in condemning these events, pushing for a full inquiry, and supporting the Islamic Society during this time.

This attack is unfortunately not a new story for Muslim people in Britain. Already this year we have heard in the news countless examples of Muslim people – frequently Muslim women – being physically assaulted by predominantly white men. From this we can assume that countless more cases have occurred that have not reached national news. It is important to stress that this attack was an explicitly gendered form of Islamophobia,a growing reality for Muslim women here in the West. What we can say however is that at King’s, this event is a tipping point– thanks to the committed work of POC at King’s, and the fact that ISoc have a safe and protected space to organise, this event will not be pushed into obscurity. 

It is incredibly important that people reflect on how this response by the University and the security staff is racialised. This attack has come after countless events where an disproportionate amount of security has been repeatedly brought onto campus for peaceful protests, film screenings, and panel events. When our POC association held a peaceful protest to obtain a meeting regarding the BME attainment gap they were faced with a wall of security and police officers: a message clearly stating that the wider student body was to be protected from them. Yesterday female Muslim students were verbally and physically attacked, and security did not intervene. A clear message that Muslim students are not seen as individuals worth protecting in the same light.

At this moment in time King’s students, and various King’s societies, should be reflecting on this injustice and position themselves to be ready to support ISoc and our Muslim community in whatever call for action is voiced. This is especially  the case for white allies who need to show the University that when they fail to defend Muslim students, and later report falsehoods about what happened, that they will have the scrutiny of the whole student body on their hands.

Sincerely,
iFemSoc Committee.

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Uncategorized

Statement of Solidarity with KEMA

Following the events of the last few weeks, KCL Intersectional Feminist Society would like to reiterate their support for King’s Ethnic Minority Association (KEMA), and continue to stand in full solidarity with their efforts to challenge the university’s silence surrounding POC students’ experiences on campus.

KEMA have worked tirelessly in order to have BME students’ voices heard and acknowledged, only to be repeatedly dismissed and treated with suspicion by the college in the process. There are just some of the issues they have faced this past month:

1) Prior to the PoC walkout on 11th February, KEMA received ‘updated’ information on the data collected for the attainment gap at King’s showing that it has been severely distorted – while the results of the Diversity and Inclusion report from the academic year 2014/2015 revealed that the attainment gap at KCL was 19%, KEMA later received an email stating this figure had changed to 12% with little explanation on how this error was made and why it was only amended once the statistics had been investigated.

2) Moreover, they were subsequently informed in an email from the Principal that there was a BME Student Success Working Group set up to tackle their demands, which in fact was discovered to have been disbanded at the end of the last academic year as was confirmed by Ben Hunt, VP of Education (Arts and Sciences) who was said to be part of the Working Group.

3) The same email also noted that harassment and bullying reporting systems have been overhauled due to the college-wide It Stops Here campaign. This, however, is a campaign against sexual harassment and conflating the two campaigns is a disservice to the main student organiser, and Co-President of iFemSoc, Hareem Ghani.

4) Just before the ‘Blackout the White Wall’ action which took place on 18th February, it came to KEMA’s attention that the Principal had requested a member of staff from the Diversity and Inclusion department to arbitrarily pick ten to fifteen PoC students to speak on behalf of the entire campaign, rather than agreeing to an open meeting that KEMA initially requested. KEMA had not been contacted regarding this, and we feel the decision to have a closed meeting demonstrated that there had been a fundamental lack of understanding of the real issues at hand.

5) Five internal security officials and two uniformed police officers were also called to this action, which involved a peaceful protest of approximately fifty students. This was a ridiculous overreaction, and reflects the all-too-common tendency to automatically treat BME communities as suspects.

These instances clearly indicate that the college refused to admit to their failings, and have instead tried to undermine the demands of PoC students with excuses and ambiguous information. Meanwhile, students involved with the campaign have faced relentless online harassment as well as underhand comments from staff members, which is completely unacceptable.

Nevertheless, representatives from KEMA have refused to back down and as a result of their persistent efforts, have secured an open meeting to take place on Tuesday 8th March at 11.30am in the Great Hall (https://www.facebook.com/events/1954504961441837/). This is open to ALL students and will finally present the chance for students of colour to demand some solutions to an unrepresentative, Eurocentric curriculum and speak about an university environment which is largely inaccessible for them.

Once again, we affirm that iFemSoc are in complete solidarity with KEMA and we offer our support to them throughout this campaign. KEMA have also put together a full account of events, and they would be grateful if you could take some time to read it and sign their open letter addressed to the university: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19FJU0Q_jldpbHAjF7xcsHlaumyqvqKeZl5ykAijnbEY/edit

Finally, we urge you all to visibly show your support and attend next Tuesday’s open meeting, which is one that has been years in the making.

#PoCShutItDown

Read KEMA’s initial list of demands here: https://www.facebook.com/KEMAonline/posts/1701693873406140

 

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Uncategorized

Call for Action: ‘Black & Brown, Shut it Down! PoC & Allies Walkout’

KCL Intersectional Feminist Society would like to issue a statement stating that we are in full support of the student walkout being organised by King’s Ethnic Minority Association on Thursday 11th February.

This call to action has been organised as a demand for more urgent action to be taken regarding the lack of diversity in curricula, as well as the ongoing disregard of students of colour in their experiences in various aspects of their university education, such as toxic teaching environments, lack of sufficient mental health support or the day-to-day microaggressions they often face.

Data taken from the King’s BME Fact sheet in their January 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Newsletter show that there was an attainment gap of 19% between home undergraduate BME students and white students in 2013/14 at King’s, while at UCL and Imperial this figure stands below 5%. Moreover, BME students nationally are 16.1% less likely to attain a 2:1 or a first in their degree. While we appreciate the effort taken to raise awareness of these issues via such statistics, they continue to be presented with very few solutions in sight and as a result, no tangible change being felt.

Therefore, while it has become clear to many at King’s – including staff – of the deep-rooted problems that exist within the institution, the college is not doing enough to remedy these issues and protect the interests of students of colour. The institution has ultimately demonstrated a lack of urgency in responding to PoC’s concerns, which we believe is indicative of institutional racism.

As an Intersectional society, we have worked hard to be able to serve students of different races, ethnicities and backgrounds and acknowledge that their experiences at university greatly vary to their white counterparts. This campaign reflects this very notion, and we urge all of you to join us to stand in solidarity with this walkout.

For more details surrounding the campaign, as well as information on official KCL diversity assessments and ongoing research, please visit King’s Ethnic Minority Association’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/KEMAonline/?fref=nf

Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/989432367788681/

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Uncategorized

The motions we are backing/opposing for AGM 2016

KCL Intersectional Feminist Society have considered the motions put forward at the KCLSU’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), and have found two motions in particular to bring to the attention of our members.

We strongly urge all iFemSoc members to show their support for the following motion(s):

Create a Trans Officer for Student Council – The universality of non-straight experience and politics has been routinely greatly overstated. For this reason we believe, just as our society has a dedicated trans officer, so too should KCLSU to field the plentiful trans-specific student issues a cisgender LGB rep may not reasonably be expected to know how to handle.

We would also encourage all iFemSoc members to consider voting against the following motion to restructure the full-time sabbatical officer team:

Student Officer Structure – The motion proposes to replace the current positions of President, Vice President of Activities and Development, Vice President Education (Health), Vice President Education (Arts and Science) and Vice President of Welfare and Community, with the positions of Union Development Officer, Postgraduate Health Officer, Undergraduate Health Officer, Postgraduate Arts and Sciences Officer and Undergraduate Arts and Sciences Officer.

We believe this restructuring to be detrimental to the liberation efforts of (minority) students at King’s. It is important to realise that KCLSU is a place that does not solely focus on the academic needs of students, but also empowers students to enact change – as we have seen through the many liberation campaigns that have successfully taken place over the past few years. The restructuring has the very real possibility of side-lining liberation efforts and the voices of minority students like ethnic and religious minorities, LGBT+ and international students.

Additionally, students have not sufficiently been consulted about the proposed restructuring of the Union. Without the mediation process where Associations could get involved, and write clauses into the job descriptions of each role, we are now left with a motion that asks for a restructuring that can be abused to have no welfare attentions what so ever.

Furthermore, the data used to create this structure has not been shared by the student officer team or KCLSU staff – therefore it is impossible to know when the data was collected, who was consulted and how this data fed into the creation of the proposed structure.

Restructuring the Union is a very big decision and should not be taken lightly. It has been rightfully suggested that more time ought to have been given for students to be consulted and amendments made, so that the motion and the debate around it did not bypass the the student body. We strongly believe that such an important motion should not be left at the discretion of the 76 students present on the day (0.003% of the entire student body). It is also important to consider how, as a result of the new AGM format, those voting online will not even have been able to hear and think on the points raised in the debate at the meeting on Thursday.

Lastly, we want to take the time to stress that we are not seeking to demonise or attack the student officer team for their attempts to restructure the union. In many ways we are incredibly grateful for their efforts to engage a larger student body. As heard during the debate at AGM, we believe that the creation of postgraduate officer roles is extremely valuable, but we do not believe that postgraduate involvement should come at the expense of welfare and liberation. We also insist that the process of restructuring ought to be more democratic and inclusive of the student body.

The vast majority of you were not have able to attend the Annual General Meeting on Thursday 4th February, but you still have the opportunity to vote online – or make necessary amendments if you have voted already – via www.kclsu.org/studentvoice/agm .

Remember voting closes on Monday 8th February at 9am!

 

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Uncategorized

“It’s not even casual misogyny at this point… it’s complete disrespect.” -Sherlock Xmas Special Review.

TW – Racism, Sexism. -Also, spoilers.

Steven Moffat’s casual misogyny is hardly a secret anymore for fans of Sherlock and Dr Who – but until now, it had the merit of being relatively subtle. Compensated by a deep female character dropped here and there, justified by some poorly made excuses… Enough for this sexism to be debated, at least. The way it exploded onto our screens during the Sherlock Christmas Special, however, left even the fiercest defenders of Moffat’s integrity at a loss for words.

Despite the known flaws of the show, my friends and I were quite excited about the episode, I’d even say optimistic. The preview had looked promising, and as the opening theme started playing, we doubted that anything could possibly lower our spirits.

Needless to say, we were wrong.

A few minutes in and already, some references to the misogyny of our sweet Victorian era started to appear – Mrs Hudson complaining about Watson never making her speak in his writings, Mary Watson eager to come with her husband in his adventures but silenced and basically told the victorian version of “Get back to the kitchen.”

But all in all, these allusions were not too terrible – in fact they came across as satyrical more than anything else, and we took them as criticism of the original work’s known sexism. When Lestrade answers Mary’s desire to join a political movement about women’s votes by asking “For or against?” he is the one made fun of, and Watson’s sexism is also used as comic relief at more than one occasion. A slightly irritating way of saying ‘hey, look at how sexist Sherlock characters were back then, our version is so much more open-minded!’ But it was manageable.

What made it a lot less manageable, however, was the ending. On top of being messy and poorly realized in itself, the blatant misogyny of the resolution scene was absolutely appalling.

sherr

If you haven’t seen the episode, you might ask – what is this purple version of the KKK, passively listening to Holmes’s inspiring speech? This, my friend, is Sherlock’s take on the Suffragettes movement.

Women choosing to murder their husbands and blaming it on the ghost of a crazy bride.

Women associated to a racist cult who battled against the progress of civil rights.

Women silent and dutifully listening as Sherlock explains their struggle to them (how kind, how brilliant) and to the audience.

It’s not even casual misogyny at this point, it’s a complete disrespect of one of the most important feminist battles in recent western history. It’s inaccurate. It’s hateful. It’s sexist. And no, Steven – making Mycroft say that “we have to let them win” does not make it ok. It’s not even the start of ok, it makes it even worse, in fact.

Was it necessary? No. Even my ten-year-old cousin could have thought of a better plot-twist. Was it linked to something in the original Sherlock novels? Neither. Conan Doyle’s writings may have held the sexism of his time, but never did he write something as outrageous as this.

I am sincerely baffled as to what Moffat was trying to achieve here. Was it a horrendous attempt to appear concerned about feminism, responding to the accusions of misogyny he had received, was he trying to be en vogue with the Suffragettes movie that came out recently? And if so – did no one, of all of his team of advisors, did really no one at all point out that this was quite possibly the worse idea of his career?

Whatever the purpose, the result is sickening. If the historical inaccuracies of the Suffragettes movie made you cringe, save yourself an evening of burning indignation and bitterness – do not watch the Sherlock Christmas Special.

This review was written by Julia Lascar, an iFemSoc member. 

If you want to write for us, come check out our Writing Topics Page. Or if you want to find more fantastic intersectional articles from us, go check out our Contents Page

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