Edinburgh University’s anti-racism conference attracts national media scrutiny

On Saturday 28 September the second ‘Resisting whiteness’ conference was held in Pleasance Theatre, an Edinburgh University Students’ Association building.

The conference is a series of anti-racist panels and workshops organised by a collective of Queer and Trans People of Colour.

The event attracted national media attention by barring white audience members from asking questions during panels and preventing them from entering one of two designated safe spaces.

National newspapers including the Daily Mail and the Scotsman published an article a day before the event citing Jane McColl, 42, suggesting she is a Glaswegian ‘anti-racist’ campaigner.

According to other publications reporting on the conference, she said: “This event is blatantly racist. It sets back the battle to achieve equality and fairness by decades, all because of the actions of a tiny group of extremists, whose perverse sense of logic has led them to belittle white people, not by who they are as individuals, by merely because of their skin colour.

“Imagine if this event was called ‘Resisting Blackness’ and non-white people were told they could not ask questions, nor access a room because they were the ‘wrong’ colour.”

The Student was unable to find a record of Jane McColl campaigning for anti-racist action in Scotland.

In a statement, President of Edinburgh University Students’ Association Andrew Wilson said: “The Resisting Whiteness conference was a great opportunity for students, staff and members of the wider community to hear from a number of renowned speakers on issues of racial justice.

“The harassment faced by the conference’s organisers both in the national media and by individuals online clearly demonstrates the need for us to continue having these conversations, and we are proud to provide a space for that, particularly as we move into marking Black History Month.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said: “The University places great value on equality and diversity, as well as freedom of expression.

“While the event was not organised by the University, tackling racism is an important topic for debate and we are supportive of students looking for a safe space to address this issue.

“Likewise, we want to ensure that anyone who attends events such as this does not feel discriminated against.

“The University was supportive of this student-led event, however, we expressed concerns about certain aspects of the conference format, and some changes were made to the format as a result.”

The conference was free but accepted donations up to £20 to fund the event.

 

Image Credit: Kim Traynor via geograph.org.uk

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The Student Newspaper 2016