I’m not going to call for Diane Abbott to resign. I think she should either attempt to justify her remarks by explaining how she has experienced ‘divide and rule’ from the ‘white community’ as a whole personally or else apologise immediately for causing such obvious offense.
Abbott just does not get it. What she’s done may be rather minor in comparison with Aiden Burley’s Nazi stag do, or St Andrews’ Conservative Association burning of black leaders in effigy and what she said may have been a throwaway or casual remark but by generalising on the basis of race Abbott has been, inadvertently or otherwise, racist and caused offence.
Racism cuts both ways. You don’t need to look like a BNP skinhead or turn up to an EDL march spouting nonsense about ‘muslamic ray guns’ to be offensive to a group of people based on the colour of their skin or their race. Generalising about people based on their skin colour is racist. Be it white on black or black on white.
By suggesting that all white people are employing, as she said in her tweet, ‘tactics as old as colonialism’ by trying to ‘divide and rule’ today’s black community isn’t just woefully ignorant and wrong, it is grossly offensive.
Abbott has a long history of fighting racism and was the first black female MP elected to our Parliament. I’m not angry with her. I am disappointed.
I am disappointed that after decades in Parliament tolerating no casual remarks about her race she sees fit to make casual remarks about another race. I am disappointed that she has caused this sideshow in the same week that the Lawrence family achieved some degree of justice over the racially-motivated murder of their son. I am disappointed that Abbott refused to accept that she had caused offense and to apologise for that offense until she was made to by the Labour leadership.
I’m disappointed both with her and that cadre of Labour party members who are making the base argument that a black MP cannot be racist by definition. Abbott later responded to a supporter saying that, in essence, she was proud to have prompted ‘'outrage' from UKIPers and other Tory trolls.’ It is a funny sort of pride to me.
Whether she likes it or not, Abbott is a highly visible member of the black community, a Member of Parliament and a member of the opposition front bench. By making such sweeping and derogatory remarks about ‘white people’ she has done nothing to help race relations and, unless she apologises and withdraws, gives cover for others to make sweeping generalisations about the black community.
Abbott thinks her remarks have been taken out of context. I think she said exactly what she meant to say. Twitter is not a private place and we should expect our leaders to be careful what they say online. We are all human. We do all make mistakes. What matters is what you do to make amends.
What Diane Abbott said was a crass throwaway remark. I am sure that it is not her view that people can be defined by the colour of their skin. She made a mistake. In the year ahead it would be nice if politicians could engage their brains before tweeting.