Supporting Black Students

This post is an expansion of my Twitter Thread.

Some suggestions on how to support Black #PHD #PGR #masters #undergrad students ‬

‪1, ACKNOWLEDGE – #Blackstudents. Show that you are aware this is a difficult and challenging time for us. It is bringing up current, and historical trauma which is having an impact on our mental states and abilities. This means responding promptly if you are a University or an organisation that has Black students. Yes, public statements are not the be all and end all – but they show that the Black struggle has been seen

2, ACCEPT – that there may be some backlash. The recent backlash that has been received towards Universities is because the words of the University did not match the experience of Black students. This should not be seen as a negative thing, but, instead an opportunity for learning and change. It is a chance to unearth and eradicate University racist structures. Review policies and processes. Work collaboratively with students on addressing their issues 

3, ADMIT – that there is so much more to do, and that enough has NOT been done. This is transparent and truthful, plenty of research has shown that Black students are disadvantaged across the sector in multiple ways (financial, with achieving grades, mental health etc) and have been for many years

‪4, RECOGNISE – that Black doesn’t = #BAME or SAME. Students from a range of backgrounds can be impacted differently, treat them as individuals. There is more variation among the “BAME” community, not seeing that can actually reinforce the stereotype that “all black people look the same” which is harmful. I am sure all Black students can give at least one example where they were mistaken for another, and they looked nothing alike

‪5,. AVOID – comparisons to other individuals and struggles, sometimes it can feel as though our struggles are being overridden by other more “easier to talk about” issues. This is especially important. Talking about race has become a ‘taboo’ subject overtime. We need to rebuke this. Black students can recognise that the subject is uncomfortable, but, staff need to be able to sit with it  ‬

‪6, CHECK – your privilege and ignorance by engaging in self-critique. State your lack of self-awareness openly and remove defensiveness from the topic. This is probably the most powerful thing you can do. Read books, listen to podcasts and watch videos about race, there are many lists and free resources online‬. Substitute “I had no idea” with “I am learning about this”. Racism is the legacy of imperialistic and colonial principles (divide/conquer/dominance/control) and it is reinforced in everyday practices. You probably WILL get it wrong at some point, but if you have the “I am learning” hat on, you can take responsibility for the mistake, make peace with yourself, and do better next time

‪7, CREATE – space for Black students to share their experiences with you. This means having multiple channels to do so (anonymous surveys, feedback boxes, social media accounts, forums, polls etc). Be open and ready even if this space is not taken up ‬

‪8, LISTEN – to Black students when they DO speak up about their experiences. It is not easy to speak about these things, recognise the pain here. Listen with non-judgement and compassion

‪9, ADDRESS – structural inequalities with management and senior leaders. Hold senior leaders to account, particularly if they have Race Equality and Equality Charters. Focus on the representation of Black staff members, decolonising curriculums and research practices ‬

‪10, SPEAK UP – on behalf of Black students when they are not around or within certain spaces #become #allys. Bring their needs to the table and think through how universities can meet them. If it is safe for the student, invite them into the space to share their experiences themselves. But, ensure there is adequate support for them to share openly ‬

‪11, SPEAK OUT – when you hear or witness micro-aggressions, profiling, racism and discrimination. Don’t let it slide, be brazen and upfront about it. Encourage others to think differently about their negative views‬. Speaking out does not have to be publicly confrontational, it might mean taking someone to the side and inviting a non-judgment conversation

‪12, CHANGE – the language used when discussing Black students. Instead of “Black students are disengaged” say “WE need to improve how to engage better with Black students”. Use language where people with power take more ownership in changing things‬

‪13, ENCOURAGE – Black students, by focusing on what they CAN and ARE doing rather than what they CANNOT or ARE NOT. Offer acts of kindness, no matter how small. You might have to file mitigating circumstances or contact support services on their behalf. You might have to put them in touch with mentoring programmes or societies

14, OFFER – opportunities to Black students, and ensure they are paid or have recognition for their efforts. Ensure that there is a support network in place so student can thrive, do not have tokenistic positions that represent lip service only

‪15, CONTINUE – to challenge the dominant, inherent and systemic racism that exists within institutions, society and the world. This needs to be an ongoing dialogue which is ACTION focused. It will not end overnight. New ideas, approaches and strategies will always be needed

(Image source: Unsplash)

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