Students are using LeedsFess to expose racism within the uni community

Racism has always occurred on Leeds campuses, LeedsFess is just shining a light on it

Almost a year ago, The Leeds Tab reported on the “gross under-representation of BAME people at Leeds Uni”, concerned with the lack of BAME professors and students at the universities.

With the campaigns of Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate gaining momentum on social media, combined with the “liberal” attitude of Leeds students, you’d presume that these conversations would amount to some change.

Unfortunately, anonymous posts shared by BAME students on LeedsFess illustrate that this simply hasn’t happened.

#leedsfess25187 | @leedsfess via facebook

LeedsFess is typically known for its humorous posts, spanning from sharing glances with a fittie in Eddy B, to roasting the Hyde Park peaky minors. However, for students struggling at university, the anonymity element of posts provides them with the chance to share their experiences without the conventional “in person” fear of negative repercussions from their peers.

This is devastating for many reasons. The content within the posts can be very serious, and often amounts to racial discrimination towards students of colour – but sadly the lack of accountability demonstrated by their white counterparts creates a sense of acceptance at instances of micro-aggressions and racial hatred in university settings.

The Leeds Tab spoke to different students about experiences of racism they’d faced and ALL of them wanted to remain anonymous. It’s as though conversations about race are stigmatised in Leeds.

Here are just a few quotes from BAME students in Leeds about their experiences.

‘The white girls in my flat would whisper and giggle right in front of me at the look and smell of my native food, yet it was funny to see BLM trending in their insta bios’

Race is a taboo subject, as everyone is sharing posts claiming “solidarity” with Black and Asian lives – but when these communities are still being discriminated against on campus, what is “online wokeness” achieving?

Social media is merely a front for an attempt at showing solidarity with students experiencing racism.

‘At my first party in Hyde Park, someone commented that I would fit in more with the residents as they were “my people” – I cried the whole way home’

With instances like this regularly occurring to students of colour, it’s of little surprise that the BAME attainment gap exists. At university, only 71 per cent of Asian students and just 57 per cent of black students gained a 2:1 or first in their degree, compared with 81 per cent of white students.

Casual racism that students are facing is undoubtedly a factor in this. It diminishes students’ confidence and mental wellbeing. The likelihood of imposter syndrome taking a toll on your studies is worsened drastically when nobody on your course looks like you.

#leedsfess25215 | @leedsfess via facebook

One of the main issues with casual racism and micro-aggressions at universities is that the comments seem too subtle to report. They are characterised as instances of “banter” and “I’m not racist, just joking around” but that distinction is not determined by the person making the comments, whom is often detached from the consequences of their “jokes.”

Whether a racist comment has gone too far is for the ethnic minority/minorities addressed to decide. Why is that so difficult for people to understand?

‘My first year flat used to speak in an Indian accent when I was around. The attitude of Leeds students towards racism is insane – it’s like I’m in a different country’

The acceptance culture surrounding these “jokes” leaves students desperate to remain anonymous when discussing these situations. One student we spoke to stated that they’d only feel comfortable giving us their year of study because they “didn’t want people to think they’re too sensitive” and that they’re “worried that people will stop being friends with them” if they raised these issues with their so-called “friends.”

Failure to listen to the experiences of BAME students and not condemning offensive remarks or comments is normalising racism at university.

#leedsfess25034 | @leedsfess via facebook

Whilst the posts on LeedsFess convey a harsh picture of the racism endured by students at universities in Leeds, they also give white students an insight into the struggles that students of colour face at universities across the country.

Racism happens on every university campus and it’s important to be reminded of that, regardless of how accepting everyone seems on the likes of Instagram and Twitter.

Positive reactions to LeedsFess posts can also affirm a sense of solidarity between students of colour. A second year Law student told The Leeds Tab that: “The posts make me feel much less lonely in terms of my experience at university, and in some ways, validate my frustration at the micro-aggressions I face whilst in Leeds.

“I hope that the submissions make people aware of the severity of racism on Leeds campuses. Students must start reporting racist remarks and behaviours to their faculties.”

The ultimatum is that through sharing these posts, students will become more educated on racism and what constitutes micro-aggressions and so forth, but it isn’t that simple. Rather than easily sharing posts about racism on social media, talk to students of colour about their experiences. Call people out on their racism. Encourage diversity on society committees. Work with societies for people of colour to elevate their voices.

Racism has always occurred on Leeds campuses, LeedsFess is just shining a light on it.

NOTE: I understand that the use of ‘students of colour’ and ‘BAME students’ throughout this article can be problematic as different ethnic minorities cannot be encompassed under one label. Unfortunately, these were the terms that best fitted this article which speaks about racism as a broad subject. My apologies if anyone is offended by their use.

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