A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Thursday, 5 January 2012

Diane Abbot's Comments are Decades Out of Date

Map of Africa, pre-conquest. Divisions clearly visible.

Make hay while the sun shines. I have a feeling that the right-of-centre commentariat is going to make enough hay out of this one to fuel a medium-sized powerstation for a week. Diane Abbot, former Labour Party leadership contender and current MP for Hackney, has came out and made the kind of sweeping generalisation that, were she a Tory, and were any other ethnic community the object of her ire, would have prompted calls for her resignation from more than a lone Conservative MP. In a response to someone on the social network site Twitter, who made the profoundly sensible point that the term 'black community' is a load of bunk (and who, incidentally, is black), she tweeted: 'white people love playing divide and rule. We should not play their game,' and then tagged it 'tactic as old as colonialism' for good measure.

She denies what she said is racist, which it isn't (it's prejudice: racism, pre-PC, meant something rather more extreme), and apologised for the way it had been 'interpreted.' But there is no other way that a sentence beginning with 'white people love...' could be interpreted. If an MP stood up in the House of Commons and said 'black people love...,' there would be a collective intake of breath and there would be no fewer than three Guardian articles commissioned. But, racist or otherwise, it's quite wrong.

I am a white person. I do not wake up in the morning and think: 'how can I subjugate black people today?' At the risk of falling into a cliche, I do not have all too many black friends (at least not as many as a quota would suggest I should), but I do know and speak to black people regularly, and, funnily enough, the thought of emphasising their Ghanaian and Nigerian passports to stoke division and make it easier to oppress them does not enter my mind. I doubt it troubles many other members of the 'white community,' either. It is not the government's policy, and nor do white people have a collective conscience: our 'divide and conquer' tactics are entirely in Ms. Abbot's head.

She may have noticed that the only one, as far as I'm aware, to call for her resignation - loveably on the basis of 'offending' his constituents - is one Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford-upon-Avon and an Iraqi-born Kurd. An African think tank, which purports to 'strengthen principled Afrikan Unity in struggle for Global Justice,' derided her generalisation. Her one prominent defender, George Galloway, happens to be white. There is no finer illustration of just how irrelevant racial lines really are in modern, mainstream Britain: her attitudes to race relations, where people only think in terms of their 'community' (which, in the case of the 'black community,' is a lot more diverse than the race relations industry gives it credit for), are stuck in the same century as those colonialists she thinks still exist.

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