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18th October 2019

Black History Month: QTIPOC talk race and sexuality

Alex Cross speaks about the importance of continuing conversations about diversity and inclusion
Black History Month: QTIPOC talk race and sexuality
Photo : Philadelphia City Council and Tierney @ Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday afternoon saw an important panel for Black History Month. The treatment of LGBTQ+ people as black, Asian and minority ethnic people, as well as the concept of intersectionality.

The QTIPOC society presented the panel. QTIPOC stands for Queer, Trans and Intersex, People of Colour. Their aim is to represent and support anyone who comes under this umbrella term, and emphasise inclusion. 

The term ‘intersectionality’ was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. The panellists discussed how the word affected their lives, and how it has helped them to feel included in a conversation that is generally steered against them. It is a particularly important discussion during Black History Month, and more often than not LGBTQ+ people are left out of the narrative. 

At the very end of the panel, a first year spoke about how she had been placed as the only black girl in her accommodation for this year. The student felt frustrated as she had spoken out against a flatmate for making a racist comment, and felt as though she had been deemed the ‘angry black girl’. The energy in the room instantly shifted as this was discussed, clear that it is an issue faced by many.

Discussion then turned to how to cope with strong feelings in a situation where you feel so personally involved. It is necessary to have techniques to cope in such a circumstance, however, it is also necessary to realise that a strong emotional reaction to racism is completely justified. One argument is that silence facilitates ignorance and doesn’t educate anyone.

Education as a topic kept resurfacing, as it is decidedly obvious that knowledge is power and key to understanding. A critical point considered was the expectation that, at some point, ignorance will be overcome by net increase in education. However, it must be accepted that this may not be the case; a person cannot have a full understanding of how discrimination feels if they have never had the capacity to experience it.

An equally compelling argument was raised about how, within Extinction Rebellion, protestors are being labelled as activists and saving the world, however as soon as a black student raises her issues with racism she is immediately determined ‘angry’ and ‘overly aggressive’. The issue is that the student is not just the ‘angry black girl’, but the only ‘angry black girl’.

This questions tolerance to offensive behaviour within the university. It is down to the university for placing that student in an environment which isn’t diversified. People talk about ‘integration’, but how can one integrate into a society that isn’t willing to welcome. 

Action is necessary to avoid situations like this in the future, rather than allowance. Learning to say ‘no’ was a common theme of improvement at the panel. Specifically, using it more often. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, considering your capacity to take more on is more important than just considering limitations.

It is necessary whether you are a member of this community, or an ally, to keep the discussion going. It is not just important within Black History Month, but relevant for all the time to not shut down other people; keep conversations flowing and learn to use your privilege to help those less fortunate than you.

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