The national backlash against Goldsmiths University Welfare and Diversity Officer Bahar Mustafa started back in April, when she asked white individuals and cis men not to attend an anti-racism event she was hosting at Goldsmiths University Union. Conservative publications such as the Spectator were quick to denounce the event as introducing “racial segregation” and smacking of “reverse racism,” both popular criticisms undoubtedly behind Mustafa’s decision to tweet “#killallwhitemen”.
On October 6th, Mustafa received a court summons for for sending a “letter/communication/article conveying a threatening message.” Rhis has been controversial, and rightly so, with many arguing that the summons represents an attack on freedom of speech in UK universities.
But, hailing Mustafa’s freedom of speech as her saving grace opens an uneasy door for allowing racist activism into our universities and gives a false equivalency to those who would complain “if a white man said that…” Such an approach ignores the absence of institutional power that woman of colour like Mustafa possess. The many individuals subsequently sending both rape and death threats to Mustafa will evade punishment whilst the event that sparked it all, intended as a safe space for oppressed individuals from white, male dominated institutions with white, male dominated debate, was hijacked by exactly these people.
Women have often uttered the words “Kill All Men,” it’s a politically potent expression of exasperation towards constant objectification and harassment, and a counter to the constant societal limitations that women, particularly women of colour, face. It’s an example of linguistic retribution from women who are exhausted with oppression, and is especially valid as it was estimated earlier this year that 1 in 3 female students in the UK would experience sexual assault or abuse. #Killallwhitemen is not a literal cry for white, male genocide: it’s a recognition of how much more power and safety these women would possess if white males weren’t societally ever-dominant.
I doubt any man reading #killallwhitemen has a legitimate concern for his own safety. I doubt further that any man has worried about his own safety walking home at night from an under-lit Glasgow University Library. It is these differences between women of colour and white men’s experiences that highlight the disparity, and rather than rallying for a recognition of Mustafa’s freedom of speech, we should be rallying against the summons as the silencing of a potent political action against the dominance of white men in universities and elsewhere, and the silencing of political activism in UK universities as a whole.