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Motion to change name and terminology of NUS Black Students' Campaign

Tuesday 23-05-2017 - 11:00

A motion was passed at NUS Black Students’ Campaign Summer Conference this weekend to begin a process of deciding a new terminology and name for the Campaign, and continuing a membership-wide consultation begun at NUS Black Students’ Campaign Winter Conference 2016.

The motion mandates the Black Students’ Campaign national committee 2017/18 to conduct a membership-wide consultation into the terminology of the Campaign with the intention of determining a new collective terminology for students of African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean descent to organise under, following ongoing contention over the framework of Political Blackness adopted by the Campaign.

As the primary democratic event of the NUS Black Students’ Campaign, Black Students’ Summer Conference is the only standard forum of the academic year that can formally set the policy and direction of the Black Students’ Campaign.

The motion 401 “Changing the name of our campaign: stepping forward together” was passed, as amended below.
The motion was proposed by NUS Black Students committee, University of Manchester SU, Bristol SU and the successful amendment 401a was submitted by Liverpool Hope Students’ Union and Kings College London SU.
The motion as amended can be viewed in its entirety below or at http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/resources/black-students-conference-2017-motions.

A comprehensive change of the name and terminology of the Black Students’ Campaign requires a change to the Standing Orders of the Campaign, by which the Campaign is governed – the motion as passed mandates the Black Students’ Committee to bring a revision to the Standing Orders to Black Students’ Summer Conference 2018, following the consultation process, that formally changes the name and terminology of the Campaign.

The motion also resolves to retain the membership of the Campaign as students of African Asian Arab and Caribbean descent, and rejecting terms such as ‘BME’ and ‘BAME’ as part of the terminology change.

The successful motion, as amended, can be seen in its entirety below.

For any further questions please contact pressoffice@nus.org.uk

Motion 401: Changing the name of our campaign: stepping forward together

Submitted by: Bristol Students’ Union, NUS Black Students Committee, University of Manchester Students Union

Conference Believes:

1. The concept of Political Blackness was formed by African, Asian and Caribbean activists in the antiracist movements of 1970s Britain, in response to the specific mechanisms of racism within British society.

2. Following from that political tradition, the NUS Black Students’ Campaign has since its inception adopted the framework of political Blackness

3. Concerns and challenges have been raised by this Campaign’s membership as to the usefulness of this political concept in this day, and demands have been made to change the terminology used by this Campaign.

4. A consultation process was initiated at the earliest opportunity this year, at Black Students’ Winter Conference 2016, regarding this issue

5. That exercise identified a consensus that the terminology should change, but did not identify consensus for an alternative.

6. An alternative collective terminology and framework may or may not be readily available. Many widespread terms – such as ‘BME’ and ‘BAME’ – are minimising, or lend themselves to methods of state control and division.

7. Many at winter conference spoke of how these terms should not be adopted.

8. The Campaign is the largest of its kind in Europe, and the need for students of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean heritage to unite together and fight racism together remains absolutely essential.

9. The campaign areas of BSC – Equality in Education, International Peace & Justice, Anti Racism & Anti Fascism and Black Representation – encompass the aspects that the Campaign should focus on.

10. A comprehensive change of the terminology used by this Campaign and the NUS is multi-staged and will not be instantaneous.

11. There are vast distinctions between Asian, Arab, Caribbean and African communities including how they are affected by racism, educational, academic and economic attainment. It is unrealistic to package us all together under the umbrella of “Black” students.

12. The term `Black' is evocative of people of African and Caribbean origins, using the language of “Black Students” is misleading and unrepresentative. In principle it understates the size, needs and distinctive concerns of the Asian, Arab and other ethnic communities within the movement.

13. The use of language and the blanket term “Black Students” erases the huge cultural differences, manufacturing an enforced sense of “solidarity”. Identities should not be forged out of experiences of oppression and racism alone, but also through a sense of shared cultural references.

14. That 'black' should not be used to describe all BME students.

15. The black student's committee's name should be changed to an alternative.

Conference Further Believes:

1. There is a history to political Blackness in Britain and its role in developing the antiracist movements. It is now time to adopt and/or develop a framework for antiracist organising within this Campaign that can operate within the context of modern day Britain.

2. The underlying principles of political Blackness are important requisites for antiracism, and we should seek to preserve these principles as far as is possible.

3. “Identity is an ever unfinished, endless conversation” – but our work as the Black Students’ Campaign must centre the politics of organising, antiracism, self-organisation and solidarity.

4. The Black Students’ Campaign uniquely fills a vacuum within student bodies organising against racism amongst African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean students. It does not, however, claim a monopoly on organisations representing each of those groups.

5. African, Asian, Arab and/or Caribbean communities are not homogenous – there are significant differences between them as well as within them, but the common underlying force of racism is what binds them in British society. There are also issues such as antiblackness which need to be identified and tackled.

6. In navigating race and identification in the West we are forced to utilise the tools of the oppressor, but must be wary to not re-essentialise categories of race and ethnicity or play into racist categories. A political framework that prioritises the struggle is needed for that.

7. People of African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean descent face the sharpest manifestations of racism in Britain.

8. The term “Black Students” suggests a false essentialism: that all non-white groups should share the same experience as Black people and vice versa. The term and misleading use of language conflates the differences of radically diverse peoples, boxing them together by virtue of non-whiteness.

10. BME students are not a monolith.

11. Using the term 'black' erases some student's experiences.

12. We experience oppression very differently to each other

13. It is a very outdated term

14. You can't be politically black-choosing when and how to become black. Students of Black African and Caribbean descent do not have that privilege.

15. During Winter Conference, there was clear and overwhelming consensus on the need to change the name of the campaign to a more representative alternative.

Conference Resolves:

1. To initiate a process of changing the terminology and name of the NUS Black Students Campaign.

2. To continue the consultation process initiated to determine a terminology for the Campaign among students of African Asian Arab and Caribbean descent, and bring a motion to NUS Black Students’ Summer conference 2018 that comprehensively revises the standing orders of the Campaign to reflect this new terminology, whilst retaining the composition of the Campaign.

3. To reject disempowering and divisive terminology such as ‘BME’ or ‘BAME’.

4. To carry out a consultation in the spirit of the text above.

5. To ensure that any new terminology is grounded in the principles of antiracism, self-organisation, and solidarity between people of African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean descent.

6. Creating a different name

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