June 4th, 2020
Also available at: https://www.erasmusmagazine.nl/2020/06/04/live-erasmus-tv/
Tessa Hofland (T), host
Merel Dap (M), board member Erasmus School of Colour
Jess Bier (J), assistent professor at ESSB
Frederick Ntow (F), communication officer
T: Good day welcome back to Erasmus Tv. The shocking killing of George Floyd in the US has prompted an outpouring of grief and an increasing acknowledgement of systematic racism. The last week we have seen world wide protests on police violence and uh systematic racism. And of course, because no one can stay behind without showing their solidarity, we see a lot of public statements on social media. And that’s exactly what this university did. Nevertheless, it is an important topic to discuss. Thank you for being here. Uhhhh, I have here on my right side Merel Dap, You are a student of Erasmus School of Colour. And the other side has assistant professor at ESSB Jess Bier. Thank you. And on Skype is with me Frederick.
And now, he is a communication officer here at the university.
To start with you Merel, you were at the protests yesterday in Rotterdam. One of the solidarity protests.
T: How did you feel being there?
M: Being there was very… I was very amazed by the amount of people that were there. I was speechless from all the speeches that were there and it was very inspirational to see all those people coming together and show solidarity. but also talking about their own experiences. I was very moved by one of the, one of the other black girls around the same age as me, talking about her experience of ethnic profiling a few days ago in one of the parks in Rotterdam. I was very … that was very emotional to see. But it was a really nice experience.
T: You mention talking about your own experiences. You had some doubts coming here. Uhm.. you really had to think about it for a while. Uhm, can you tell me why? Not for me, but for everyone who is listening.
M: Well, for me, it’s, uhm, a lot of people probably won’t understand but uhm.. being a black woman and being very vocal about your opinion uhm can be very dangerous. You have repercussions and I really had to think really hard to actually take a seat at this table, because a lot of tables aren’t black women friendly. I had to think really hard and be very selective of what table I’m gonna take a seat at, as a black woman. Because there’s always tone policing, and it doesn’t matter in what kind of tone I voice my opinion. A lot of people will always think that I’m an angry black woman, or that I’m really over… about saying my opinion, and that’s why it’s very important to uhh.. especially also for black women to just take a step back and take a look at what table do I wanna voice my opinion? And be very selective about it, because it’s also sometimes mentally draining to experience the tone policing or not being able to voice your opinion, because the repercussions that will come later.
T: Really, again, thank you so much for being here. It is such a hard topic if you have, and there must have been, an experience uhhhh that’s so hard. People are calling it traumatic, even I, of course, as a white woman, can’t understand, but I really really appreciate it, and I really want to mention it, that you’re here. Thank you.
M: Thank you
T: We were also yesterday at the protest in Rotterdam, and my colleagues made this video.
[video of the protests, with subtitles]
T: This student is very kind, I think. She said you don’t have to take a stand. But she put it too kindly. Jess, what do you think? I think we should take a stand
J: Yes I think as a university and as professors we definitely need to take a stand. Uhm, it’s important to know that racism is a systemic problem. It’s a problem that’s present throughout the university and every area of life, because it’s present throughout society and every area of life. There’s a number of things you can do, both as an individual and as an institution to show support to students of color and to minimize the effects of racism in the university. So on a personal level, of course every white person should be reading the works of people of color. This is something tht is present. You can go on twitter and search for anti-racist reading lists, there is works available. There is works written for a broader audience. You can also go on youtube and look up lectures by the authors of those works. But what is equally, or even more important is the systemic response. So with the university we can address racism in curriculum, by making sure that we’re reading and citing the work of professors of color. You can address it in mentoring, by reaching out to students. And she (Merel) already noticed this, but this is something that could be encouraged institutionally within the university. Hiring is really important. There are not enough professors of color. There are plenty of scholars of color in the world. So if there’s fewer professors of color at the university, it means that the institution has a problem that needs to be fixed. Uhm, Promotion is very important. There are policies in place to promote women. We need to have policies also for professors of color. And, uhm, also making sure you have rigorous complaint procedures, support, institutional support for students, so that they feel like their voices are heard and taken seriously.
T: So if I listen to you, you say the university isn’t doing enough at the moment to promote inclusion and diversity.
J: No, but there is really so much more that we can do now. And keep in mind that uhm, one of the goals of the university is to make a positive societal impact. And part of that starts here in the university, making sure that our community is a place where everybody can thrive.
T: Frederick, the diversity and inclusion office is a place, well, where this is always, well, high on the agenda. Uhm. What is the university doing?
F: Uhm, first I’d like to thank Merel’s bravery in attending today. I think her point of having to think twice of having voice is a key issue that we have to address. Uhm, I think uhm dr. Bier has also outlined some of the things we need to be doing and are doing. And, I mean, before we even start, the first thing is to understand really wht the issue is. Uhm, in the first place. And that is firstly by finding out and doing research for our community and also taking examples from other faculties and other universities on how to address that. So what we’ve done, things for example, such as diversity officers, is having diversity officers in different faculties to help talk about access, talk about promotions and complaint procedures. But the key and important thing is to look at uhm, things such as collaborations. between groups like ESOC and Merel, connecting allies through the university together, connecting researchers on the subject and also gaining support from the leadership of the university. Which at the moment very much do. We also have to recognize that a lot of these problems start well before university, so you’re looking at outreach, you’re looking at people at EUR. And.. uhm.. who before.. who don’t get to EUR because they.. systems have disenfranchised them. And this is especially at a time of crisis on the university. I believe you’ll be addressing that in a later program. So, being honest about the experiences of people here and doing the research and funding, that our community is not equal or does not have the same outcomes, is something that we should be doing.
T: Merel, you’re a student here. Is the university doing enough at the moment?
M: Well, the… the, diversity and inclusion office for now has a lot of plans and is actually actively working and also connecting with students. So I think that’s a positive thing. But for me, personally, we’re the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Like, Erasmus Rotterdam but also the uni in Rotterdam, but I don’t see Rotterdam on this campus. There are so many grassroots organizations within this city, also a few that actually helped organizing the protests yesterday. Like concrete blossom, hiphophuis, such amazing people with so much knowledge. I don’t see them here. We need to collaborate with people from this city. There is so much knowledge. We’re like n academic institution, we produce and reproduce knowledge. Go out into the city of Rotterdam and try to find the people have knowledge and uhm bring them in. and also find more connection within the city. We are really in the central part of this city, but not on the other side of the bridge of this city. Like go into the neighborhoods. I was born in raised in one of the neighborhoods actually here, De Esch, nd I always in the weekends when we did the groceries I went past the campus. But I never been on campus. Like, find a connection within the neighborhoods even near the university campus. Go in the city. Go into the city.
T: And you already mentioned some organizations who are worth following. Do you have more tips for us, what to follow, what to read, what to do.
M: Yeah I have some tips but the thing is also, like, what I’ve noticed from this week is that, like, internet, google, that’s your friend. You can really put in the effort to do that yourself. But I can mention a few, if you really want to like work on it, donate, look them up: the black archives, kozp, black queer and trans resistance, controle alt delete. They’re really good, great activists and they do a lot of work. Follow them. Look at their Instagram page, Facebook page. Definitely donate, because it’s for a good cause. But that’s all the tips I can give right now because you really have to do it yourself, like asking for experiences and stuff like that, that time is long gone. I had to do a lot of research too, and now its time for other people to do that too. That’s your responsibility if you really want to make this work. You have to look at yourself, like what am I willing to sacrifice or willing to do to make it work for everybody. Give everybody a space to uhm, actually partake in this society.
T: Frederick, Jess, do you have anything to add to this.
J: Uhm, no. I wanna say that the diversity office and Erasmus School of Colour re doing really important work. Uhm and the point about outreach and about connecting with the city is also so important. There is so much to be learned here, there are so many different people with different experiences. Rotterdam is a very inspiring city and we can give back to that and learn from it.
T: Frederick, the question to you:
F: I would say that what Merel has mentioned is absolutely perfect and right. Nd I think that uhm all of us from an institutional and individual basis need to remember, take ownership of the issue. Even if you’re not directly effected, you are part of this. You know. You have , it’s your friends.. your colleagues. Even you may not know, but s soon as you start to ask some questions, which is why we’re here at the university, you my find out more than you knew. And once people start to find out more, maybe they don’t like what they have. So take ownership of making chances to our community. Respect each other, listen to people, be willing to learn.
T: We will share all of your tips, and all of.. if you have any adjustments we will also add it. You can find it on our social media and on Erasmus magazine later today. I want to thank you all for being here. Thank you Frederick, thank you here at my table. And as Frederick already mentioned, we will come back to this topic, indeed on Tuesday. That is our next episode. See you then.