A student union at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England is in hot water after unveiling a series of commemorative Black History Month posters featuring Zayn Malik, a singer and former member of boy band One Direction, and London mayor Sadiq Kahn.
The posters sparked anger among Black Brits who argued that neither men are Black or of African descent; Malik is Pakistani while Kahn’s family emigrated from India to Pakistan, ultimately settling in the U.K. before he was born.
Backlash over the posters was swift, as people took to social media to express their disgust and disappointment at Kent Union’s decision to choose two non-Black figures to front its Black History Month efforts.
“Deeply disappointed at Kent Union’s ill thought and misdirected Black History Month celebrations,” tweeted Black History Month UK, the nation’s official guide to all Black History Month events, which take place during the month of October.
“With Asian Heritage Month being observed by a growing number of countries in May, will Black icons be celebrated by Kent University then?” it added.
Several students echoed similar frustrations.
BHM does not have to be inclusive. The proof is within the name. Black people have been silenced and excluded for centuries.
— Rols (@rolsisrols) October 25, 2016
I attend a university that is racist and lacks the understanding of the celebration of the black individual. @KentUnion
— alisha (@Leeshartry) October 25, 2016
— Lanre Soff 🇳🇬🇳🇬 (@Daniel_Soff) October 25, 2016
Others expressed anger at the fact that the Kent Union excluded the school’s African-Caribbean Society from weighing in on its Black History Month planning.
this wasn't a mistake, if you had actually involved the ACS then this wouldn't have happened 😴
— BASS REEVES (@WisdomTheWriter) October 26, 2016
this begs the question – why weren't you consulting with the ACS in the first place? It's a tad disappointing to be honest guys.
— Greg Thomas (@MrGregoryThomas) October 26, 2016
The University of Kent and Kent Union have since apologized for the faux pas, stating that it had initially welcomed a range of students from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds to help plan this year’s Black History Month celebration. Via Twitter, the union explained that it put out an open call for students to join them in their planning meetings to voice opinions on the matter.
The student group quickly removed the posters once they realized fellow students weren’t feeling them…at all.
— Kent Union (@KentUnion) October 26, 2016
For many, the Kent Union’s apology wasn’t enough. Others asserted that the matter simply shed light on the long-standing diversity and inclusion issues at the university.
There really is no justification for what Kent Union did. So anyone trying to make excuses, should go and sit down somewhere
— eniola. (@itsEniola) October 26, 2016