Statement in support of Black Lives Matter
Statement on Black Lives Matter, anti-discrimination and ‘decolonising’ the curriculum
The Department of Film and Television affirms its commitment to anti-discriminatory practices in its staffing, teaching, research, and interactions with students and colleagues. We fully support the principles and aims of the global Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle against all forms of discrimination in the UK and across the world. We acknowledge that anti-Black racism as enacted through film, television and the moving image is importantly distinct from, yet intersects with, broader discriminatory practices based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, and faith.
We endorse statements made by two of our three subject associations - the Standing Conference on University Drama Departments’ Statement on Anti-Racist Actions and the Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Association Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter. We follow them in condemning:
‘The racial injustice that the Windrush scandal brought to light and we acknowledge the threat racism presents to Black and Brown lives from Grenfell to the deaths of Rashan Charles, Sarah Reed, Sheku Bayoh and many more whose names we may never know’
Where the history of the moving image is bound up with nineteenth-century European and American imperialism, the study and practice of film and television as a distinct discipline in the UK only dates to the mid-20th century and was founded in critical understandings of the relationships between aesthetics and power. Students of film and television learn skills of close analysis in order to understand how narratives are crafted by the angle of a camera, the lighting of specific bodies, who or what is made visible or invisible in a scene, who is left on the cutting room floor. They learn historical, industrial, and technological contexts in order to understand how particular voices, experiences and points of view have been centred or silenced.
While anti-racist movements and the inequalities that underlie them are not new, we have witnessed in 2020 the reverberating intersections of the Black Lives Matter movement, the inequalities of COVID-19 and the global debates about the toxic heritage of monuments - particularly as they shape larger media narratives and impact on individual lives.
What does it mean for the Department of Film and Television to participate in this work ethically and meaningfully? Black Lives Matter is an invitation to all of us to work together better and to listen to and act on the specific experiences of Black people on and off camera, inside and outside of universities. As a community of people with mixed heritage, backgrounds and experiences we know that there is a lot to be done. which is why we are:
- Actively listening to, learning from, and acting on what Black and Indigenous people and people of colour bring to the department, to create the opportunity for collaborative structural change
- Working to educate ourselves as a community by sharing resources on racism and inequality, by ensuring that anti-racism is part of the student conversation, and by committing to fostering a more representative research culture of seminars and events
- Working on moving beyond decentring whiteness and ‘decolonizing’ our curriculum to be actively anti-racist in our teaching, research, administration and employment practices in ways that don't simply re-legitimise institutional power
- Working with students and colleagues to create more robust, intellectually rigorous, and ethical curricula that fully engage with legacies of imperialism, colonization and anti-Black racism as they inform all historical enquiry
- Specifically recognizing the work of Black scholars in all areas of our discipline, not just those who work on race and ethnicity, and seeking out the work of Black academics, academics of colour, including Indigenous academics, and to include these critical voices at every possible opportunity, including through our recruitment processes
- Encouraging white staff and students to challenge white dominance at events, including conferences, film festivals, reading lists, filmographies
- Ensuring that white staff and students understand the importance of not positioning Black, Indigenous and global majority people as having to do the heavy lifting of this work - either in classrooms or in meetings
- Producing concrete plans to achieve these aims and working to co-produce appropriate evaluation measures that actively resist the ‘tick box’ exercise of monitoring
Above all, we are mindful of the potentially blurred boundaries between good allyship, critically reflexive practices and appropriating struggles in ways that simply recentre whiteness or that recuperate ethical practices as ‘brand identity’. We recognize that all of this raises difficult questions for us to address over the coming years about who's doing this ‘including’, who’s subject to these processes, and who has agency.