If you’re at university in the UK, you might have heard of the secret Facebook group “Race Matters” or “RM”.
The group, which started in 2014 at Oxford University as “Skin Deep”, has now spread throughout elite university campuses in the UK, with the combination of its impressive reach as well as prominent members in positions of power at universities making it one of the most influential behind-the-scenes Facebook groups for UK students today.
The group initially started as an in-depth discussion group for intellectual conversation and debate on the serious issue of race.
Some of the conversations, an anonymous member said, were “high-standard academic discussions” on the topics of race, identity, and racism.
But, much like Oxford’s feminist discussion group Cuntry Living (which Heat Street dealt with earlier this year), the tone has soured.
Much of its original nuance has been lost as the group grew in size and became, in one user’s words, an “anti-white hate group”, with “white fragility, white saviorism, and white privilege” becoming the official orthodoxy of the group.
Questioning the existence or influence of these, another user said, is equated as “being dismissive of others’ lived experience” making debate and discussion all but impossible.
The group also became increasingly aggressive towards whites and those perceived to be “racist” by their standards. Reportedly, the shift happened around the time that Bahar Mustafa, diversity officer at Goldsmiths University and a fan favorite of RM tweeted “kill all white men” prompting a discussion on hate speech on campuses.
It was around this time that reporting suspected “racists” to employers by group members became something that certain admins of the group have admitted to supporting.
If witchhunts of suspected racists in the real world weren’t bad enough, then the way other “POC” or “people of colour” are treated when they disagree with the groupthink is.
One black member of the group was banned for suggesting that Ellen DeGeneres was not in fact a racist after she posted a photoshopped picture featuring her getting a piggyback ride from Usain Bolt.
Many Jewish users in particular feel under constant attack as the group has become more and more antisemitic and anti-Israel: Israel, Zionism, and Jews as people are consistently conflated, and some Jews feel targeted in group discussions.
Yet on one occasion where a member of the group questioned this behavior, admin Shahmir Sanni replied sarcastically “Y’all ANTISEMITES. Lololololol.”
This is strange, as the group’s rules explicitly state the importance of respecting and acknowledging the lived experiences of “people of color”; however, in practice, Jews are often excluded from this protected category.
In fact, the experience of Jewish group members could not be more different.
Several spoke to me under the condition of anonymity and opened up on the consistent and vitriolic anti-Semitism present on the group.
This goes hand-in-hand with a refusal to condemn anti-Semitic rhetoric, and the deification of prominent individuals known for anti-Semitic remarks
A prominent example of one such group favourite is Malia Bouattia, whose track record includes denying Jewish students the right to choose their own NUS representative and using racist language to describe the university with the largest population of Jews in the country.
The contradiction could not be more clear; race matters, unless you’re Jewish. Race matters, unless you’re white. White people are not only told to check their privilege, but also to “shut the fuck up”, as admin Shahmir puts it. It would appear that he himself is not obligated to do the same when it comes to Jewish group members’ personal experiences, however, as we have seen above.
Yet more disturbing is the fact that many members of the group find themselves in positions of power in the real world. One example is member Madhulika Murali, who not unusually, has clocked up repeated instances of hateful statements generalizing and demonizing whites, particularly white men:
Yet Murali was herself appointed equalities officer for her college at Oxford University:
One wonders if an equalities officer that has expressed such hateful animosity towards an entire race and gender is going to be able to do her job properly. Ironically, on her page on the committee website, she states that she will be available “in case you ever need to talk about issues of prejudice… that you might face in your time at St. Annes”.
It is unknown what she might suggest for white or male students who need to talk to someone about the way her own hateful prejudice made them feel.
Race Matters may seem to be a toxic yet innocuous hate group where members can discuss their disdain for white people free from condemnation of anyone with the vaguest inclination of morality.
But the group exerts a pervasive influence in the real world; many members hold positions of power at university campuses across the UK (ironically, most of those positions have something to do with preventing racism) while some even go as far as to try and send so-called ‘racist’ messages posted on social media to people’s employers and get them fired.
Clearly racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of prejudice are real concerns that need to be addressed and discussed in a safe environment to do so. Racism and racist bigotry can affect any of us at any time, and acknowledging its harmful influences is of paramount importance.
But when the “anti-racists” are in fact the ones perpetuating hate speech, many victims will have nowhere to turn.
Madhulika Murali has been asked to comment but has so far not responded.