Welcome to AK UniWatch's blog - Fighting Racism in our Spaces!
UniWatch is a student initiative active against racism at german universities.
With this blog, we hope to work against the invisibility of this subject and build a platform for people impacted by racist incidents and others who no longer wish to sit silently by as racist structures and subject matter are perpetrated in our academic spaces.
On this site you can...
...report a racist incident at your university.
...contact us when you want support for an intervention.
...find out which other organizations offer advice to targets of racist attacks.
...inform yourself about racism generally and at the university specifically, critical self-positioning and much more.
…find out more about AK UniWatch and our work.
…find out how you can support or join us.
...find literature tips on the subjects; racism, (critical) whiteness, ect. and links to organizations that are involved in the fight against racism.
...contact us per email if you have suggestions, questions or comments.
To all the FU Berlin staff,
We, AK Uniwatch, are a student anti-racism group which works to combat racism in Berlin universities. With this open letter we would like to inform you of the following racist incidents which occurred at the FU and to express our outrage regarding them.
In the summer semester 2014, during an FU Philosophy Institute lecture, there were multiple racist incidents in the form of the use of racist speech. During said lecture, the white lecturer made use of the N-word multiple times. This word is violent and traumatizing (see Grada Kilomba) and has a direct relationship to colonialism and racist constructions.
–––The N-word is a hierarchical attribution, which underlines past (and contemporary) racist power structures. It is very closely bound with white concepts and estimations of black people (e.g. “primitiveness” and “inferiority”). Black people and People of Color are, according to this white conception, marked as “the other”. In this way, white people are construed as the “normal”, “neutral” or “objective”, upon which black “otherness” is projected. In white academic spaces, ostensible objectivity or academic rigor is the highest rule—everything is allowed in the name of academia. Racist, sexist, ableist, and classist language are all used and tolerated in the name of “academia,” as long as the white meanings dominate: the white academy decides what is useable and what isn’t. This gives the white academia the power of definition, which coincides with the historical strategy of oppression of marginalized people, and serves as a sign of the hegemonic paradigm of the university. Language is not separate from this oppressive reality, and indeed language functions as a representation thereof (see Stuart Hall). The repetition of racist words such as the N-word in the name of academia leads to the naturalization and normalization of the word and its reproductions functions as legitimation.–––
The lecturer gave students position statements as learning material which had racist terms and reproduced racist speech acts and “jokes”. Instead of critically engaging with harmful language, which was allegedly what the course was about, there were repeated instances of racist content which were normalized, accepted, and/or ignored. It is not necessary to use and reproduce hurtful language when discussing and analyzing their effect and power. Moreover, it is crucial to reflect on the positions of the speakers and the spoken to in this context. This did not occur in the course, in fact, the opposite is the case. Everyday racism was not focused on in an appropriate and informed manner but rather perpetuated. It is also apparent that the white professor was unaware and/or unwilling to reflect on the important fields of critical race theory and critical whiteness, which are essential for dealing with racist mechanisms and racist language.
No coping with criticism and a defensive stance against responsibility
As an anti-racist student group we decided to react to these numerous incidents and handed out flyers to the participants of the course. In our flyer we stated that the use of the N-word by white people is a racist act and elaborated on why that is the case (we included the text written in the Flyer above, between the dashes). The white lecturer as well as the majority of the white participants chose to react in a very defensive and aggressive way instead of dealing with our criticism and intervention constructively. The white lecturer made clear that they controlled the power of definition and also controlled which words could be used and reproduced, by whom, and how. In addition, the lecturer attempted to present our criticism as baseless and badly informed. Some white students accused us of being defamers and agitators as well as racist ourselves. This allegation is based on the unreflective assumption that power relations and racism can simply be reversed and echoes a white defense mechanism that is commonly used by those that discriminate to deny their own discriminating behavior and responsibility. There is no reverse racism against white people because racism is based on hegemonic power relations and a centuries’ long history of the systemic oppression of Black people and People of Color (see Toni Morrison).
We demand, that lecturers at the philosophical Institute of the FU desist using the N-word in their classes in the future.
In order to avoid racist incidents and defense strategies (like what occurred in the incident above) we demand that individual lecturers as well as the philosophical Institute as a whole deal with Critical Whiteness.
This open letter is supported by:
- Adefra e.V. – Schwarze Frauen in Deutschland
- Africavenir International
- Afrika Zentrum e.V.
- AFROTAK TV cyberNomads
- Berlin Postkolonial e.V.
- Frauenreferat des AStA FU
- gLADT e.V.
- LesBiTrans*InterA-Referat des AStA FU
- LesMigraS – Lesbenberatung Berlin e.V.
- Referat für Antifaschismus und Antirepression des AStA der Beuth-Hochschule
- Fatima El-Tayeb
- Lann Hornscheidt
- Emily Ngubia Kuria
- Alyosxa Tudor
15. November 2011
17:00 – 19:30 Uhr
In this dialogue round, the question of which racist forms of inclusion or exclusion are practiced within Berlin academia will be closely examined. The following questions will be looked into: Who has academic authority? Which topics are discussed? Who is qualified to be cited? Whose expertise and language is academically recognized? Whose expertise is suppressed in the process? What forms of racism are found in the realm of scholars and academia, including „international“ study programs? Lastly, the topic of practical and effective steps toward change will be discussed.
Students, professors and all who are interested in sharing experiences and perspectives are invited to join.
Datum / Date: 15.11.2011
Kontakt / Contact_Yvonne Hylla, Katharina Kersten, Patricia Spina, E-Mail:email@example.com
Ort / Place_Migrationsrat Berlin-Brandenburg e. V., Oranienstr. 34, 10999 Berlin
Veranstalter / Organisation_Studierendengruppe des / Student group of the “European Master in Children’s Rights”, FU Berlin
The General Students Committee at the Hamburg University have put out a racist video.
Students at the university staged an intervention at the premiere of the film, taking the mic and voicing their opposition, which can bee seen here:
We are looking for new Uniwatch members. If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Youth Human Rights Movement:
In the evening of May 9th Boris Desten, a Congolese student of the Moscow State University of Food Production, was attacked on the street by 8 young people when he was coming back from the official celebration of the victory in WWII to his dormitory. According to Boris Desten, he was being beaten up with the cries, which he considered humiliating to his skin colour. Boris called ambulance and the medical certificate from Botkin hospital in Moscow states that he had received abrasions of forehead and the back of the head. A Policemen refused to register his complaint because “it’s Friday and holiday and this is Russia”.
On May 12 Boris got to know that he expelled from the university for the reason of “participation in the incident on 9 May 2010, which ended up with a fight on the dormitory territory”. He was evicted from the dormitory at the same date. Till 29 July the security guard of the dormitory did not allow the student to access his personal belongings. Boris Desten did not possess of any other clothes, except clothes in
his dormitory room. Several days later he was robbed on the street and all his money, cell phone and even shoes were stolen. Visa, that provides Boris Desten with a legal stay in Russia, expires on 24 August, 2010.
He hadn’t any problems with the university administration till that incident and was considered to be a good student with proper marks. Boris had to ask for an asylum, financial and legal support trying to survive in Moscow and to get back his status of a student.
What can be done to protect Boris:
the official appeal can be sent from individuals and organizations on the address on the university;
to inform German universities which cooperate with MSUFP university about this case and to ask them to put a pressure on their partner in Russia;
to call to the university administration and to ask why Boris was expelled;
It will be great if you can inform me of my colleagues (email@example.com) about undertaken actions.
German partners of the university:
Hohenheim University, Stuttgart, Germany
Telefax: 0711 459-23960
Technical University of Dresden, Dresden, Germany
Tel.: +49 351 463-37044
Fax: +49 351 463-37284
Racism is the construction of hierarchically valued differences on the basis of racial identity combined with a historically, socially, politically and economically disproportionate power structure.
Racism is not the same thing as discrimination, racism necessarily includes a societal asymmetrical power imbalance. In her book “Plantation Memories”, Grada Kilomba defines racism as prejudice plus power. Racism often manifests itself in individual racist acts and thoughts, these individual instances cannot however, be separated from the system of privileges and discrimination that allows and encourages them.