The University of Kent has come under fire after choosing Zayn Malik and Sadiq Khan as faces to represent Black History Month.
The former One Direction turned solo star and the Mayor Of London have both been displayed on posters by the University to promote the values of the event, sparking criticism from those who take issue with them being Asian rather than black. Even Black History Month themselves have spoken out.
With Asian Heritage Month being observed by a growing number of countries in May, will Black icons be celebrated by Kent University then?
— Black History 365 (@BhmUK) October 25, 2016
Kent University Union president Rory Murray then apologised if “any offence was caused”, issuing a statement on Facebook:
“Having become aware of the discussions online today regarding an image released for Kent Union’s Black History Month campaign I wanted to respond personally. I was out of the country visiting our students on the Paris campus to discuss important issues with them and so have responded as soon as was practical.
“First of all, I want to apologise on behalf of Kent Union to any individuals who were upset, uncomfortable or offended by the image shared. There was no intent for this to happen and I am very sorry to anybody who felt this way.
“I also feel it is important to explain the context behind how this happened. As a students’ union we are led by our members; over 2,000 volunteers who give up their time to run campaigns and events. This is through a wide range of activity be it sports clubs, societies, campaign groups, elected officers and so forth. The Black History Month calendar of events was led and run by these students and supported by the organisation. The activity for the month was decided by open meetings attended by black and minority ethnic students.
“At Kent Union we always strive to do the very best and include our members to the full extent on our activities. Whilst we made every effort to include black & minority ethnic students on the planning for the month, clearly, we haven’t got it right on this occasion. For that, I again apologise and will ensure we do better.
“Debate and discussion are an important part of any healthy university campus. I welcome people’s right to critique the messages put out; it has given us all a chance to reflect and learn more. I am, however, uncomfortable at the level of some of the criticism aimed at those who made this decision as I believe that those black students have equally valid views on their race and culture. I welcome opportunities for students to debate, discuss and disagree with each other in respectable and safe environments; it helps us all work towards a better community.
“I hope that the passion ignited in many people in the last 12 hours will continue and that students will become further involved in leading our black and minority ethnic work.
“Finally I want to thank the hard working students who have put a huge amount of effort into Black History Month which have gone a long way in highlighting the need for our continuing work to a fairer society.
Rory Murray, Union President.”
Read more: Our full and frank interview with Zayn Malik
This however, has largely added fuel to the fire of people’s criticisms – with many taking further offence and even calling for his resignation:
Kent Uni really thinks Zayn Malik and Sadiq Khan are icons of black history month you can’t make this stuff up.
— Jonathan Richard (@JonRichard) October 25, 2016
— K (@Kemi_Bxo) October 25, 2016
Even if Kent Union did want to consider ethnic minorities too, WHY did they choose Zayn Malik for this?! What has he done for anyone?!
— JS??♀️ (@_____js9) October 25, 2016
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) October 25, 2016
NME has approached Zayn Malik for a response.