On Tuesday morning a University of Warwick student, Faramade Ifaturoti, tweeted that one of her flatmates had written racist slurs on her bananas in her university accommodation. The incident is currently being investigated by the university, and a solidarity campaign with the hashtag #WeStandWithFara has been growing on Twitter.
And yet there are still people doubting the blatant racism and accusing Faramade of lying. I am shocked but the truth is I am not surprised; apparently the way we deal with racism is by silencing the very people who claim to experience it. And it is often that the victims are black women.
This isn’t the first time that Faramade has talked about racism at Warwick. In February she tweeted: “Racism is very real. Especially in this Warwick I can’t lie.” In the wake of this incident, other students have been tweeting about the presence of racism, both covert and overt, at universities in all corners of the country. But still, some people have refused to believe that her experience was authentic.
A black woman is the victim of a hate crime, and the first thing these people want to do is look for evidence that the incident was staged. They would rather seek to disprove a black woman’s account of oppression instead of help her to get justice. This disgusting case highlights two things in our society; firstly, experiences of racism are still yet to be properly taken seriously, and secondly, the black woman trope – that which depicts black women as angry, aggressive, unemotional, and unsympathetic – is alive and well.
Why would somebody do this themselves? More importantly, why is it that black women’s accounts of oppression are dismissed as fabrications? Apparently their allegations must come with bulletproof evidence in order to be valid. Even The Independent sat on the fence as it tweeted ‘racist’ in quotation marks and dropped in the word ‘alleged’ when quoting Faramade’s tweet. Surely they must realise how much power the word ‘alleged’ has to instantly downplay a crime. And it was not ‘racist’ – it was racist. Would Faramade have received this treatment if she were white? Being a white woman comes with none of the aforementioned stereotypes, and there have been too many recent instances of black women being expected to fend for themselves in the face of public racist abuse. So, our society is clearly failing to support and respect black women’s narratives, meanwhile seriously undermining the trauma of racism.
A photograph of explicit racist slurs was somehow not enough to convince some that perhaps a racist incident might have taken place. This reminds me of the many excuses that amateur and professional commentators would make to justify the racist element of the many deaths of black people at the hands of white officers in the USA. When Mike Brown was shot, they said ‘if only there was a video’; when Eric Garner was choked on video, they said it still was not enough. It is easier, apparently, to deny that racism exists, and to blame and even incriminate the victim, than to face up to the reality that we live in a deeply unequal society.