For most people, last bank holiday weekend would have entailed of a celebratory Jubilee street party, plenty of Pimms, and reams of bunting. For me, it was an awkward and uncomfortable one which I could not wait to see the back of. Thankfully, karma poured down pretty much all weekend, which made me feel less guilty about not doing anything.
Unfortunately for those on campus, the choice was not so free. The VP of Democracy and Resources felt the need to promote and endorse nationalist and royalist sentiments, by draping the university in bunting and Jubilee regalia which for many represent the legacy of the Empire . All around the world, whether it is Palestine, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, India or Pakistan, its taste is still bitter in the mouths of the people. It is certainly not something a multi-cultural, internationalist institution like the Guild of Students should be celebrating.
I am not ashamed to say that I feel a certain level of discomfort at the idea of waving a Union Jack, and indeed even more so at the sight of others (particularly People of Colour) doing so. After all, it was not hijacked by far-right groups and football hooligans for no reason, neither could they have so successfully reappropriated and rebranded it if it did not conflate with their ideology in the first place. To myself and others in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kenya all it stands for is genocide and white-supremacy.
It is not only the Union Jack people will be jingoistically waving that represents white-supremacy, but the very premise of the role of head of state. I for one can never assume this role and neither can any other Person of Colour. Considering the head of state is supposed to represent its people, how can black people ever feel proud of being British when we can never reach this “pinnacle”? The most educated, moral and decent asian guy will never be able to assume this role, instead Prince Harry who used the term Paki to describe a member of his platoon could represent Britain.
Our acceptance of the Jubilee celebrations do not only legitimise the Queen’s role as the head of state, but also others like the King of Bahrain who recently took a day off from his murderous regime to luncheon with Queen at her special jubilee meal. The other despots who she broke bread with included Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and Mswati III, the King of Swaziland, who has imprisoned the president of the Swaziland Union of Students.
The recent Macpherson inquiry, demonstrated how entrenched institutionalised racism is in this country. The Guild needs to be an organisation that can overcome this sort of racism, but by covering itself with regalia of institutional racism, how can it ever expect to engage black students or those who have suffered racism. “Black apathy” in the Guild is a direct result of it being overwhelming dominated by privileged white men who make insensitive out of touch decisions like this one, thereby alienating us. So unless the Guild executives check their privileges and change how the Guild appears to black students, it will never progress.
EMO-elect, NUS Black Students Committee-elect, Chair of BEMA