The Stephen Lawrence case has once again brought race issues to the forefront of the media. Over its many years of work, the campaign to bring convictions for the young man’s murder has raised many topics that it has deemed as being broadly related to making those convictions and for what it defines as racist offences.
Examined from a civil-rights perspective however it could be suggested that some of these issues actually run contrary to individual freedom and rights. Examples include removal of the legal principle of double jeopardy, advocating the use of invasive surveillance and depending on your interpretation, even the repression of free speech.
That overview aside, on its most superficial level the Lawerence case and others like it have continually pinpointed the dangers to society of allowing racist sentiment and language any form of public airing. With that in mind Labour MP Diane Abbot made the following tweet yesterday…
White people love playing “divide & rule” We should not play their game
The tweet was finished with the hash tag #tacticasoldascolonialism. Diane later removed the tweet and this morning has tweeted…
Tweet taken out of context. Refers to nature of 19th century colonialism. Bit much to get into 140 characters.
Firstly you have to ask is Diane Abbott now saying she doesn’t understand how Twitter works???? You do not have to be a rocket scientist to realise that contextually Tweet’s aren’t great for in-depth debates and discussions and therefore are best to be avoided when dealing with complex issues!
More importantly however, even if the attempt at clarification is taken as genuine, does that make the original comment acceptable? Even if the original comment was part of an essay discussing 19th century colonialism, would such a broad sweeping stereotypical statement be relevant or acceptable?
There are very few people who would challenge the belief that if a white MP had made the same statement referencing ‘people’ (an incredibly sweeping word specifically important in this debate) in terms of Black or Asian, he would have suffered immense attack, almost certainly with career consequences. There is precedent to back this belief.
The statement made by Diane Abbott is a racist statement under any terms irrespective of context. The only thing different is that the individual saying it is herself from an ethnic minority heritage. Surely if we as a society are serious about eradicating racism we have to eradicate it at all levels, in all forms and irrespective of the heritage, career or track record of the perpetrator? Surely when that isn’t seen to be done it is counter productive, feeding the very people who still harbour certain views? Worse, it could well be creating fresh views in people currently untainted…
Unashamed Ulster Loyalist. Marching band activist and band member for over 25 years. Contributor for the Belfast Newsletter and currently studying History at QUB.