‘They started making monkey noises’: Three Bristol students on being victims of racism at uni

‘Racism pure and simple’

When there is talk of division and prejudice in the UK’s university campuses it is often of a classist nature. Talk of background and state vs private schools dominates discussions about problems within higher education. But there is little attention or evidence of racism on our campuses when compared to our American counterparts, and it’s been said that white students and staff are being racist without even knowing it.

But now three Bristol students have come forward with stories of their experiences at the hands of other students. They’ve called it “racism pure and simple”, telling us how they are abused with monkey chants in the street and subjected to racist mocking on Facebook and WhatsApp.

All three students agree that the university should be doing more.

A series of Whatsapp messages that were sent to one of the three students

We hope that by bringing their stories to light there can be increased discussion on the subject and steps can be made by the university and by other students to help prevent such events from occurring again.

*Names have been changed for legal reasons.

Kelly

It was on a Friday night with my friend, waiting to be let in to another friend’s place for pre-drinks. A bunch of young white guys who were walking towards us started making monkey noises. They continued to do so as they walked past us, laughing their heads off.

I’m black, and my friend is also black. This was racism pure and simple. I unequivocally believe that these men were University of Bristol students and I just wish I could have filmed them or got some names and student numbers.

The worst part of it all was the one white guy lagging behind who laughingly apologised on behalf of his friends. Like he wasn’t as racist as them all? If anything he is the worst kind of racists, at least the other guys were comfortable and open in their racism. He’s the type you’d talk to and get on with in lectures, but really, he thinks less of you just because of your skin colour.

Timi

It was during the summer exam season of second year that the racial attacks started. Henry* (another Bristol student) ganged up with two other people from my old school and decided to relentlessly torment me.

I was called a series of monkey related names on twitter by the group such as Bobo, Bubbles and ‘Shit Flinger’. The group added me to a WhatsApp conversation and sent me pictures of a monkey based Pokémon that they had just acquired on Pokémon Go.

Not wanting to be restricted to just a few social media platforms, the three of them then sent me snapchats where I was compared to a horse.

Upon writing something about Black Lives Matter on Facebook, one of the group posted hateful comments on the status.

The cherry on top of the cake was being sent this video where the group chant “Timi Ariyo, he swings where he wants” followed by loud gorilla chants.

Dami

Things started happening really early into my Uni experience. In freshers’ week after I had introduced myself to my flatmates one of them asked if he could call me “Danny” instead of Dami. A few weeks later a club picture of me looking really happy on a night out in Bunker was quickly captioned by one of my Uni sport teammates with “Is that watermelon next to the fried chicken?!”

On a separate occasion one of my flatmate friends was introducing me to her friend from home and said: “This is Dami, he’s black but he’s really cool.”

On another night out at a Bristol club when I was the only black person in a group of 15, the bouncers let everyone else through apart from me. They then searched me for ages and used a handheld metal detector before finally letting me through.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that UOB students have asked me for drugs while in the smoking area of Motion.

These stories reveal a worrying trend and should not be taken lightly. Can black students really feel at home in Bristol if this is the way that some students behave?

It seems that, as Bristol accepts students from a wide variety of regions and backgrounds, some students will not have grown up in multicultural environments. They then take the preconceptions they have acquired about other races to Uni. To counter these instances of prejudice both UOB and UWE students should keep an eye out for them and stand up to the perpetrators on campus and on a night out.

A spokesman for the University of Bristol said: “There is no place for racism at the University of Bristol. We have a zero tolerance approach to any kind of hate crime and there are clear policies and procedures in place to deal with incidents of this nature. We would urge anyone who has experienced such behaviour to seek support from an appropriate member of staff.

“We have no reason to believe there is a wider problem at the University. We have received no complaints about racist behaviour by our students through our formal Unacceptable Behaviour procedure in the past three years and we have only disciplined one student for misconduct involving racism during this time.

“We recognise that we cannot be complacent however and have recently established an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Steering Group, with student and staff representatives, to actively monitor and act on any forms of discrimination in the University while ensuring the richness and diversity of society are reflected and celebrated in our staff and student experience.”

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