Abbott, White People and Twitter

5th January, 2012 10:27 am

By now most of you will have seen the above tweet that Diane Abbott put out yesterday. It’s causing something of a media furore this morning – unsurprisingly.

Yet most of the comment I’ve seen so far has been from white, middle class people, most of whom are men.

Again, unsurprising.

So as someone who hits all three of those demographics I too am wary of wading into such a debate. But Diane was my MP for three years, and I know she doesn’t have a racist bone in her body, so here goes…

Abbott’s tweet was stupid, and yes, it was offensive. It was a mistake to send it, regardless of the context of the conversation. The context, if you read it, doesn’t actually help Diane that much.

Yet it’s equally stupid to suggest that Diane Abbott thinks that all white people play “divide and rule”. If she did think that then she’d be racist, but I’ve never been given the slightest suggestion that she feels that way. Thirty years of anti-racism campaigning and her vast majority in her predominantly white constituency confirms that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

She clearly should have used the word “some” – especially as she had the space. Then she’d have been making a true statement rather than a false one. She should explain that today, apologise, and move on. (I mean it’s not like she hired a Nazi costume or anything.)

Diane is no stranger to controversy, and occasionally people can often be shocked by the way she approaches such issues. Abbott was elected and came to prominence in the tough political environment of 80s inner London, and despite her “This Week” media profile she still speaks in the robust and combative language of that time. That’s not to excuse Diane’s robustness (which isn’t always to my taste), but merely to explain. She’s brought that combative style to social media. It’s authentic. It sounds like her. And on that level Abbott “gets” social media.

Yet crucially she’s neglected the most important rule of Twitter. Whatever you say, and whoever you say it to, the whole world is watching. Saying something on Twitter – especially something controversial – is like standing on Oxford Street and bellowing it through a megaphone while a large picture of your face is passed to strangers along with your job title and any previous out-loud thoughts you might have had.

Diane isn’t a racist – the notion is ridiculous – but she has been foolish, and given a very bad impression of herself and her views. For that, she should apologise. Then we can get back to considering considerably more important issues relating to race like the Lawrence case, and the countless other ways in which Black people still find themselves at a disadvantage in our society. That seems like a more worthwhile subject for a media furore, no?

Update: Abbott has now apologised, and that should be the end of it.

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  • good comments

  • Oh this is becoming daft, and a mirror image of the Tea Party tactic which brands all discussion of white privilege as itself ‘racist’. 

    Racism isn’t just a form of words – it’s a historic system of oppression rooted in theories of racial superiority, practised through slavery, segregation, suppression and violence.

    Of course, all ethnicities are capable of racism towards others, but whether it’s Serb against Croat or Bosniak, or Hutu against Tutsi, the real oppression comes from the more powerful majority against the minority. And let’s be clear that in the UK, with only 10 percent of the population as an ethnic minority, where the real threat of racism comes. 

    Both the hashtag about colonialism and the divide and rule reference make it clear that Abbott is talking about European colonialism. In this context, any discussion of ‘white’ privilege is not about an ethnic group, but a historical ideology and practice that – yes – still affects our way of thinking. 

    I don’t think she should apologise for making that point. She’s already clarified that is what she is talking about. And if we go down this route of false equivalence between racist statements and statements about racism, we’ll end up in Rush Limbaugh territory which obscenely tries to suggest that White Americans are just as much victims of racism as people of colour in the US

    • Bill Lockhart

      I suppose if you change the meaning of a word to suit your purposes, you can excuse anyone if anything. According to your ludicrous goalpost-moving, no-one is capable of racism à-la-Jukes until their ethnic group is in the majority. It’s offensive rubbish.

    • Anonymous

      well she has now….

      • According to the BBC
        I apologise for any offence caused.”
        “I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people, she said.
        “I do not believe in doing that.”
        However, I don’t believe she should apologise for talking about the colonial history of racism, and some of its modern day permutations. Doesn’t look like she’s done so. Of course, in the UK and Europe this has been predominantly white. 

        • Anonymous

          Agree with your last paragraph in particular Peter.

          Input much appreciated….

          Jo

        • Anonymous

          If she had been talking about colonial history of racism, and some of its modern day permutations then i’m sure we’d all agree.

          As it is the apology has happened so now we just have to wait for her next blooper….

          • Read the twitter thread. The colonial legacy of divide and rule was exactly what she was talking about. 

          • Anonymous

            It is now that she has been caught out. Honestly if someone was to say “muslims are terrorists they love to kill for their religion” and then went on to talk about 9/11 you would be foaming at the mouth. All this dishonesty is exactly why people can’t stand politicians. 

            If you say something then dont do a 180 degree turn as soon as it appears that it was unpopular. 

          • Anonymous

            She appears to have deleted the thread or I can’t see it. The Guardian does not afgree with your version of the narrative though:

            The row began when Abbott, who has more than 26,000 Twitter followers, became involved in a discussion with Bim Adewunmi, triggered by the Stephen Lawrence case, on Wednesday.

            Adewunmi said she objected to the way in which the term the “black community” was used as a generalisation.

            Abbott responded with a series of messages. “I understand the cultural point you are making. But you are playing into a ‘divide and rule’ agenda,” she said. Then she added: “White people love playing ‘divide & rule’ We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism.”

            And finally she said: “Ethnic communities that show more public solidarity & unity than black people do much better #dontwashdirtylineninpublic.”http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jan/05/diane-abbott-accused-racism-twitter

          • Yes, the overall context was the Lawrence murder, and the 18 years it took to get any kind of justice. Many commenters are missing that; as Caitlin Moran has just tweeted. 

            “Uncomfortable with Diane Abbott being vilified as “racist” over a single Tweet about a racist murder and institutionalised corruption.”

          • Bill Lockhart

            You appear unable to decide whether your excuse for Diane Abbot’s racist comment is that she was
             a) tweeting about European colonialism (she wasn’t, she was talking about the here and now, she used the present tense about “white people”, the hashtag was #tacticasoldascolonialism) or
            b) was tweeting about Stephen Lawrence or corruption (she wasn’t, she was castigating a black woman for refusing to be pigeonholed in “the black community”)
             Either way, you’re plain wrong.

          • Anonymous

            We all know the MET has serious problem, it still has serious problem, those programs on TV where you see Police officers at work are not helping, some officers believe the power they have  can be abused.

          • Anonymous

            She does not appear to have been talking in the context of colonialism. At least, the person she was talking to does not appear to think so
             
            “In the course of tweeting the events around the trial, conviction and sentencing of Gary Dobson and Steven Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, I wrote: “I do wish everyone would stop saying ‘the black community’ though.” I expanded in a followup: “Clarifying my ‘black community’ tweet: I hate the generally lazy thinking behind the use of the term. Same for ‘black community leaders’. This led to a reply from my local MP Diane Abbott, in which she said: “I understand the cultural point you are making. But you are playing into a “divide and rule” agenda.”
             
            We went back and forth for a few tweets more and then Abbott sent out the tweet that caused the furore: “White people love playing ‘divide & rule’ We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism.”  
             
            http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jan/05/diane-abbott-twitter-row-racism
             
            Maybe, just maybe, it is possible for a BAME Briton to talk about issues without mentioning colonialism? Heavens!

        • Anonymous

          As I said I can remember the days of walking down Tiger bay in Cardiff seeing signs saying “No Black”, some would be more aggressive no N***ers , toilets would have whites only, I was a young kid it always lived with me all my life. people are humans we are all the same race, sadly seems I was wrong.

      • According to the BBC
        I apologise for any offence caused.”
        “I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people, she said.
        “I do not believe in doing that.”
        However, I don’t believe she should apologise for talking about the colonial history of racism, and some of its modern day permutations. Doesn’t look like she’s done so. Of course, in the UK and Europe this has been predominantly white. 

    • GuyM

      and once again Peter Jukes dives in to defend the indefensible…. all so long as it is attacking white, middle class Christian western society.

      “false equivalence” of course being the perfect cover for any anti white racsim, because don’t you know we whites have it coming to us…..

      I wonder Peter, do Germans have to worry about what their elders did or can we agree calling any German a “nazi” is unacceptable? After all, some real “nazis” are still alive today, yet do we find it acceptable to trash an entire nation on sins of the father?

      Therefore why do I have to have a thicker skin over racism than a black man because of what went on 100 to 300 years ago?

      Racism is racism is racism and your continual actions as an apologist for islamic and now other ethnic cultural “norms” on the basis of past white trangressions simply disgusts me.

      Black being racist againt whites? unnacceptable
      White being racist against balck? unacceptable
      Muslim men suppressing women, gays and Christian? unacceptable.

      So stop playing the “relative” card and show some moral worth.

      • Excellent. Let’s throw some generalities about 1 billion Muslims into the mix here just to shed some more light. 

        • GuyM

          Of course I will, because you are the chief defender on these pages of islamic culture that includes practices that would be deeply offensive to my wife and daughters.

          You preach cultural relativism as a cover to excuse some horrible practices in the oslamic world, always under the mantle of white man’s guilt.

          And now here we go again you leap up to defend, once more under the cover of cultural or racial relativism, a comment that if reversed might even lead to a police investigation.

          Imagine someone said:

          “Those black people, all they ever do is seek to divide and rule”

          or maybe:

          “those jews, forever looking to divide and rule”

          Can you imagine the uproar, the calls for sanctions, criminal invetigations and the like?

          and yet here you are providing, in your own usual style, the hand wringing “I’m a white man and therefore I’m guilty” defence.

          Pitiful.

          • That’s a complete lie, Guy. In years of writing I have lambasted misogny and homophobia from whatever quarter it comes from, and have contributed to organisations that seek to rescue young Asian women from such conditions. 

            You’d better edit your post. 

          • GuyM

            No I will not edit anything and I’d advise anyone to read threads in which you’ve commented on this before.

            You ahve always tried the cultural relativism trick, even pushing the “all cultures have equal worth” line in argument.

            So I’ll once more make it clear, would you like to castigate Islam as a religion/culture for allowing the following sorts of things to pass as acceptable:

            * women flogged for driving cars
            * Men and women imprisoned for having a coffee together
            * Women forced to cover heads/body for fear of criticism of men
            * Homosexuals victimised
            * Christian churches attacked
            * suicide bombers and the ethos of “jihad”
            * the sexist notion of “virgins in paradise” for jihadis
            * forced arranged marriages
            * honour killings
            * men able to divorce women by stating “I divorce you three times” and no split of assets i.e. the women left with nothing
            * women unable to vote
            * women flogged and stoned for adultery
            * girls banned from being educated with boys, of educated beyond a certain age
            * women banned from wearing bikinis on beaches

            and on and on and on…..

            so here’s your chance Peter

            categorically state you are opposed to each and every one of those examples (I have deliberately thrown in all sorts) and the cultural and religious  institutions that defends them.

            my wife has read some of your posts in the past and absolutely despises you and she is far more easy going than I will ever be.

            you are an apologist and a hand wringer for any group you feel has ever been on the wrong end of the “white man”.

          • Unlike you, a publically identifiable person, I’ve publicly gone on record abhorring those things, both here and in print, and in my broadcast work

            Unlike you, I also condemn misogyny when it’s practised by religions or culture, whether it’s tribal female circumcision, honour killings among Sikh’s, sexual segregation among Orthodox Jews,  or homophobia and denial of womens right among Christian sects. 

            That’s the distinction you just can’t get around. You see homophobia and misogyny not only exclusively in Islam, but tarnish all Muslims with the same brush. 

            Now run along and find someone else to troll. I’m bored with you. 

          • GuyM

            and you are an embarrassment to me as a white man

            so you go and hand wring some more with your cultural relativism excuses

            i quite like diane abbott and an individual, but she could do without defence from individuals like you

          • Anonymous

            God almighty  ask Tory home if you have done enough I’m sure they’ll give you a medal by now.

          • Of course, I mean, it’s the “white man” which is important to you isn’t it. Racial Purity…

          • GuyM

            Also reporting comments are we Peter?

          • I didn’t flag the second one. I did flag the first for arrant defamatory lies you refused to edit. 

          • GuyM

            You are a frequent apologist for a belief system that often manifests as a deeply unpleasant sexist, homophobic, violent and at times racist theocratic governments, legal systems and cultural structures.

            I find your insistence on arguing the cultural and moral equivalence between western democratic and largelu secular society and the manifestation of islam often found around the middle east to be deeply offensive.

            If you are such a powerful advocate of the freedoms I listed then say here and now that arresting male or female for having a coffee together in public when singl eis wrong.

            State clearly that any women facing arrest for wearing a bikini on a mixed beach is wrong.

            Say here that the imposition of religious law, sharia, on any society is wrong.

            Come on Peter, clear it all up for us.

          • GuyM

            No response, it seems clear and unequivocal statements are not Peter Jukes’ thing

          • But being poor is a reason to execute people in your view. So you as usual have no grounds for saying anything.

          • Anonymous

            yep I agree with you, totally….

          • GuyM

            No I will not edit anything and I’d advise anyone to read threads in which you’ve commented on this before.

            You ahve always tried the cultural relativism trick, even pushing the “all cultures have equal worth” line in argument.

            So I’ll once more make it clear, would you like to castigate Islam as a religion/culture for allowing the following sorts of things to pass as acceptable:

            * women flogged for driving cars
            * Men and women imprisoned for having a coffee together
            * Women forced to cover heads/body for fear of criticism of men
            * Homosexuals victimised
            * Christian churches attacked
            * suicide bombers and the ethos of “jihad”
            * the sexist notion of “virgins in paradise” for jihadis
            * forced arranged marriages
            * honour killings
            * men able to divorce women by stating “I divorce you three times” and no split of assets i.e. the women left with nothing
            * women unable to vote
            * women flogged and stoned for adultery
            * girls banned from being educated with boys, of educated beyond a certain age
            * women banned from wearing bikinis on beaches

            and on and on and on…..

            so here’s your chance Peter

            categorically state you are opposed to each and every one of those examples (I have deliberately thrown in all sorts) and the cultural and religious  institutions that defends them.

            my wife has read some of your posts in the past and absolutely despises you and she is far more easy going than I will ever be.

            you are an apologist and a hand wringer for any group you feel has ever been on the wrong end of the “white man”.

      • Redshift

        LOL. Yes the whole of ‘western society’ is white, middle-class and christian…

        Maybe on your road mate but if you left your computer once in a while you might meet a few working class people, muslims, hindus, sikhs, jews, atheists or even a black man…dum dum dum….

        At the end of the day Guy, the truth is that you want society to match your bizarre fantasy of a country that is entirely homogenous matching the backgrounds of yourself and your neighbours. You need to come to terms with the world around you.

    • Birendra Singh

      I agree completely with Peter.

    • happy.fish

      The trait isn’t about your ethnicity it is about power. The powerful of all ethnicities have sought to ‘divide and rule’. Living in this country we have to come to terms with our colonial role of pursuing this tactic, but to suggest it is because of our whiteness is nonsense and that is the stupidity of her statment, whether clumsy or not. The statement itself is a storm in a tea cup, but it does hint at a failure of judgement or crass stupidity, which is why Diane, for all her good points was at the bottom of my preferences for leadership.

  • Jonathan Roberts

    Being white, middle class and male shouldn’t preclude you from making any comments Mark.  You’re as entitled to express your view as anyone else.

  • Anonymous

     
    ‘Black people love playing the race card’ 
     
    Racist or not if it came from a white MP in an area that was 61% black? Answers on a copy of Die Sturmer to the usual address.

     
    She has also said that  “blonde, blue-eyed Finnish girls” in her local hospital in east London were unsuitable as nurses because they had “never met a black person before”.

    If a white MP said that ‘black haired, brown eyed Nigerian girls’ in her local hospital in the Wirral were unsuitable as nurses because they had “never met a white person before” would that be racist?

     

    You should not be wary of wading into any debate.
     
     
    “and I know she doesn’t have a racist bone in her body”
    Yet she accuses ALL WHITE PEOPLE of having a certain attitude. ALL.

    “…it’s equally stupid to suggest that Diane Abbott thinks that all white people play “divide and rule”.  
     
    This is what she said and she has not, at this time as far as I know, attempted to qualify the statement other than an apparent and possible  lie about it referring to the 19th century.

     
    “She clearly should have used the word “some” – especially as she had the space”
     
    Absolutely.

     
    You’re right, she’s not like Ed Balls, she’s never been seen in German dress of a certain period…
     
     
     
     

    • Perfect example of false equivalence. Of course, if we lived in a society split 50/50 between ‘whites’ and people of colour, where wealth and political power etc. were equally split, then a statement either way would carry equal weight. 

      But since – as you well know – the UK is not such a society, simple inversions are pat.

      Colonialism did not end in the 19th century. Even if we agree it ended sometime in the 1960s/70s, that does not mean some of the attitudes are not rife. ‘Divide and rule’ was the tactic of the apartheid Government in South Africa within my living memory. 

      To equate a clumsily compressed but rather accurate statement about European colonial mentality (overwhelmingly ‘white’ by self definition) with dressing up as perpetrators of the Holocaust, let alone relating it to the Lawrence murder, is an example clumsiness and insensitivity much more egregious than Diane Abbott’s

      • Anonymous

        So if you are from an ‘oppressed mass’ then you can say what you like based on past events? You can accuse ALL people of one race of sharing sinilar attitudes? If we want to move on as a nation then that is unacceptable from all. Indeed, I was under the impression that an incident could be calssidfied as racist if one or more people deemed it to be so.

        She talked in the present tense in an argument about the modern day and had room in her tweet to make it clear what she meant if she did mean something different.  She was not clearly talking about historical European colonialism.

        Abbot has a history of making stupid comments which overshadow her other work to many people but the remarkable thing is she never seems to learn for long.

        ‘Black people love playing the race card’   Racist or not if it came from a white MP? Let’s add that the MP was talking ‘in context’  about several specific cases as opposed to generally if you like.

        • If we want to move on as a nation I think we have to accept that the suggestion of ‘reverse racism’  from the likes of Dianne Abbott is a false equivalence. The history of colonialism is still with us and majority white against black racism is hardly over.
          I don’t know the race card quotation you’re referring to, Konrad. But I’ve heard that expression many times, especially in the US, especially during the Obama/Hillary primary contest. I find it wrong on several counts, mainly because race is not a card in some kind of game, but a biological fact you can’t escape which has caused millions of deaths within living memory. However, I’m more than happy to have the discussion.In that sense Abbott has done us a favour.

          • Anonymous

            Saying that ALL people of X race think this way will never, never, never mean we will move on no matter who says it.

            The history of colonialism does not excuse such statements, neither does ‘majority racism’.

            It is an example of a similar statement to see what other people think of the statement ‘Black people love playing the race card’  which is not too far off from what Abbott said.

            “mainly because race is not a card in some kind of game”

            Some imagination is needed here instead of a literal approach because although you are right that does not address the point or the issue.

          • She didn’t say ALL – you’ve implied it. You ask me to apply ‘imagination’ over the race card phrase, without applying it over’divide and rule’ . Is talking about ‘white privilege’ itself racist?

          • Mark Cannon

            She did not say “some white people”; there was no qualification.

            I understand that Ms Abbott’s point was that BME people should avoid fighting among themselves.  But she could, and should, have made it differently.

          • As I’ve said, the opening phrase was clumsily compressed and insensitive. But the over-reaction is much more so. And her central point about the (white) European colonial legacy remains valid. 

          • GuyM

            I wonder if a Tory white politician had been as equally “clumsy and insensitive” would you be leaping to his defence?

            Of course not, you are after all, chief cheerleader for any group feeling “oppressed” by white middle class christian Britain.

          • Chief Cheerleader. Great. A promotion. But oddly enough I didn’t think Boris should resign because of his comments, and – until it turned out he lied about the circumstances – defended Aidan Burley (who I personally know). So actually you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about (as usual).  It’s not racist comments that bother me so much as racist actions

          • GuyM

            I ahve very much of a “clue” Peter.

            I was raised in Streatham and Brixton up until the age of 10 and had and have so many black and asian (especially from local cricket) friends that I’m the last person you could accuse of any racist undertones at if you felt the inclination.

            I had a black trinidadian girlfirend and half caste st lucian girlfriend.

            one of my closest of close friends is a black american

            so when i say you are a royal pain in the arse and an embarrassment to good race relations in the UK with your f’d up pitiful “white man’s guilt” surfacing all the damn time, I say it as a white man who has zero tolerance for any kind of racism and has the life to back that statement up year in year out from childhood through to now.

            just about everyone on this thread, whether from left or right would stand up to racists of any colour, but you just have to chuck a load of dissent into the mix with your usual crappy “relativism” way of ensuring equality means so,me are more equal than others.

            as i said, pitiful

          • Anonymous

            I didn’t imply it, she did in her statement.

            ‘White people’ not ‘some white people’.

            If  you heard me say ‘Chinese people are lazy’  would you think I was refering to all Chinese people or just the ones I live with and know personally?

            Yes, imagination, as obviously ‘the race card’ is  metaphorical shorthand and a compiund phrase and you can’t dismiss it as a concept by pointing this out.

            Divide and rule on the other hand is a shorthand for something that can be clearly shown and used and is descriptive instead of just metaphorical.

            If you define what WP is then we would know  / could start to debate whether it was racist or not.  As a term it is meaningless.  Although saying that we could apply it to another nation state and understand it perhaps.  

          • Anonymous

            I didn’t imply it, she did in her statement.

            ‘White people’ not ‘some white people’.

            If  you heard me say ‘Chinese people are lazy’  would you think I was refering to all Chinese people or just the ones I live with and know personally?

            Yes, imagination, as obviously ‘the race card’ is  metaphorical shorthand and a compiund phrase and you can’t dismiss it as a concept by pointing this out.

            Divide and rule on the other hand is a shorthand for something that can be clearly shown and used and is descriptive instead of just metaphorical.

            If you define what WP is then we would know  / could start to debate whether it was racist or not.  As a term it is meaningless.  Although saying that we could apply it to another nation state and understand it perhaps.  

      • Bill Lockhart

        “To equate an insensitive, clumsily compressed but rather accurate
        statement about European colonial mentality (overwhelmingly ‘white’ by
        self definition) with dressing up as perpetrators of the Holocaust, let
        alone relating it to the Lawrence murder, is an example of clumsiness
        and insensitivity much more egregious than Diane Abbott’s”

        You’d better have a word with Mark Ferguson then- he brought it up.

      • Anonymous

        The use of the word colour is enough to get you into trouble,  people whom are black.. naughty naughty

        • My African American friends prefer the term ‘people of colour’. 

          • Anonymous

            My black family prefer the term black.

            Its shorter and it does make you sound like your describing an alien species like “people of colour” does.

          • GuyM

            Whereas my african american friends use “black” all the time…. perhaps because mine aren’t east coast liberals…..

          • Anonymous

            They’re in a minority within their ethnic group then.

          • Anonymous

            Maybe they do, but New labour did not like it and as we know only last  week a Football commentator was pulled over the coals for it. The  word is black, mind you for a while Labour did try to ban that, hence we now have IC1 IC2  we are not chasing a black car it just as  dark though.

            we went through a period with labour where they did not want to offend anyone, if anyone said anything or shouted anything Blair security would kick you out even if your eighty.

            I once said colour and boy was I put in my place, so everyone even with a tan is not Black

      • Anonymous


        But since – as you well know – the UK is not such a society, simple inversions are pat.”

        So despite equality legislation, if you are in a minority.. it does not apply to you.

        Any normal person would read Abbott’s statement and say “racism”.

        Apologists are doing the work of the BNP.

        • Equality legislation does not mean we cannot discuss the history of white colonialism and racism in the UK. 

          If normal people think ‘racism’ is defined by Dianne Abbott’s statement, or indeed a defence of it, then we really need much more education and discussion of Britain’s history

          • Anonymous

            Under equality legislation there seems to be plenty of discussion of the history of white colonialism and racism in the UK. rac·ism

            a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

            Abbott was not spot on for this dictionary defininition but she was not 100 miles away.

            The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report states that: A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person. By definition therefore as some people have declared Abbott a racist on this (even if they are newspaper pundits) this tweet would appear to be a racist incident.

            Shudder. What a world our good intentions may have led us to. By definition therefore as some people have declared Abbott a racist on this (even if they are newspaper pundits) this tweet would appear to be a racist incident. Shudder. What a world our good intentions may have led us to.

          • Anonymous


            Equality legislation does not mean we cannot discuss the history of white colonialism and racism in the UK.

            Nowhere did I mention colonialism.

            If normal people think ‘racism’ is defined by Dianne Abbott’s statement, or indeed a defence of it, then we really need much more education and discussion of Britain’s history

            Pull the other one. If a white Tory MP had said what Abbott said, there would be tens  of posters  would be shouting “resign”. and I doubt if you would defend him.

            I am sorry but dual standards are unacceptable.. and just feed into the BNP narrative of one law for the whites, another for other races..

          • You may not have done, but she was talking in that context

          • Anonymous

            She does not appear to have been talking in the context of colonialism. At least, the person she was talking to does not appear to think so

            “In the course of tweeting the events around the trial, conviction and sentencing of Gary Dobson and Steven Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, I wrote: “I do wish everyone would stop saying ‘the black community’ though.” I expanded in a followup: “Clarifying my ‘black community’ tweet: I hate the generally lazy thinking behind the use of the term. Same for ‘black community leaders’. This led to a reply from my local MP Diane Abbott, in which she said: “I understand the cultural point you are making. But you are playing into a “divide and rule” agenda.”

            We went back and forth for a few tweets more and then Abbott sent out the tweet that caused the furore: “White people love playing ‘divide & rule’ We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism.”  

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jan/05/diane-abbott-twitter-row-racism

            Maybe, just maybe, it is possible for a BAME Briton to talk about issues without mentioning colonislism? Heavens!

          • Anonymous

            Oh dear another king sized dose of “White mans guilt” from Mr Jukes.

            Lets face it she said something racist and if she doesnt have a racist bone in her body then she has a funny way of showing it.

            Your argument is frankly a big steaming pile Peter. She didnt say historically she was talking about the present so waxing lyrical about european history and colonialism is completely irrelevant. Even if it wasnt are you really (and a suspect you really are) saying that if one group in the past have been institutionally racist it excuses all current and future transgressions by every other group???

            Even you can’t claim that if it was a white and god forbid Tory MP who had said this about black people or Muslims you wouldnt be leading a mob down to ten downing street with burning torches demanding the MP in questions head on a platter. 

            This is just another example of reverse racism. 

            As for claiming that “blonde, blue-eyed Finnish girls” should be arbitrarily banned from nursing? Breathtakingly stupid. 

            But hay keep up the hypocrisy Pete as long as there are middle class lefties to cover for this kind of behaviour then foot in mouth specialists like Abbot are safe :).

          • There you go. All the lazy false equivalences in one comment. What did I say about Rush Limbaugh? Discussing (still active) European colonial attitudes is an example of ‘reverse racism’. 

            Wonderful example of exactly the problem: the over-reaction to Abbott’s comment is much more egregious and revealing than the comment itself. 

          • Anonymous

            Would you like to address your reply to my post rather than your usual vague reply Peter?

            Exactly which statements were false equivalences? Quote them.

          • Too many to list Stevie. But your one downthread about dressing up as Nazi killers being fine compared to Abbott’s comment is probably the best.  

          • Anonymous

            Obviously you need to check the dictionary and look up the word equivalence! I didn’t say that the two were the same I quite explicitly stated the difference between an unsolicited statement and a choice of party costume. Now considering that I made the comment about the costume after your comment about false equivilances then it appears you are lying when you say that it what you meant? Perhaps you could elaborate on which statements you were actually referring to?

          • Your whole screed about ‘reverse racism’ is a false equivalence, and in the context of the Lawrence murder and the Met’s failings, reveals tone deafness plus some quite stunning social myopia. Cheerio. 

          • Anonymous

            Except of course I never actually mentioned the Lawrence murder at all! You should read the posts your arguing with peter. Its easy the name of the poster is down the bottom of each comment :). So far your have completely failed to explain which of MY comments, that actually existed at the time, you were describing as a false equivilence? Let me guess, was it was just another of your copy and paste responses that don’t really have any relevance to the post you are replying to but serve only to detract from the topic? 

          • GuyM

            The problem is Peter a lot of us don’t have a problem with our colonial and Imperial past.

            I’ll leave the hand wringing to you over that.

  • Bill Lockhart

    The idea that Diane Abbott is racist is not “ridiculous” in the least. Her history of generalizations based on ethnicity rather suggests that she is.

  • Anonymous

    Having grown up in a Caribbean area of London (let’s not bring Africans into this ) I am not surprised at all!! Racisms and ‘them and us’ attitude prevails and has never been challenged within this community!!   

    • GuyM

      As some friends from Trinidad always used to tell me.

      The biggest insult an old girlfriend of mine from Trinidad used to get was to be called a “bounty bar”…. black on the outside but white in the middle.

      Being seen with a white boyfriend (me) and having a “white” job (in the city) meant she was lower than low with some of her “community”.

  • Agree with much of what you’ve said Mark. However, it’s not just ”
    white, middle class people, most of whom are men”, I retweeted a black, female journalist this morning. Secondly, Diane could and should have put an end to this by simply issuing an unequivocal apology. Instead, she was first silent and then issued an excuse instead of an apology. Diane is the one making it worse, not the mainstream and social media commentators.

  • Anonymous

    Twitter is a scourge. Hardly matters what the topic is. People with too much time on their hands, often self-important,  imagining everyone else wants or needs to know what they are doing.

    I am not referring to this specific message (I quite like Diane), but I broached this topic the other day in response to Ms Hackforth-Fletcher’s article.

    • Anonymous

      Twitter isnt a scourge its an eye opening insight into what people really think and feel when they havent got the heavy glare of the party whip and leader holding them back.

      • Anonymous

        Oh yes. It’s that all right. We learned the other day, for example, that one of Boris Johnson’s little helpers enjoys using four letter words in her conversation.

        I suppose “Celebrity Big Brother” is also an “eye-opening insight” as well, full of sex mad has beens

        The truth of the matter is a lot of what is written for public consumption on twitter is a waste of time, and much of what is wrigtten would best be consigned to a private diary or a lavatory wall.

        How can anyone be so conceited as to think the rest of society will be remotely interested in their daiuly affairs?

        • Anonymous

          The point Is that if your not interested ignore it but if you want to know someone’s unsolicited honest opinion then there it is

          • Anonymous

            It’s fine if you have a voyeurisitc streak, I suppose, I don’t, so I don’t (Twitter that is)

  • Stevi Rhodes

    Yet it’s equally stupid to suggest that Diane Abbott thinks that all white people play “divide and rule”. If she did think that then she’d be racist, but I’ve never been given the slightest suggestion that she feels that way.

    Erm doesn’t the tweet she chose to send suggest that she feels that way? Pretty damning evidence against her. As an MP she should have known not to send something such as this

    Fact of the matter is if this would’ve been a white MP making remarks such as this there is no doubt they would be clearing their desk out as we speak.

    If were going to stamp out racism we have to be consistent!

  • Anonymous

    She  says out of context, but she should know better.

    It’s all about the use of words, Labour now loves the words hard working , scroungers, work shy, hard working tax payers, all this dam well annoys me, but you have to accept it  this is the world we now live in.

    Will she stay on the front bench it’s going to be difficult.

    I would not goes against Abbot she is a socialist.

  • People are people

    What Dianne Abbot tweeted was racist because it made an assumption (derogotory at that) about a group of people based on their race. She also employed “divide and conquer”, which is precisely what she has accused “white people” of using. Good grief. Racism is racism, from people of any ethnicity.

  • Anonymous

    It’s decent of you to add your support here Mark.

    I personally think she has been rude and disrespectful,
    despite admiring her excellent work over the years.

    I toally agree with the wider points made, eg by Peter J;
    but on this occasion- I’d say “out of order.”

    Sorry.

    Jo

  • Will

    I’ve had enough of Diane Abbott, she had her purpose when we were in government but she needs to move along now, it’s getting a bit embarrassing.

    • Anonymous

      I think this should be a warning to all politicians, and others who consider themselves “celebrities”  – and in fact to ordinary people who have got above themselves.

      Nobody is  that interested in what you had for lunch or where you are going tonight, or anything else, but write one injudicious remark, perhaps when you are tired and emotional, and it will come back to haunt you globally. You’ll be castigated for it.

      • Anonymous

        This will without doubt be her last  chance, another error and of course she will be placed onto the back benches.

        I am a fan of Abbott yes she has made mistakes one was the silly argument about Blair’s kids going to private school when her own were as well, made her look stupid and ended any chances at the time of her going to the front bench, she still has more socialism in her little finger then Miliband and his band have  between them.

  • Your reply has nothing to do with what I wrote. Let me bold it out for you

    “Of course, all ethnicities are capable of racism towards others, but whether it’s Serb against Croat or Bosniak, or Hutu against Tutsi, the real oppression comes from the more powerful majority against the minority.”  

    • Bill Lockhart

      We aren’t discussing oppression, we’re discussing racism.  Leave the goalposts where they are for once. You evidently believe that overt racism in anyone other than a member of the majority ethnic group is excusable and unremarkable.  You instantly exculpate Abbot using the most risible “logic” for an outburst which, had it come from a white man, you would be demanding prosecution.  You rather patronisingly  judge black people’s social responsibilities as different from whites’. What’s the word for that, again?

  • Anonymous

    Sorry Bill, but you always seem to appear on occasions to up the anti
    and make sort of mockery out of people’s views.

    I wouldn’t mind so much if you had something to add of your own view
    and bothered to explain.

    • Anonymous

      And Peter always turns up for questions on racism and Chris on the economy….

      So what?

      I’d say Bills point speaks for itself. Its a strange world if one person can be branded a racist for their choice of party costume (also sported by a certain member of the royal family on a similarly overblown occasion) which says absolutely nothing about their own views or values on the subject of race but is rather just a poor choice of costume, but another can make blatantly racially divisive comments that do reflect their true feelings on the subject of race and get away with it because they happen to be black and work for the labour party. 

  • Ah. More divide and rule. Mark brought it up as a stark contrast, not a valid comparison

  • GuyM

    As a couple of very close black friends have often told me, in an all black environment (certain clubs) the anti white racism can be as every bit as bad as the worst anti black.

    Funnily enough though, I was told a lot of black youth are more anti Asian in comments than anti-white, perhaps due to living closer together (this is very London in nature).

    The difference of course is in terms of relative societal “power” and “capital” and also the fact some on the left are more than happy to use the stereotypical “white middle class male” as a bete noir target for all generalistic attacks including implied. This is often Abbott’s mode of operating.

  • Anonymous

    Since when divide and rule is a white thing ? :)))) I mean , sure European colonial powers were good at it but this method and its guaranteed success has been utilized since beginning of time..
     
    The fact that she associated the two in a matter of fact, betrays her deeper convictions. It might not be full blown racism but certainly ‘them and us’ attitude is strongly present. There is a lot of it within Caribbean community. I am sure a big part of it goes back to the treatment they received upon arrival and the decades that followed but we shouldn’t tolerate such positions today, especially from a prominent, supposedly socialist MP who should know better.

  • Birendra Singh

    Diane Abbot’s generalisation about white people using ‘divide and rule’ is simply wrong. I don’t think Diane is racist. Infact, she has spent all her political life fighting racism. It is generally acknowledged that some political groups use ‘divide and rule’ more than the others but I cannot accept that this applies to all the people of a given colour.

  • Anonymous

    She’s a big fat old hypocrite. Happy to generalise about europeans as “White people”, but pissed off when people refer to the “black community”.

    • I am fat, and I resemble  that remark.

    • Anonymous

      And your a thick moron, hows that for racism

  • GuyM

    It also needs to be pointed out that the day after we finally get some convictions for that bloody terrible racist murder and perhaps a little healing can continue as a result…. Abbott’s comments are about as crass and ill timed as you can get. 

  • Matthew Blott

    Diane Abbott probably isn’t racist but she plays fast on loose with language on race too often and should really watch her cakehole. Her comments were racist and if made by someone else about black people Abbott would be the first to call for their resignation. A charm offensive by her media chums won’t do – if she wants a career in front line politics she needs to understand she can’t spout bigoted platitudes when it suits her. She should be held to the same standards as any other frontline politican.

  • “The Labour Party should never get involved in the politics of racial division” – Dianne Abbott  10/11/2010

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/10/phil-woolas-labour-fall-guy?commentpage=3#comment-8333318

  • “and the countless other ways in which Black people still find themselves at a disadvantage in our society” Aren’t you using the term ‘Black people’ in the same way Dianne used the term ‘White people’. Why not take your own advice and use the word ‘some’?. I also disagree with your view – I think the context within which she made the statement is entirely accurate.

  • Janiete

    You are absolutely right to say ‘Abbott’s tweet was stupid, and yes, it was offensive. It was a mistake to send it, regardless of the context of the conversation.’

    As such, Diane should have apologised quickly and unreservedly. Claiming she has been taken out of context is disingenuous and is compromising her colleagues as they try to defend her.

    I’m afraid to say Diane was an accident waiting to happen, she has repeatedly undermined Labour leaders and senior colleagues for many years and is clearly not a team player. Her retweet of Owen Jones’ very critical piece on Liam Byrne is evidence of that.

    Diane should not be in the Shadow Cabinet.

  • Nina

    It was not offensive! She was writing in the context of black community solidarity to another individual in the midst of a conversation that frankly is not the business of the white community (particularly when racism does rear its head on mainstream news programmes every week directed at black people) and specifically referring to divide and rule which is a very clear reference historically and in terms of contemporary culture. If anything the reaction to this shows how little people think about the sheer level of racism aimed at black Londoners (to use one very specific group as an example) and the racial history of the UK. If I got all of that and I’m a white, middle class woman from the Home Counties then what’s going on with all of you? A little more thinking a little less mouthing off please.

  • Daniel Speight

    Well Diane, as one of the few in the shadow cabinet (only?) who voted against the Iraq I think you have every right to tell them all, including Ed Miliband,  to bugger off. You fill that spot on the This Week sofa better than any of the others and I’m sure there’s a welcome there for you.

  • Kevin H0llingsworth

    Labour has lost it’s moral compass if she remains in the party.  I detest racialism and I destest hypocrisy.   And I’m sure the vast majority of the voting public think the same on this issue, no matter their background.  

  • I voted more often for Diane Abbot than any other MP I have had, so she was my MP for over 20 years, and I think she is great.  

    Watching Harry Cole (i.e. New Guido Fawkes) complaining about her being “offensive” on BBC News just now was an amazing experience, since his entire blog seems devoted to serial offensiveness.

    On the one hand, it was an ill-advised remark she made.

    On the other, a constant harping on the need for “some” in sentences such as “The Germans invaded France in 1940”, or “South Africans support Mandela” would lead to terrible writing and the use of other weasel words.

    • Anonymous

      I voted for her to be leader of labour, ah I know she had no chance but look at what we have now.

  • Anonymous

    The White Man’s Burden. Kipling would be laughing his socks off.
    Who would have thought that white victimhood could stand history on it’s head?

  • Malcolm Redfellow

    Let’s forget the “Finnish nurses” business, too, shall we?

  • Anonymous

    What’s the problem?

    Some bankers screwed up or committed crimes, so Labour thinks all bankers must be punished.

    Some blacks stab people, so does Labour think all blacks are criminals?

    Sweeping generalisations when its suits, naughty Diane Abbot when its embarrassing. 

    • Of course, the banking system should be allowed to cost this country another few tens of billions, it’s not like it’s important as long as your 1% keep getting their welfare bailouts!

      • Nick Leaton

        So give me 20 grand. 

        If you do, who is the idiot. You for giving it to me or me for asking?

        You’re be the idiot. 

        Bankers asking for bailouts, or people saying unless you spend money there will be riots, the idiots are the people who give in and hand the money over. 

  • Anonymous

    In other news liverpool player suarez “apologises” for racist comments to a black player. According to him he is sorry that people have taken his comments out of context but actually he didnt do anything wrong….. 

    Did him and Diane read the same book? The dummys guide to getting away with racism perhaps. 

  • Anonymous

    What a lot of stupid fuss over Diane Abbott’s comment!  All these White people getting so het up about it.  
    I am Jewish by birth (but a non-believer) so I understand very well what racism is – and I can pass myself of as a WASP;  Diane can’t.  When you consider the history of slavery, can’t you unimaginative Whites get some inkling of what Black people have – and still do – suffer? Were I Black, I am sure I would be “touchy” too.  When I was a kid our neighbours used to call out “Go back to Israel”.  I had never been to Israel and don’t have any wish to go there.  
    While Black people, especially in Africa, fight each other, as far as I know they have never oppressed Whites.  Can’t you get it into your little heads that White oppressors have caused harmless little comments like Diane’s.  She is not a racist.  The killers of Stephen Lawrence are.  So are many poor, working-class Whites, a number of whom have appeared on TV since the trial, spitting out their race hatred. (In the US they are referred to as White Trash).
    I remember the late Reg Freeson, a Labour Minister, saying that there will always be an element of racism in all societies.  We still have a rather large element in ours and Diane knows it.  What she said has been blown up out of all proportion and was understandable in the context of the Lawrence case.  Divide and rule has always been used by oppressors (always White over Black) just as Cameron is trying to use it with the unions.  It’s usually pretty effective.  What is called for is a big bit of empathy, ie, putting yourselves in the shoes of a Black person and trying to FEEL what it’s like being a despised minority.  There’s nothing great about being White;  it’s just an accident of birth!

  • Anonymous

    That’s a ridiculous comparison…

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