We spoke to Edinburgh African Caribbean Society about racist and homophobic cyber-attack

“We do not tolerate this behaviour at Edinburgh University and we will continue to do all the hard work we need to do”

Last week, Edinburgh University’s African Caribbean Society was the victim of a cyber-attack during a Zoom LGBTQ+ event.

The event took place at the end of their celebration of Caribbean Week, the first ever to take place at the university.

ACS president Mukai Chigumba, a third year law student, told The Tab the event was about intersectionality and how to navigate homophobia in the black community.

Just as the event was drawing to a close during the Q&A session, the Zoom call was bombarded with hate speech.

This included homophobic and racist slurs as well as incitements of violence against black and LGBTQ+ people. The attackers also projected pornographic content, designed specifically to upset the event’s attendees.

The Tab spoke to the ACS president Mukai about the society’s experience during the attack, the response to it and the lessons we should learn from it going forward.

She told The Tab that ACS feel this was, for the most part, an isolated incident. The society believes the main problem is how online spaces have become a breeding ground for bigoted ideas and a place where hateful people feel emboldened to attack.

What can we do to stop this?

Mukai said ACS wants to encourage the broader student community to view this incident as a “teaching moment”. The society is planning a discrimination conference in March to teach students how to deal with different forms of discrimination and to provide information on resources that are available to support students’ mental health. ACS is also going to be discussing data protection and how to achieve safe online spaces for student communities.

They emphasised how important it is that we all learn how to make these spaces as safe as possible given how many events are online. Zoom told the BBC that they were “deeply upset” by the attack and have begun an investigation into it.

‘We’ve had so many messages of solidarity’

Mukai told The Tab: “We’ve had so many messages from LGBTQIA staff network, BME staff, EUSA, sabbatical officers and the Principal. I’ve received solidarity messages from various people within the University which has been very comforting.”

Mukai told us that attendants of the event and others who may have felt affected by the attack have been offered support both personally and academically. Those affected have been offered special circumstances on their academic work. She said: “A good amount of work [has been done] in terms of response. However, perhaps more needs to be done long-term.”

via @blcked_movement on Instagram

Learning from the attack

Mukai emphasised to The Tab the need for the student community to be more aware of racial and LGBTQ+ issues. ACS wants to promote the importance of intersectionality and marginalised communities sticking together through discrimination. They want the broader community to become more literate and aware of racial and LGBTQ+ issues so that we are better equipped to prevent and handle these events.

She said: “We do not tolerate this behaviour at Edinburgh University. We will continue to do all the hard work we need to do, to irradicate all forms of discrimination on campus.”

A spokesperson for Edinburgh University Students’ Association told The Tab: “We were disgusted to hear about the digital attacks of racism and homophobia at the recent African Caribbean Society event.

“All Society and Students Association events are protected by our Safe Spaces Policy and these attendees were in clear breach of this.

“We are in contact with the student group involved and have offered support. We are working with the University information Services Group to discuss digital safety and how to keep our groups safe from all forms of discrimination and harassment.

“We urge any student who has been affected by this to get in touch with us.”

A spokesperson for Edinburgh University told The Tab: “We were horrified to hear that our students had suffered this kind of abuse.

“The University of Edinburgh is committed to promoting a positive culture which celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensure fairness. The University regards any incident of discrimination as a serious matter.”

Cover image via Edinburgh ACS on Facebook 

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