In 1978, the famous Black radical and cultural theorist Stuart Hall stated, “race is the modality through which class is lived”. What Stuart Hall meant by this, is that race and class are mutually constituted rather than ‘intersections’; race is a class issue and class is a race issue. We can see evidence of this through the systemic discrimination against Irish people and Jews in Europe, who were classed as distinct races and therefore subject to inferior class status. You might hear your lecturers continuously bang on about “social construction” but this is important when we think about how class and race reinforce each other. Race has significantly changed over time; Black people are no longer slaves and Irish people are now categorised as white, but the point is that this arbitrary categorisation of race was used to justify class distinction. In the same way the inferiority of gender has confined women to the domestic sphere, race has confined people to a particular economic class.
Today we see women CEOs and Jay Z and Beyonce being praised as cultural Black icons. We have seen history being made with the first Black president of the United States. But this does not contrast the race/class/ gender totality, but further provides evidence for it. Since we have heard our lecturers discuss race as a social construction rather than a biological skin marker, we can see how white supremacy is not based on a particular skin colour but has agents which come in different races and genders. A woman CEO who subjugates a marginalised women who works in her home as a domestic cleaner is still an agent of patriarchy, in the same way that Barack Obama still subjected people in the Global South to extremely racialised neo-colonial practices. Priti Patel has introduced some of the most draconian anti-immigration legislation the UK has ever seen. But what has this got to do with strike action?
The demands of staff are clear: eradicate the gender and ethnic pay gaps, increase pay according to the increasing workloads of staff. Let’s not forget that during the pandemic, lecturers have undertaken labour which they have not been trained for by caring for our emotional wellbeing through private tutorial meetings. Since the university refuses to hire POC counsellors, I have found more refuge and counsel with my tutor who has not been compensated or trained for this, and I’m sure many of you feel the same. Staff striking is emblematic of fighting the white supremacist structures which permeate Northumbria University. Class and race and mutually exclusive, and by ensuring staff are paid what they deserve to be, they reclaim power and subvert a system which maintains its divisions through race and therefore class. You can also help fight this racist and sexist system by emailing the SU with this template to demand they change their position and support strike action.