Activism, Critique

Now published – The Business School is Racist: Act Up!

Dear friends, comrades, and colleagues,

We write this message in the midst of a state of emergency that has galvanized anti-racist organizing led by Black communities in the United States and internationally, in parallel with a multi-regional politics of survival led by Indigenous, Muslim and Dalit communities across all continents. 

In this wretched yet dynamic state, we share with you a piece of writing that we started almost a year ago. We could not have foretold the acute context in which our polemic would appear when published, but it is clear to us that it is as relevant today as it was last year and will be for future crises to come.

In our collective essay, The Business School is Racist: Act Up!, we outline the contours of institutional whiteness and racism as it configures in our places of work and learning. Although we speak from, and remain rooted in our local national contexts, our critique also aims to foreground the global nature of racialised oppression. We use the platform we have in this piece to call our fellow scholars of colour to recognise the ways Business Schools are not only structured by white supremacy, but actively de-value the knowledge and experiences of people of colour (PoC)*.

Alongside this recognition, we centre the need for collective action led by scholars of colour to build intergenerational support systems to dismantle racialised power structures and destabilise racist knowledge production as they appear locally and transnationally. We honour and build upon the tradition of Black, Indigenous and PoC scholarship that has laid the foundation for such critique. White scholars are invited to listen and learn from this call.

The practice of writing collectively has been structured by our experiences and knowledge of BARC organising. And so, it is with gratitude to you and your contribution to our collective work that we invite you to read the piece.

You can access the essay online here.

If you do not have institutional access to this essay, then please let us know and we can share the final version of the paper with you via email.

In solidarity,

The BARC collective

* We note that the phrase “people of colour” / “scholars of colour” is a contested term; we use it here in a solidaristic way to include Black, Indigenous and people of colour, recognising that the acronym BIPOC commonly used in the US is entering usage but is still poorly understood in the U.K. context, and that the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) term typically used in the U.K. is unhelpful for creating alliances.

Activism, Critique

BARC is Transforming

BARC is an international collective of women of colour scholar activists. We aim to build anti-racist pedagogic communities of students and university workers through sustained collective organizing, collaboration and radical thinking. Our practice is led by our commitments to critical theory, intersectional feminisms and decolonizing frameworks.

BARC is transforming. In the past two years we have built spaces for communities of colour to learn from our own truths how to resist white supremacy. We have taught each other, as we were teaching others, how to bring about a future we wish to inhabit. At times, we have felt moments of liberation in ways that have affirmed the necessity for changing the way we relate to each other in higher education. We heard this echoed throughout the responses to our work. Because we recognise that this liberatory mode of being is inherently difficult to sustain in white patriarchal capitalist higher education structures, we have made a political decision to morph into the next most elegant (brown, 2017) manifestation of the spirit of the collective. We are and will continue responding to the calls we are currently heeding. We are committed to our own healing, ancestral healing, and personal and political liberation, which for us means actively and creatively shaping the possibilities emergent from the trajectories curtailed by imperialist colonialism and neo-colonialism (Gopal, 2019). In this travel through time, we take forward the skills we have developed and the bonds of kinship we have grown.

To do so, we are taking some key decisions: we are winding down our limited company, and will no longer be taking commissions to train white staff. We believe this form of work needs to be undertaken by those who currently uphold white structures and only in pursuit of change at an institutional level. While we will retain and maintain resources on our website and social media, we refuse the additional emotional labour expended to combat or soothe white ignorance, guilt and fragility. We also refuse the labour of fighting intersectional capitalist structures that devalue, commodify and deny rightful compensation for our work.

At the same time, this experience brought into relief the magic we each bring to the table and what that means for what we make together. We laid out all our cards. We became foils for each other, allowing us to sharpen our vision of what the collective could be and what collective work can do. This vision includes walking directly into the unknown, building a reality that has not before been seen. BARC will continue to be a container for action, a shaper of change, a changer of worlds, recognising throughout that pleasure is a measure of freedom (brown 2017, 2019). We are committing to transformation as a practice of liberation.

A group photo of 24 workshop attendees, mostly women of colour, all skin tones and hair colours with colourful outfits, big smiles and positive energy. An Asian woman has an orange hijab, while a black woman is wearing a dashiki. few of them are holding up their right fists or a peace sign.Inaugural BARC Workshop Attendees, Oct 2018. Photo Credit: AMC Media

References

brown, a.m.b. 2019. Pleasure Activism. Chico: AK Press.

brown, a.m.b. 2017. Emergent Strategy. Chico: AK Press.

Gopal, P. 2019. Keynote Speech at International Critical Management Studies Conference, Milton Keynes, UK. 27 June 2019.