“People ask me: ‘why do you need an African-Caribbean Society?’, ‘why do you all hang out together?’, ‘why are you separating yourselves – isn’t this making racism worse?’… I think people forget that humans always divide themselves. When I look around my college people are divided up based on their class, they divide themselves based on the sports that they play. And not in a malicious way, but you group with people who you have something in common with… When I want to have shared experiences with someone who understands this aspect of my life, then yeah I’m gonna be hanging out with people who are from African and Caribbean backgrounds… [The majority of students here] don’t have to search out for people who are like them… because they’re everywhere.”
Women of colour at Cambridge University answer the important question of whether they feel that spaces at the university belong to them. They describe cumulative experiences of otherness, caused primarily by ignorance but also by hostility, and discuss the jarring experience of suddenly becoming a visible minority. They talk about the spaces (safe or otherwise) that they have carved out for themselves. Not in order to segregate themselves, but to be unapologetically themselves around people who understand aspects of their identity which are not understood by the majority of the student population.

Part of the Ain’t I A Woman? campaign, by FLY, a platform for Women of Colour at the University of Cambridge

The idea of safe spaces has stirred up controversy in several academic institutions.

There were rows at both Oxford and Cambridge universities over whether or not to host debates on abortion, the Cambridge Union was asked to withdraw its invitation to Germaine Greer because of her views on transgender issues, and closer to home, FLY, a feminist forum for women of colour at Cambridge University has recently become exclusive to self-identifying BME women. I have heard both sides of the debate. University should be about challenging ideas, controversy and learning. At the same time, people should be able to go to university without feeling traumatised, attacked or marginalised.Read

Read blog post here: Samara Linton | Sometimes, safe spaces scare me | Fly