Viewport width =
May 15, 2017 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Rules For Brown* Students In Lecture Theatres

*I have been told by a Sri Lankan acquaintance of mine that this gets confusing: “Do you mean Pacific brown, South Asian brown, what?” — fair point. Thus, I state here that this refers specifically to Māori and Pasifika brown. In this country. At this time. And place?


Dedicated to the first person who wanted this published, and everyone else who gets it.


1) Open all comments with: “I am not speaking on behalf of all brown students! So, about […]”

1.1) Why are brown students MPI students, and not just students? Why are white students students, and not white students? Disabled students? International students? Tyranny of the pseudo-universal (there is no such thing as “the student voice” unless you’re doing the hegemony — and yes that pun’s intended). Basta.

— ref. Angela Davis (Speaking on Anniversary of Women’s Studies at Vassar College)

2) Have some kind of script for answering questions about “the Māori community”, or “the Pacific community”, or “the MPI community”, or some such ridiculousness. Which it is and it isn’t. True, there’s commonality — but homogeneity? Hell no! The whole “save us”, “problems to be solved” thing? Ditto.

— ref. Alicia Garza (Why Black Lives Matter at Sydney Opera House Talks & Ideas)

3) Do not say anything if you are less than 90% sure, in case you make a mistake. You do not want to be seen as “the ignorant brown student”. (And if you do say something wrong, spend the next hour wallowing in guilt and shame for dishonouring your family and ancestors).

3.1) Be mindful of the commodification/objectification/fetishisation of brown students with “academic success”/“intelligence”(don’t tell me that those IQ tests are culturally neutral, now)/“talent”. (And don’t even get me started on the queer-exotic aspects…)

4) Other potential opener: “Just because I’m brown doesn’t mean I can immediately spot ALL problematics, and immediately have extremely eloquent and compelling critiques of the aforementioned to offer up as tribute in a lecture theatre. I’m here to learn, like everyone else. (Okay, who’s come across lecturers who aren’t interested in learning from (brown) students’ critiques? #lecturersarestudentstoo #paulofreire)

5) Don’t make a fuss.

6) Don’t make a fuss.

7) Don’t make a fuss.

8) Wear gangsta as clothes for the first few weeks, then tone things down because what “this” is sets in, and then drop out (r.i.p. your academic forays for now or ever, I hope you like what you’re currently up to, and that it’s going well).

9) Go to university and work and church events and family events and everything else. What, do you get no sleep, or something? You’re not invincible, and “letting your grades slip” should not be a thing. #priorities #whyareyouhere.

10) In the instance that you don’t understand the lecture content, don’t ask for help. Better yet, stop turning up to lectures. And everything else. The lecture halls are littered with the ghosts of our minds/souls/bodies/hopes/dreams. You know, just remember that.

11) Turn up to lectures. Because obviously the answer is not to equitise academic structures, but to assimilate into these things that “are the way they are because that’s the way they’ve always been”. Lies. #breakthedichotomy.

12) For the love of anything-you-hold-dear, don’t make the rest of us look bad. Homophobic comments can be made in your own time. Sexist comments can be made in your own time. Transmisogynistic comments? Ableist comments? Xenophobic comments? Your own time. Not in lectures, please.

13) Don’t be that loud brown one. Don’t be that silent brown one, either. Give brief answers when questioned. Pretend you have nothing to say. (Pretend you have nothing of value to say. When you do).

14) When a classmate (who might not necessarily be white) says something along the lines of “What ARE you!?” or “That’s so exotic!”, scream (internally. I said internally), and then proceed to be as polite as humanly possible under said circumstances. (Shout out to all of us multiethnics, multiracials, and people who look “ambiguously ethnic”).

15) When the white neighbours across the street offer to call the police because they see you taking out the rubbish and think that you’re breaking into your own house, pretend it has nothing at all do with the way people look at you or treat you, pretend it has nothing to do with police brutality, and most certainly nothing to do with the way this lecture right now is being run. I’m sorry, uso.

16) When someone in the lecture theatre who is not Māori or Pasifika (not just students — could easily be the academic staff) makes an award-winningly stupid statement about Māori or Pasifika communities/people/matters/culture, refrain from punching them in the face.

17) There is an unspoken seating plan in effect! You all know what I’m talking about. And you know what? Let’s keep reinforcing this idea that we’re all perpetually divided across these boundaries that are obviously fixed and monolithic, and have never changed since time itself began.

18) Try to empathise with people. Or, you know, don’t. Either/or.


Thank you:

The former anth student whose name I don’t remember, The Bach Musica POCs-and-Lefties (No, like, actually Left. None of this “centrist-liberal” bullshit: call a spade a spade, why don’t you?) crowd (or cluster, considering our numbers…) Ina Stace-Dyer, Kura Moeka’a, Lorena Gibson, Tayla Cook, Teresia Teaiwa. And especially to Vaiola Louis Bunnin, Stevland Sauni, Theo Sauni, Isla Sauni, and all the aiga: Alofa tele atu.


About the Author ()

Comments are closed.

Recent posts

  1. VUW Halls Hiking Fees By 50–80% Next Year
  2. The Stats on Gender Disparities at VUW
  3. Issue 25 – Legacy
  4. Canta Wins Bid for Editorial Independence
  5. RA Speaks Out About Victoria University Hall Death
  6. VUW Hall Death: What We Know So Far
  8. New Normal
  9. Come In, The Door’s Open.
  10. Love in the Time of Face Tattoos

Editor's Pick

Uncomfortable places: skin.

:   Where are you from?  My list was always ready: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, puppy dogs’ tails, a little Spanish, maybe German, and—almost as an afterthought—half Samoan. An unwanted fraction.   But you don’t seem like a Samoan. I thought you were [inser

Do you know how to read? Sign up to our Newsletter!

* indicates required