Cambridge SU collaborates with End Everyday Racism project

‘Reporting spaces were doubt-first – we wanted to be a belief-first project’

CN: discussions of racism

In 2018, Dr Monica Moreno Figueroa and Dr Ella McPherson from the Department of Sociology launched the End Everyday Racism Project. After their first report that shared findings from over 100 incidents of racism (2018 to 2020), it is now partnering up with the Cambridge SU to conduct a two-week campaign.

It offers a safe space for students and staff to talk about their experiences of everyday racism in Cambridge during sessions of “co-listening” exercises and anonymous report submissions to the project. Sessions will be held online and offline with in-person events at the SU lounge. To put it in a nutshell, “it is about getting together, eating pizza, and reporting racism!” 

Recently, I spoke to Tara Choudhury – the BME Officer of Cambridge SU – Dr Figueroa, and Dr McPherson about their upcoming collaboration, and their responses might answer your questions about the initiative.

The tool in question

Reporting racism can be an isolating and frustrating experience. This initiative aims to make the experience more communal by offering students a positive space to record their experiences that range from micro-aggression to severe and pervasive instances of racism. 

Dr McPherson describes that “reporting online to a machine can make it feel like extracting data.” Having people in an actual room together (virtually or physically) means that you can have conversations. She throws light on the “methodology of solidarity” – where a physical space at the University will make more space for conversations about everyday racism. 

Dr Figueroa also highlights that they want to discuss the emotional and physical consequences of everyday racism. She emphasises that official reports generally focus on individual instances of racism, whereas this initiative will focus on the bigger picture: the complicated consequences of an incident. 

The stories that matter

A concern of the project is how society has normalised racism to such a degree that we wait for something serious to happen to begin reporting. Contrastingly, Dr Figueroa insists that “every little story matters because they make a collective case against racism.” Thinking that a story is not news contributes to the minimisation that society is keen on accomplishing about racism. 

She questions our ability to thrive at this University if we have to deal with uncomfortable experiences. Put simply, the idea of building walls to deal with these “small” experiences is damaging. 

But why the need for data? 

Dr Figueroa was reminded of her work as the Race and Equality Champion for the University when she realised that there was a constant demand for data to quantify the issue. The End Everyday Racism project seeks to map everyday racism, collect data, and provide it to anyone who requires it.

Who is welcome

Everyone is welcome – it does not matter if you were the victim of an incident of racism or a bystander or even someone who wishes to learn more about the issue, nor does it matter whether you are staff or student.

Ultimately, “it is about recognising our communal responsibility and looking out for each other.” Dr McPherson hopes that students can make it to at least one event (or more!) physically or virtually. 

She highlights how important it is to have a parallel process between achieving justice in individual cases and analysing the data as a whole. A recent study in the USA showed that colleges tend to focus on individual cases of racism, resulting in a lack of understanding about the scale and pervasive nature of racism. Therefore, this project intends to take a holistic view in examining and analysing data about everyday racism. 

A long road ahead

Four years ago, before the End Everyday Racism project started, anonymous reporting systems in the University only consisted of options. Dr Figueroa was troubled by how one had to choose between options in the reporting system without providing any text regarding the details of the incident. Her aim “is to make the procedure a little more humane.”

Tara also acknowledges that this is an ambitious collaboration, especially since multiple officers have tried their hardest to make reforms in the past – to no avail. It took five years to change the standard of proof from beyond reasonable doubt to a balance of probabilities. However, despite the ambitious nature of this initiative, she believes that we cannot sit still, neglecting the need for change. 

She hopes that this initiative will actively push colleges to collaborate. For example, colleges can develop their signposting to include contacts such as the End Everyday Racism Project.

Tara, Dr Figueroa, and Dr McPherson hope that this initiative will be a stepping stone in changing the perspective and infrastructure on reporting everyday racism. If we begin to see racism as a problem for the community, we will bear a community responsibility to report it.

The University was contacted for comment.

Feature image credits: Keira Quirk

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