Courtney Daniella Boateng is a YouTuber, a beauty blogger and a student at the University of Cambridge. In other words, she’s accomplished rather a lot at the age of 20.
But Boateng recently took to Twitter to discuss the racism she had faced as a black woman studying at an elite institution - and shut down the suggestion that she gained her place at Cambridge thanks to “quotas”.
Cambridge’s admissions policy does not contain any quotas, which would specify that a set number of students from minority groups had to be accepted every year. An official statement from the university says that it feels “very strongly that applicants should be accepted on academic merit”.
Despite this - and despite the fact that Cambridge accepted only 63 black or black British students in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available - there remains a pervasive myth that students of colour are granted places not on merit, but due to a desire to increase diversity.
Writing on Twitter, Boateng said that she frequently gets comments on YouTube and Twitter from people saying that she must feel “lucky” to go to Cambridge, and that she must have been helped by “the ‘quota’ needing to be met” or “some sort of diversity outreach / initiative.”
The Human, Social and Political Sciences student said that she had “even had a comment on my video from a young white male who expressed his fear of not getting a place at Cambridge because ‘his place’ would be occupied by ‘people like me’.”
But Boateng, who grew up on a council estate in North London and received killer grades at A-level, said that she knows she earned her place at Cambridge - and dismissed the idea that speaking slang signifies a lack of intelligence.
Even had a guy tell me, me being at Cambridge was the perfect example of how getting into Cam 'is so easy nowadays' because I speak slang...— Courtney Daniella (@_CDaniella) July 29, 2017
Boateng concluded her thread by serving notice to any racists who might be unhappy about people from BME (black, minority and ethnic) backgrounds succeeding in academia.
So if me with my intelligent, highly favoured, melanated, confident and well spoken self being at Cambridge makes you uncomfortable...— Courtney Daniella (@_CDaniella) July 29, 2017
Boateng speaks about her experiences at Cambridge extensively on her YouTube channel, and says that she hopes more young black women will start applying to elite universities.
“I think that sadly, even in 2017, there are still some people who cannot believe that a black woman could be intelligent enough to be successful not only in academia but in other social institutions,” she tells Metro.co.uk.
She adds: “In terms of calling out quotas, again it’s the idea that ‘we’ as BME students should be grateful that elite universities will even ‘give us’ the opportunity to study there. Implying that we are less deserving or simply incapable of actually meeting the grades and earning our place.”
Instagram, YouTube and Twitter offer black women a powerful platform to share their stories, says Boateng.
“Now individuals have access to social media, young black people can take control of their portrayal and display a more positive image which is often neglected by the mainstream media, and a lot of people don’t like that,” she says.
But if the response to Boateng’s Twitter thread is anything to go by, lots of other people do like it.
“So tired of us having to constantly justify ourselves for being black, a woman and intelligent but well done Courtney!” wrote @IshaVictoria.
“I love this thread,” agreed Charlie Beety. “Keep doing what you’re doing and educate the ignorant.”