Trolled for asking for more writers of colour at Cambridge

By Lola Mosanya
Newsbeat reporter

image copyrightLola Olufemi

Former Cambridge Uni student Lola Olufemi was sent vile abuse on social media for asking for more black and ethnic minority authors to be added to its English course.

She was told by trolls she didn't know what she was talking about - because she is a woman and black.

It came after a national newspaper claimed she was forcing the university to take white authors off the syllabus.

"I wasn't just getting sexist abuse that said, 'You don't know what you're talking about, you're a woman, you shouldn't be in your position'," says Lola.

"I was also getting abuse saying, 'You're black, you shouldn't be in your position'."

image copyrightLola Olufemi/ Twitter
image captionLola says it's an "injustice" students haven't studied writers of colour

Lola co-authored an open letter to the university in June - signed by 100 students - asking it to "decolonise" its English Literature curriculum by including more BME writers.

"We [students] thought it was an injustice to not have ever studied writers of colour," the 21-year-old says.

"We learn about different periods of time and the problem is that often BME writers aren't included in modules that look at periods like the 18th Century, although they were writing during that time."

Lola's photo was splashed on the front page of the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday under the headline: "Student forces Cambridge to drop white authors."

The newspaper later issued a correction.

The university says it supports "robust academic debate" and that "very early" academic discussions had already been held on this issue.

It also came out to condemn the harassment its students had suffered.

Lola says she expected some of the abuse because "we know when there are hyper-visible black and brown activists this is a thing that keeps happening over and over again".

Some of the backlash said the call for more BME authors was "political correctness" and questioned why the race of authors is relevant.

"That's a bizarre assumption because the history of this country is so closely tied into empire," says Lola.

"There has to be some recognition of that, and all the perspectives that lived through this time."

image copyrightLola Olufemi/ Twitter
image captionLola is now the women's officer for Cambridge University's student union

Despite the abuse, Lola says the support she received has far outweighed the abuse.

"I got messages from academics in other places and from people at other universities in the country where the curriculum was overwhelmingly white.

"They said this is something they'd also campaigned for and to keep pushing for change.

"In UK universities, this movement has gained support in the past three years with universities launching things like the hashtag #whyismycurriculumwhite.

"It showed me it isn't an isolated Oxbridge issue - nothing is, it's widely systematic across the country."

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