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Manchester Uni officers have painted over 'racist' Rudyard Kipling poem

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On Thursday, elected officers at Manchester uni painted over a Rudyard Kipling poem displayed in the student union building with Maya Angelou's 'Still I Rise.'  

Sara Khan, the SU’s Liberation and Access Officer explained in a post that the original mural arose from 'a failure to consult students during the process of adding art to the newly renovated SU building,' and that the Executive team 'believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights.'

The SU has since apologised for the mural saying that it was 'inappropriate.'

In response to social media backlash, the SU issued a further statement defending the students’ action from accusations of 'vandalism,' saying they were 'breathing life into a project to make it truly student-led.'

The statement praises the removal and replacement in no uncertain terms, saying it has 'instigated an important conversation around liberation and the decolonisation of the curriculum,' and 'highlighted the importance of student leadership inside our union and students’ unions around the country.'

As a result, the student officers have been receiving death threat as well as high 'levels of racist abuse and criticism that are completely unacceptable.'

The Express, who refer to Kipling as the author of ‘The Jungle Book’ and make no reference to ‘The White Man’s Burden’, refer to the Manchester SU officials as 'SNOWFLAKE students,' pouring scorn on the students’ motives.

Meanwhile, Nick Ferrari, of LBC Radio, claimed that 'students [focusing] on nonsense such as this is utterly asinine.'

'Do you think the average student even knows, let alone cares, about Rudyard Kipling’s background?' he added. 

Khan, a student of English Literature, stated in her post that Kipling is 'well-known as the author of the racist poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’, and a plethora of other work that sought to legitimate the British Empire’s presence in India and de-humanises people of colour.'

She further added that it was 'deeply inappropriate to promote the work of Kipling in our SU.'

Speaking to TNS, Diversity Officer Riddi Visu told us that Kipling's imperialistic history was not in line with the union's values.

'We replaced it [Rudyard's poem] with Maya Angelou's poem which is very much relatable to us as we believe that liberation is always the most significant part of our SU.'

On Friday, the NUS released a statement expressing their 'solidarity' with Manchester SU, signed by all of their officers.

The NUS highlighted the racist language employed in Kipling’s ‘The White Man’s Burden’ and stressed that the officers' actions should be viewed in 'the wider context of students challenging the ways in which knowledge is produced and displayed at institutions in which racial disparities exist.'

The statement concludes by quoting a stanza of ‘Still I Rise’ in their honour:

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Featured image courtesy of Riddi and Sara

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