Students of Limkokwing University are calling out the institution for putting up an alleged racist billboard earlier this year. The poster shows the university founder with the words ‘King of Africa’ alongside a photo of him in a crowd of Sierra Leonean students.
The petition was created on 7 June, in light of the #BlackLivesMatter protests which are taking place all around the world. At the time of writing, the petition has managed to get over 3,000 signatures.
According to the petition, some international students have privately expressed being hurt by poster’s insensitivity, but they were unable to speak up, fearing they would lose their visas and have issues with immigration.
The fear of speaking up comes after last year’s incident where a Nigerian student, Thomas Orhions Erwansiha died while in immigration custody. He was detained for two weeks to assist in verifying his documents and college records, and had reportedly passed away in the detention centre due to a seizure.
There were many points laid out in the petition as to why it’s insensitive and needs to be taken down.
First, it states that it’s incredibly condescending as it portrays him [Lim Kok Wing] as a saviour”, perpetuating the idea that black people need saving and psychologically putting them in an inferior role.
“The use of a jungle animal and reference to ‘king'” perpetuates the idea that Africa is one big jungle and “adds to the (wrongful) animalistic characterisation of the students.”
The second point states that the photo of Lim Kok Wing in a crowd of black students has been edited to increase the number of students, painting him as a “hero” and that “these students lack individuality perpetuating the notion that all black people are the same.”
“The use of the photo of his students in Sierra Leone pressing up against him is a common photo used by the media to portray black people as ‘savage’ and ‘animalistic’. It may not have been his intention; however, I implore you to consider the implications of using photos like this knowing the current climate of the world and its views of African descent,” reads the petition.
A netizen also pointed out that the photo was photoshopped to appear as though more people were at the gathering.
The petition also noted the rich history of Africa and its misrepresentation in media: “They have a beautiful history of Grace, of Power, of Kings & Queens and it is a Shame that people do not use photos like that to advertise the culture and lineage that Africa truly has.”
Since then, Limkokwing University has taken down the billboard, apologised and explained that they do not condone race discrimination, in a statement to SAYS.
“We would like to extend our sincerest apology for any misunderstanding caused [and] have taken down the billboard a few days ago,” the university said in their statement.
“African students have studied with us since 2001 and the University is extremely proud to have supported Nelson Mandela’s campaign for independence from the apartheid regime in 1994. We definitely do not condone any discriminatory acts against any particular race as that will be totally against our mandate,” the statement continued.
“We would like to clarify we are passionate and dedicated to promoting peace and inclusivity as well as cater to each of our students regardless of race, religion and nationality.
“At Limkokwing University, we acknowledge, respect, embrace, and celebrate our differences. We care deeply and we stand together against racial discrimination,” said the university.
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