Black Lives Matter also at Ghent University

(19-06-2020) For a few weeks now there has been fierce debate in society at large about racism and decolonisation. We asked some Ghent University students what the past few weeks meant to them.

Agnes MeeuwisAgnes Meeuwis

Racism, I ignored it for a long time, pretended it didn't happen to me. However, the BLM protests of recent weeks have made this unconscious habit untenable. Through the support of friends whom I met mainly through Ghent University, I also made my voice heard by sharing various racist statements I've had to hear in my life through Facebook. It's good to see so many students who not only see the problem, but also want to tackle it.

The fact that not only blacks but also whites take to the streets shows that this is not a fight between so-called races, but a fight against racism. I myself have received sincere apologies from some people after my Facebook-post. I'm certainly glad to know that people can change!

We're well on our way, but we're not there yet and persistence is key. That is why I hope that this fight will not be watered down with time, but will be brought to a successful conclusion. This generation gives me and other young people hope!




Amine ChettiAmine Chetti

Black Lives Matter is about equality for me. Equality between everyone, regardless of skin colour, religion, orientation etc. Something that in theory is legally certain, but in practice is far from the case. Painfully obvious again because of the murder of George Floyd.

We live in a society where police forces have a monopoly on power. When they structurally and systematically visualize and tackle certain population groups and individuals differently/tougher on the basis of e.g. skin colour, background, religion, or orientation, there is a structural and fundamental problem. When this repeatedly results in the death of the victims of that police violence, silence is no longer an option.

But it goes beyond the law enforcement agencies. Even in the labour market, the education system or even in public transport, enough studies show that structural racism is a fact. And today, at last, some people in a privileged position also seem to realise that doing nothing keeps it going. Even if it doesn't affect them personally, it puts an enormous pressure on society as a whole.

What touches me most is that fighting racism is still a debate for others. Part of society lives comfortably in its privileged bubble, unaware of the colonial context to which our beautiful little country is inextricably linked. (selectively) Blind to the injustice done to others.

Universities, as the pinnacle of our education system, must play a pioneering role and proactively tackle, in collaboration with experts and community experts, the roots of this problem, which has infiltrated deep into the smallest crevices of society. Mandatory inclusion of colonization in the final attainment levels of our education is a start, but not a second too soon, the road is still long!

Marie-Laure MulayiMarie-Laure Mulayi

As a student at Ghent University, the Black Lives Matter protests are a social (r)evolution for me.

In recent weeks, thousands of people have taken to the streets to denounce institutional racism worldwide. From Paris to New Zealand, images of demonstrators who recognize the seriousness of the issue and actively mobilize to send out a clear signal appeared. This wave of BLM protests evokes a multitude of emotions in me: anger, sadness, disappointment and above all incomprehension. How can it be that so much injustice is tolerated in 2020? Haven't we learned anything from the past? Why are minorities still considered inferior? Is my life inferior?

As chairman of an African student association, it is my responsibility not only to denounce this problem, but above all to be part of the solution. Umoja Gent was initially founded with the intention to be a mouthpiece for African students, but also to raise awareness about the social reality they are confronted with. From that position, I work every day to have a real impact on the lives of my fellow students.

I think it is essential to underline the urgency of the matter: institutional racism is a fact and deprives generations of the opportunity to flourish. Within this context, higher education institutions should actively fight anti-racism. This is expressed, on the one hand, in recognising and identifying discriminatory practices and, on the other hand, in taking structural measures. The time has now come to take action together and take appropriate measures.

Sania Soltani

Sania Soltani

I think it's very positive that the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests are getting worldwide attention. It's nice that so many people with the same anti-racist message come together on the street. Many people do not realise that structural racism also exists in Belgium and that black Belgians and other Belgians with a migration background are still confronted with it. This shows that the protests are also needed in Belgium.

As an archaeology student I almost exclusively see white colonialist archaeologists in my courses and in museums I often come across stolen objects that are presented out of context and far from their origin. Of course, these are small problematic things that result from a bigger problem.

I especially hope that Belgium tackles problems such as ethnic profiling and discrimination in the labour and housing market. In addition, it is important that subjects such as colonisation and racism are discussed and understood in education. Transparency about colonialism in Belgian history is often absent. These subjects are necessary in secondary schools, but also in higher education where there is too little diversity in the subject matter, among the staff, and in many cases also among the students.

Hanane El KaddouriHanane El Kaddouri

I think the special thing about the Black Lives Matter movement of the past few weeks is that many people realise for the first time how deeply racism, discrimination and the remnants of colonialism are rooted in our society.

It gives me hope to see how this generation of young people and students doesn't get stuck. We learned during the climate marches how we don't have to wait for change and how we can also make our voices heard. Partly because of the power of social media, many people make the promise to actively learn about the subject and in this way review their own thought patterns. It is no longer enough just to be non-racist, we take on the task of being anti-racist.

If this awareness at the micro level can stimulate the conversation, it would be nice to see this happen within the university as well. There is certainly still room for more inclusion and more debate. In addition, now is the ideal time to look at our own courses and adjust colonial or racist undertones.