A tale of two politicians and their remarks. One was vilified as a racist the other is judged to have made “ill judged remarks”.
The brouhaha over the recent twitter comments by Diane Abbott MP produced an avalanche of criticisms from the UK’s lunatic Twitter Tea Party Tendency.
Referring to the well-worn tactic adopted by some British white people of ‘divide and rule’ when dealing with black people, she was bombarded with vehement criticisms and calls for her resignation.
Acres of print, lengthy discussions on television news and radio, outside broadcasts from Parliament, all culminated in an emerging Westminster London consensus that Abbott was guilty of ‘reverse racism’ or, alternatively, ‘how the pot got to call the kettle black’.
This ‘reverse racism’ nonsense is a perverse concept deployed by a motley collection of largely, right wing white middle class deniers of institutional racism and those whose ignorance of history allows them to equate white racism to black prejudice.
Such notions are deeply disingenuous and serve as a means of attacking radical, black and anti racist leadership. Black people, by and large, cannot be systematically discriminatory against whites. We don’t, hire and fire on any significant scale. We don’t write the press headlines, we don’t expel white children from schools or stop and search white people in their thousands. I think you get my point.
So when a semantic slip, in reference to a historical fact, is caricatured as ‘reverse racism’ and is subsequently catapulted into headline news, it tells us more about the reality of racism in the UK than it does about Diane Abbott.
An article in Private Eye last week beautifully illustrated how racism distorts the mainstream political and news agendas.
The case concerns one Richard Barnes, a member of the Conservative London Assembly group. A rather dull uninspiring man of little political consequence outside of City Hall, Barnes got into trouble during last summer's riots after telling colleagues a 'joke' he said had been told to him.
Barnes said in response to news that the police were considering using water cannons, ‘Why did police put Persil in the water cannons? To stop the colours running’.
|Richard Barnes (left) is one of Boris Johnson's closest aides|
(Photo: Daily Mail)
An investigation last month cleared him of failing to comply with the GLA code of conduct but concluded that 'repeating the 'joke' had been 'singularly ill-judged'. Now, apart from the fact that Barnes responsibilities include ' social justice and community cohesion; equalities and diversity' there is also the fact that this story has been effectively buried while Diane Abbott gets the full establishment treatment. The reaction to this racially offensive Bernard Manning buffoonery? Complete and utter silence: not a peep.
The power of language and in particular, racial bigotry is given meaning by the reality of the ideology of historic white supremacy contemporary racial injustice and oppressions. The difference between a word like ‘honky’ and ‘nigger’ is best exposed in an old Saturday Night Live skit, with Chevy Chase and guest, Richard Pryor.
In this hilarious comedy sketch about a black man in a job interview, Chase and Pryor face one another and trade off racial epithets. Chase calls Pryor a ‘porch monkey’ .Pryor responds with ‘honky’. Chase ups the ante with ‘jungle bunny’. Pryor, unable to counter with a more vicious slur against whites, responds with ‘honky, honky’. Chase then trumps all previous slurs with ‘nigger’ to which Pryor responds: ‘dead honky’
(Scene referred to is at 2.30 minutes).
Pryor’s frustrated repetition signifies the reality of racism as he is forced into repeating the word ‘honky’: such is the paucity of racial stereotypes about white men.
Sorry Richard Barnes, the largely white consensus of the London Assembly members ‘investigation’ panel that concluded you had ‘no case to answer’, is a pale reflection of wider societal racism where black leadership is vilified and white racial bigotry is dismissed as nothing more than a joke.
Well, Richard Barnes have we got news for you: black folks are not laughing: