Saturday, 7 January 2012

Is Dianne Abbott a racist?

Toby Young writes:
Diane Abbott is in hot water again. The gaffe-prone Labour MP sent a tweet to a black journalist that read: "White people love playing 'divide & rule'. We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism"
in playing the race card, was Diane Abbott herself being racist? According to the OED, racism is defined as "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races". By that definition, Abbott was being racist. She was attributing a characteristic – loving to play divide and rule – to a race – white people – and it's plainly an unattractive quality, i.e. intended to distinguish the race in question as morally inferior to the people they're guilty of oppressing.
In an update, he added:
Diane Abbott has now tweeted a response to the outrage her original tweet caused: "Tweet taken out of context. Refers to nature of 19th century European colonialism. Bit much to get into 140 characters." That's weak. She wasn't just referring to "19th century European colonialism", but saying that the same tactic is still used today, hence her warning to Bim Adewunmi not to criticise any black community leaders. She didn't say "White people loved playing 'divide and rule'". She said "White people love playing 'divide and rule'".
True. And whether her tweet relates to present-day whites or 19th century whites, it's still a racial generalisation. I don't think there's any wriggling out of this one.

Young's key point is this:
Imagine the uproar if an equally prominent white Conservative MP said something similar about black people on Twitter? The Conservative whip would be immediately withdrawn and he or she would be forced to step down at the next election.
True enough. But to Young, justice demands that
At the very least, Diane Abbott should apologise and resign from her position as a shadow health minister.
I disagree. Abbott should be entitled to her views, however perverse and unhelpful. Neither she nor anyone else should be pressured to apologise or resign over such comments. Everyone needs to lighten up.

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