Uju Anya, a professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s college of humanities and social sciences, reacted in part to the news of Queen Elizabeth’s death by taking to Twitter and joining in the chorus of tweets from the ambivalent to the gleeful, and every apparent emotion in between.
A prolific tweeter, Anya let her feelings about Queen Elizabeth II be known when it was reported Thursday that the matriarch of the Royal Family was on her deathbed.
“May her pain be excruciating,” Anya tweeted.
But that post was suddenly deleted, as evidenced by Twitter’s accompanying note: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules.”
Anya explained in a subsequent tweet that Queen Elizabeth’s death was personal to her.
“If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star,” Anya tweeted.
Anya’s tweets about Queen Elizabeth are not too far off from the collective sentiment being expressed by Black Twitter, the powerful portion of the social media network that identifies with the Black experience.
Tweets with evidence of the lingering residual effect of colonialism on Black people, in particular, went viral, making it clearer why Anya decided to tweet what she did.
One of those tweets, posted by German-based DW News back in June and meant to mark the so-called “Platinum Jubilee” of the queen’s 70-year reign, shared video footage of a Black woman “Independence fighter” named Muthoni Mathenge. In the video, Mathenge is shown demanding reparations from Queen Elizabeth.
“She was tortured with axes during Kenya’s struggle for independence from British colonial rule,” the tweet says of Mathenge. “As Britain celebrates the Platinum Jubilee of its monarch, this old fighter wants to send her a message: ‘Let Elizabeth bring what belongs to me.'”
To be clear, Black people aren’t the only ones who haven’t forgotten the queen’s real and involved history of colonialism.
Notably, one white woman in the U.K. who was interviewed by CNN live on the air following news of Queen Elizabeth dying specifically cited “British colonial history” as a reason why she said she was neither “the biggest fan of the queen” nor “upset or overwhelmed by” her death.
Another tweet suggested Queen Elizabeth’s death was the result of karma, specifically for her role in maintaining the colonization of Africa. The “For Africa” tweet went viral without even mentioning Queen Elizabeth.
A closer look at Twitter’s rules suggests Anya may have been in violation of the app’s policy about “abuse/harassment,” which forbids “wishing or hoping that someone experiences physical harm.”
(Even for someone who allowed physical harm to happen for extremely racist reasons.)
However, there was no shortage of other tweets that echoed Anya’s language and remained live as of the time this article was published.
One tweet, in particular, was absent of any lies about the queen’s legacy of colonialism:
Reminder that Queen Elizabeth is not a remnant of colonial times. She was an active participant in colonialism. She actively tried to stop independence movements & she tried to keep newly independent colonies from leaving the commonwealth. The evil she did was enough.
Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, found irony in the queen’s supporters telling people how they should react to the death.
“Telling the colonized how they should feel about their colonizer’s health and wellness is like telling my people that we ought to worship the Confederacy,” Thomas tweeted Thursday.
Meanwhile, Carnegie Mellon tweeted that while it does “not condone” what Anya tweeted, the Pittsburgh-based university said it respected the professor’s right to freedom of expression.
This is America.
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