‘This page is here to facilitate change’: we spoke to the admins behind Edi BAMEfess
“I have to admit that I’m not particularly shocked by the experiences that students have had”
On the heels of the growing Black Lives Matter movement, an Edinburgh second year has created a confessions page for POC students at the University to voice any racism they have experienced.
The page is called Edi BAMEfess, and it’s a Facebook page like Edifess but for people to share their experiences of on-campus racism.
At the time of writing, the page has 49 submissions detailing stories of BAME students being subject to stereotyping, profiling, and racial slurs. We spoke to the admin of EdiBAMEfess, a second year STEM student, to get a better sense of what made them start the page and what they hope to accomplish with it.
What motivated you to set up EdiBAMEfess?
The idea for this page came about when I saw the response for the murder of George Floyd; social media pages flooded with petitions and articles, all of which felt incredibly temporary, especially when considering how easily the public seems to have forgotten about the Windrush scandal and Grenfell disaster.
By creating this page I hoped to produce a more permanent remnant of the conversation currently taking place, and give a space for the BAME community to be speak and be heard. Pages already in existence, such as Edifess, haven’t really been able to provide reassurance to myself or other members of the BAME community. The outrageous post “#Edifess4060 Forget EUTIC. Forget DramaSoc. Forget Rowing. Clearly the most incestuous society is PakSoc. These people literally get married to their cousins,” which is still up, doesn’t exactly create a space where people of colour can express the racism they’ve experienced and feel they are being listened to.
How do you think Edinburgh – the fourth whitest Russell Group uni – can better prevent on-campus racism?
The first thing the University need to do is to recognise that this racism is taking place, and that can be done by improving their complaints service. The lack of resources available to support the BAME community is shameful.
It doesn’t take much to contact a local counselling service and refer students who have had negative experiences to them, or even to put posters around the University advertising websites for support. The measures should be the bare-minimum available to students, with the ultimate goal a well-supported complaints and support service dedicated to the BAME community.
I also think the University would do well to improve their outreach to BAME communities all around the country, especially highly diverse places such as London, Birmingham and Manchester. If, as the University claims, they “celebrate … distinctive internationalism, attracting the world’s best minds” and the “teaching and research is relevant to society and we are diverse, inclusive and accessible to all,” then why do they limit this to only certain groups?
Feeling an outsider or being acutely aware of being a minority can be as much an uncomfortable experience as an outwardly racist encounter.
Have you been shocked by any of the submissions you’ve received?
Definitely. As someone who is part-black, I have only really been aware of the way that black people are treated in Edinburgh, so reading submissions from South and East Asian students is very eye-opening. There seems to be a general trend of more outwardly racist incidents, with people being told to “go home” or called racial slurs in public.
Another submission that shocked me in particular was one detailing how two people in a group of 10+ were singled out and rejected from a club, the only linking factor being that they were both BAME.
Otherwise I have to admit that I’m not particularly shocked by the experiences that students have had.
How can white allies best challenge racism on-campus?
I believe that the best support can come from listening to the experiences of others so that you are better equipped to deal with any situations you may see in the future. I’m sure that a lot of people genuinely don’t understand why touching a black girls hair or only talking about racism around POC is wrong and why it can make people feel uncomfortable, so educating yourself and correcting your behaviour shows much more solidarity than just calling yourself an ally.
I think there’s also the misconception that only being outspoken on racism or attending demonstrations are ways of showing you are an ally, but often it is smaller actions that have the biggest impacts.
Another very important thing a white ally can do is to step in and correct people when they are being racist or perpetuating a negative stereotype (regardless of whether a POC is present or not). A lot of the time POC feel like the burden of having to educate others falls upon them which can be incredibly tiring and stressful.
So as a white person, calling someone out for what they are saying and explaining why it’s wrong can not only help to educate others, but also alleviates the burden of having to lead these conversations from POC.
If you could give one piece of advice to an incoming BAME fresher to edi what would it be?
My advice would be to consider why you’re at university and what you’d like to gain from your time here. University is as much a place to learn about yourself as to earn a degree, so don’t hold yourself back from joining societies or attending events because you’re afraid you won’t fit in, because quite frankly you’re already a minority at the university.
You also need to prioritise your own mental health and value, and not be afraid of walking away from the first friendship group you drop into if you don’t feel 100 per cent comfortable. You have at least four years at the university to meet people and try new things out, so don’t be afraid if you don’t feel completely settled by the end of your first, or even second year.
Finally, know that there is no single way to experience university, and you are the sole person who can dictate how you do experience it. Edinburgh is a wonderful city, full of beauty and a rich culture, so hopefully you will be able to call it home one day, just as so many of us do.
You can find the university’s statement in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and racist incidents on campus here.