Goldsmiths students divided over event that excluded white men

Bahar Mustafa, union diversity officer at Goldsmiths, University of London, criticised for making students feel ‘intimidated’ but others support her

A students’ union officer who said she received death threats over an event that excluded white men has received an outpouring of support on Twitter.

More than 13,000 people called for the expulsion of Bahar Mustafa, welfare and diversity officer at Goldsmiths, University of London, who was accused of racism for asking white men not to attend a students’ union meeting intended for ethnic minority and “non-binary” women.

Mustafa then became embroiled in separate row, accused of using the hashtag #killallwhitemen on her Twitter account, which has since been deleted.

Students at the university have called a vote of no confidence in Mustafa, saying she made students feel “intimidated, unsupported, and unrepresented”.

But the issue is dividing the student body, with the hashtag #supportbaharmustafa trending on Twitter on Wednesday.

The Goldsmiths students’ union officer team has apologised for the “misunderstanding” and said they still believed it was important to provide “spaces where specific minority groups … talk together confidentially about overcoming structural disadvantages and prejudice”.

In response to the criticism, Mustafa released a video saying she did not consider her words to be sexist or racist, nor was she capable of being discriminatory.

“I, as an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men, because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender,” she said.

“And therefore women of colour and non-binary genders cannot be racist or sexist as we do not stand to benefit from such a system.

“In order for our actions to have been deemed racist or sexist, the current system would have to be one which enables only women and people of colour to benefit economically and socially on such a large scale and to the systematic exclusion of white people and men who for the past 400 years would have had to have been subjected to colonisation. Reverse racism and reverse sexism are not real.”

In an online post in a response to the no confidence petition, Mustafa said her use of the #killallwhitemen hashtag and the term “white trash” on her Twitter account were “in-jokes and ways that many people in the queer feminist community express ourselves”.

“Since the media storm, I have received death and rape threats, racial and gendered abuse, and had journalists from right­wing publications come to my home where my family live,” she said.

More than 1,500 people have signed a solidarity letter to express support for Mustafa, saying attacks had been based on “wilful distortions and omissions”.

I #SupportBaharMustafa because the right for marginalised groups to self organise should be something that is encoraged not opposed.

— Susuana (@Susuana_Xx) May 20, 2015

proud to #SupportBaharMustafa because self-defining events are such an important part of building powerful liberation campaigns

— UCLU WO // Annie (@UCLU_WO) May 20, 2015

i #supportbaharmustafa cos the way she's been hounded for following decades-old liberation campaign common practice is horrendous & unfair

— MARTH (@martha_again) May 20, 2015

Several people have, however, used the hashtag to express criticism of Mustafa.

I don't #supportbaharmustafa because she's a racist and censorious. You don't represent ethnic minorities.

— Harvir Dhillon (@HarvirDhillon) May 20, 2015

Diversity is inclusion for all groups of ppl. If you believe truly believe in diversity, don't #supportbaharmustafa

— Rogue illuminatus (@pmb527) May 20, 2015

Mustafa said she was “acutely aware that social media is not conducive to nuanced discussions and I recognise that my online persona can be stifling or come across as intimidating”.

A motion of no confidence can only be held after a petition of 3% of members, about 250 students, is presented to the students’ union on 26 May. If the motion is carried, a referendum will be held for the entire student body.

A spokesperson for Goldsmiths said the university had received “a number of complaints” about Mustafa.

“To clarify, Bahar Mustafa is not an employee of the university and is not a student and the students’ union is independent,” a spokesman said. “It is run by student officials elected by union members.

“We are in active discussions with Goldsmiths Students’ Union over this important matter. We are treating all concerns with sensitivity and with the utmost urgency.”


Jessica Elgot

The GuardianTramp

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