The Daily Telegraph would like readers to know that it’s very sorry for the extremely racist and false article it splashed across the front page this week—but it doesn’t want them to know so much that it has given its correction much prominence.
Here’s the deal: On Wednesday, the conservative British paper published a story titled “Student Forces Cambridge to Drop White Authors,” accompanied by a large photograph of a black woman staring directly at the camera.
Wow, spicy stuff!
Unfortunately, the Telegraph’s story—about an effort by student activists to “decolonize” Cambridge University’s English Studies department by including more authors of color—was, uh... how to put this delicately? Total bullshit.
“The article is riddled with factual inaccuracies and attempts to misconstrue what the task of decolonising is and delegitimise me as a co-author of the open letter by using out-of-context quotes in an attempt to turn me into a ‘controversial figure,” Lola Olufemi, the woman pictured on The Telegraph’s front page, explained to The Guardian.
In fact, the open letter referenced by the Telegraph as “forcing” Cambridge to drop white authors explicitly says it has no intention of doing just that.
“We believe that for the English department to truly boast academically rigorous thought and practice, non-white authors and postcolonial thought must be incorporated meaningfully into the curriculum,” the letter reads.
Later, it states in no uncertain terms:
This is not a call for the exclusion of white men from reading lists, needless to say: it is a call to re-centre the lives of other marginalized writers who have been silenced by the canon. It is a call to not be so arrogant so as to assume civilization began with the writing of white men and so this should be the basis of our learning.
Sounds good, right? So how The Telegraph interpreted that into the school being forced to ax white authors is anyone’s guess. However, as Olufemi pointed out to The Guardian, there may have been a disquieting, salacious reason for the paper to frame their bogus story the way that the did:
I think it is very telling that they chose to place a photograph of me, a student, a highly visible young, black woman student on the front of their newspaper, as if to incite this kind of abuse, and incite hatred, and make me into the figure that people could attack
The Telegraph, clearly aware that they fucked up, did go on to issue a correction, writing that their original story “incorrectly stated” the nature and scope of the proposals from the student activists.
The correction ran on the paper’s second page. No mention of it was made on the front page. And the damage has already been done.
“All of my work Facebook, my email were flooded with racist and sexist abuse,” Olufemi told The Guardian. “And that’s not by accident. That is a very purposeful thing that you’re doing.”