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The rise in right-wing witch hunts against black student leaders has not gone unnoticed

31 Jul 2017

Another day, another witch hunt. In a story that seems to have been started by the Daily Mail, and is now being replicated in The Sun and Breitbart, right-wing media have instigated a witch hunt against Jason Okundaye, a British student who is the president of Cambridge Students’ Union’s BME Campaign.

In an article that went up on Saturday, the Daily Mail decided to put up Jason’s personal information, including the fact that he went to public school (perhaps to amplify the hate towards him), and take his tweets out of context and declare that he hated white people and thought that “all white people are racist”. They coupled these tweets with Jason’s pro-Dalston protest tweets to further polemicise the situation.

In fact, if taken in context, I would posit that Jason’s tweets are not controversial at all. In a statement to The Tab, Jason clarified that his tweets about white people were in response to people who claim that racism is “exclusive to working class people”. Thus in his tweets he stated that “regardless of sexuality, class, gender or age, all white people” “can geddit” and “should be called out for their racism and how it manifests in their groups”. However, papers like the Daily Mail and Breitbart are not concerned with context, unless it’s one of their authors declaring that migrants are cockroaches.

The way in which this story was handled was appalling. In an ironic turn of events, white people, who were claiming that Jason was racist for allegedly calling all white people racist, proceeded to be racist themselves. Hilariously, Liberty GB, who position themselves as a political party, tweeted that Jason should be “sent back to Africa” whilst simultaneously declaring that Britain is the “least racist country on earth”.

The right wing press’ smear campaign against Jason has resulted in him receiving a barrage of hateful messages on social media over the weekend. Many were threatening and horrifically racist.

Some took to the age-old racist trope of comparing black people to monkeys to attack Jason:

Others threatened Jason and implied that he, as a black man, never belonged in England:

Others were so outraged at Jason’s “racism” that they took to using every racist stereotype in the book to attack him:

Even shock jock Katie Hopkins, who transformed from a fat shamer to an anti-Muslim and anti-black activist, decided to join in adding to the mounting levels of abuse directed towards Jason.

White anger at Jason’s remarks turned into vitriol as it mounted in Jason’s inbox. Social media and the press worked together to ensure that Jason was attacked from all sides. In a nutshell, this story has exposed the racist underbelly of English society. It was only a matter of weeks ago that MP Anne-Marie Morris used a racial slur during a presentation. And while Jason received indignant abuse for stating a truism that all white people are capable of racism, I don’t doubt that many of these same people claimed “this is political correctness gone mad” at the backlash against Anne-Marie Morris.

This type of witch hunt is not an isolated event. Just at the beginning of July the Daily Mail decided to concentrate their efforts on black Muslim student Zamzam Ibrahim, distorting jokes that were made on her AskFM page to paint her as an Islamic fundamentalist. They even attempted to connect her with the Manchester bomber. Hannah Dualeh was demonised for calling out upper-class students making fun of working-class culture and Bahar Mustafa was once the centre of the witch hunt for her explicit highlighting of the privilege white men enjoy. And lest we forget the coordinated media attack against Malia Bouattia, NUS’ first Black President, which left her requiring hospitalization due to stress.

Diane Abbott has shown us that even at the highest levels, as a black leader, the media will try and tear you down. Whilst there is of course room for constructive criticism of anyone of any race, it is rather disconcerting that right-wing media seem to want to use race and religion as the basis of their criticism and distort facts in order to reach their conclusions.

Papers such as the Daily Mail and commentators such as Katie Hopkins appear to be opportunists. Despite the fact that both black people and Muslim people have been in the UK for centuries (with the largest influx of these intersecting groups in the 20th century), they know that both anti-black and anti-Muslim rhetoric is on the rise. As such, they can get away with calling for a “final solution” for Muslims. As such they can get away with making covertly racist statements, such as claiming that all black people “shoot and stab each other so much”. As such, they can get away with posting pictures with Holocaust deniers. All the while complaining that they are the true victims and that minorities should stop playing the “race card”. All the while wanting to claim that colonisation wasn’t racist, whilst condemning black people for talking about racism.

The rise in right wing witch hunts against black leaders and black student leaders hasn’t gone unnoticed. Our thoughts and solidarity go to those leaders receiving unparalleled levels of threats, hatred and racism. This is a reminder that there’s still so much to fight for, and we’re right there with you.

If you would like to provide support to Jason, be that moral or practical, please email