Last week, Uju Anya, an associate professor of second language application at Carnegie Mellon University, tweeted (before Queen Elizabeth’s death), “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving and raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.”
Carnegie Mellon responded with a statement that said Anya’s quote was “offensive and objectionable.”
Now more than 500 graduate students have signed a petition at Carnegie Mellon defending Anya’s statement. It said, “Colonized people and their descendants do not owe their colonizers decorum or well wishes, and many will most certainly not rue their demise. Our ancestors and contemporaries alike faced the violence of colonization and those now-passed did not get the chance to pass peacefully on their own lands. Despite reigning over the last years of Britain’s colonial hold over the world, Queen Elizabeth II represents the worst of the white supremacist power that continues to plague Africa and beyond. It is clear that in her seventy years as monarch, little was done to rectify the immense damage caused by colonization and the horrendous crimes against humanity that occurred in many a colony during colonial rule. Rather, through campaigns like Operation Legacy, Britain and its monarchy have escaped culpability by whitewashing and rewriting its sordid history.”
The petition criticizes Carnegie Mellon’s statement and urges other students to sign as well.
Outside Carnegie Mellon, Anya is also drawing support.
Nearly 4,000 people from other institutions have signed another petition defending Anya, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. “As colleagues at other institutions, one thing that sticks out to us is that universities have nothing to gain by calling out individual employees on free speech—especially when they can be seen doing it selectively—as is the case for CMU. Professor Anya’s Twitter clearly states: ‘Views are mine,’” the petition said. “Yet, her institution took up the charge to admonish a Black woman professor, calling her response to her lived experiences of the real and tangible impacts of colonialism and white supremacy, ‘offensive and objectionable.’ This is unacceptable and dehumanizing.”