This article was originally posted on the University of Essex News pages on 2 June 2021.
Our Students’ Union Black Officer Andrea Curtis has been praised for her role in a recent Battle Against Racism webinar organised by the University of Antwerp.
As one of the members of the Young Universities for the Future of Europe (YUFE) alliance, Essex students and staff were invited to take part in the webinar organised by Antwerp’s Team Diversity group.
The University of Antwerp sees diversity as an integral part of its society and strives to create an inclusive environment where all students and staff feel welcomed, regardless of his, her or their ethnic identity and battle against racism as a joint responsibility.
Andrea, a final year Law and Human Rights student, said: “I wanted to take part in the webinar because is it so very important that individuals are aware of the different forms of racism, and how they are perpetuated in society. Racism and its effects in society are not straightforward, and they still play a massive part in society today.”
She applied for the role of Black Officer at Essex to best provide for the specific needs of black students as she is passionate about “giving black history, culture, and people the acknowledgement they deserve”.
“It was interesting taking part in the webinar,” added Andrea, “as the experiences of another black speaker was different to myself. Although never faced with blatant racism, I shared my experience of the UK being passive in its racism.
“My talk focused on white saviourism and unconscious bias. Both ignored but equally important aspects of racism, that are prevalent in society which affect black people in all forms of society and I wanted to highlight that as humans we all have bias and prejudgements of people, the danger lies when these bias fuels an agenda based on racial undertones.”
Saana Haddouchi, from Antwerp’s Team Diversity, added: “Andrea delivered a very interesting presentation on unconscious bias and white saviourism. She shared her experience at the University of Essex and gave tips on how to include students who experience racism in diversity policy work without burdening them too much.
“Andrea was able to inspire the public with her insights. At the University of Antwerp we want to emphasize that racism is our problem. Andrea’s presentation reinforced this message in a poignant and engaging manner. I am convinced that the public was eager to continue and intensify their antiracism journey after the contribution of Andrea.“