On March 24th the University Campus Suffolk held an art auction to raise funds. One of the artists featured was Maggi Hambling, whose work has featured at the Tate Modern and she has been awarding an OBE and a CBE, officially making her an officer and then a commander “of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”. She was a very prestigious guest to get and her painting was sold for £650.
She would also answer questions at the event, one of which was to do with Hollywood movies. Miss Hambling would then speak about the new movie “12 Years A Slave” or as she would call it: “That Frightful Boring Slave Film”.
Miss Hambling who said the film was so boring that “In the end I didn’t care about the fucking slave”, was speaking in a quite insensitive way about a sensitive topic, but the as the gentleman asking the question started to change the subject she would say: “I think slaves would be very handy, I wouldn’t mind a few”.
Now you would think that after slight embarrassment by the crowd at her comments, the last one would of shocked the crowd and people would have started speaking out. Yet instead of this he crowd would laugh along with her jokes approvingly and seemed to find the talk very amusing.
The only black student in attendance who had worked on the event however, did not find it so amusing. He also happened to be recording the event and he made a short film to try and show how isolated he felt in the situation.
Well as you would expect he complained and you would expect the University to have supported him and condemn Miss Hamblings’s comments. The University would instead defend her, using the excuse that to condemn her would go against her freedom of speech. The truth is that she was making money for them and they felt the need to defend her due to that reason and it is sickeningly ironic that they would use the term ‘Freedom’ to justify comments of this sort on the issue of slavery.
This is a case of University bullying and knowing that the student was the only black student in attendance would allow them to feel that they could get away with this piece of institutional racism. The student has set up a petition to make changes to University policy, please sign it at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-to-650
If Miss Hambling is not condemned by the University then it will send out a message to all the students who were there that it is okay to laugh at such comments. Almost like when Milgram would tell subjects who protested when they believed they were torturing people with electrocution by pressing a button, that he and not them would be responsible. They would then continue, once aware that they would not take responsibility for their actions. It makes you wonder if any of those students would have laughed if the crowd hadn’t been so white.
This is also a case of Universities putting money before a students’ well being, which should be their first concern. We urge everyone to sign the petition and to campaign, please put pressure on your student unions and on the university, whether through campaigning or by writing to them. The question this case has brought up is: Is can you put a price on the acceptance of racism? This University believes so and that price is £650.