Thursday 05 January 2012

Writing about race and that can be become a terrible strain on oneself. Especially when you’re all wishy-washy and egalitarian like I aspire to be.

The Diane Abbott stuff is a bit like the Luis Suarez thing – well in A way, not in every way (clearly). Why was it alike in A way? A way in which it was similar was that I don’t think either of them is a racist but I do think they said a racist thing. To be honest I am only mentioning it to get back to talking about me. How? Read on…

Unsurprisingly Twitter was packed to the rafters with people having some opinions about Abbott. Some people were expressing disgust at the vile things being said about her and her race (thus, there were some people saying horrible things I deduced). Fortunately I am neither racist nor famous so I don’t really get mithered by lunatics, vile or otherwise.

I follow a chap called Dorian Lynskey on Twitter, he did a blog about it. I like Dorian, he seems like a stand up guy and he makes me nod with his tweets about music and other stuff from time to time. I actually only read the blog when Caitlan Moran tweeted it. She was being very angry generally, she often is: I like it; I like her. She was being angry in support of the blog so I read it. I disagree with it. Well lots of it.

Let’s cut the shit – what Diane Abbott said on Twitter was racist. “White people love playing divide and rule” was what she said. Cut to: I quite like Diane Abbott, I dont any feel need to persecute her for what she said. I think she occasionally is misguided, which is a shame because if she wasn’t I would be more successful and I think someone like her without her negative traits would have been a good leader for the Labour Party instead of whatshisface who I occasionally forget exists when I am watching him speak. Why all this? Why tell me you like Lynskey and Moran? I am trying to give my opinion some context: I like everybody I am disagreeing with, it’s nothing more than an opinion.

Cut back to, what Diane Abbott said on Twitter was racist. That statement. Not her. That statement (and context didn’t make it better, talk of we/them/black community/white community is not progressive in my – unapologetically hopeful – opinion). Racism is a belief that all members of a race are all the same; behave the same; have the same characteristics. Her message talked about ‘white people’ having a mentality. That’s racist. It is.

My problem with Lynskey’s blog was that racism was dismissed because white people have not been the target of racism, like minorities have been in England. [I hate white people not being marginalised cunts.] I don’t quite believe that doesn’t mean something can’t be racist against white people though. I think all blanket statements about any race/religion/gender are wrong (women can be sexist for, homosexuals can bully heterosexual people – about their sexuality). I also live in the real world and know that’s unrealistic. I am somewhat of an idealist.

The statement was racist. Lynskey’s argument about historical context aside is fair. I am not dismissing it. I am not saying Abbott is incorrect about the hegemony of some white people. I am not making a big deal out of what she said. But the sentence was racist. How do I know? Well I am white and I don’t LOVE to divide and rule. I don’t even like it. If ‘divide and rule’ walked past me in the corridor I wouldn’t raise my head to say hello – that’s how much I don’t love to divide and rule. [I would probably hold a door open for ‘divide and rule’ if it were walking past me; that’s the truth, but this is more a reflection of my ruddy impeccable manners than for any respect for dive and – indeed or – rule.]

As for the counter-argument ‘oh you’re being so pedantic describing it as racist’, go fuck a shoe. Sometimes yes people are ridiculously pedantic and it serves nothing to be so. However sometimes the meaning of something is the fucking meaning of something – if you mean something else then there are different words and phrases for that.

In all seriousness – I do think there is context, both contemporary and historical. This is why I don’t think Abbbot is necessarily wrong (other than the lack of the word ‘some’ before ‘white people’) or that her words should be treated as arrows through the heart of white people (the concept of a white community actually sends a shiver down my spine) is bordering on laughable. As I said, my ire was targeted at this staunch defence based on a complete fallacy; that the statement wasn’t racist.

Another person I like on Twitter is Emma Kennedy. She’s a funny and intelligent writer and performer who I have followed the career of for a good few years. She tweeted “I think everyone gnashing at the bit to call the excellent MP Diana Abbott a racist needs to take a long hard look at themselves”. Because I had this thing about it actually being a racist statement and being interested in someone having a dialogue with me to explain the position that it wasn’t, I replied: “I am not calling DA a racist, nor gnashing at any bit to call her one. I like her, that statement was racist though.”

I was not to be disappointed by someone I respect. She replied, “no. It wasn’t. Take your pitchfork elsewhere“. I was a little taken aback. I don’t think come across as part of an angry mob – it would be a rubbish angry mob. We would be baying for admission of fact while chanting “We like and respect Dianne Abbott. We don’t think she is a racist, we don’t want to call her one. That one sentence implied judging the behaviour of a group whose common factor was skin colour.” It wouldn’t be the kind of baying mob that would gain momentum. I imagine it petering out with a nice cup of tea after minutes.

I tried to explain to Kennedy, “I have no pitchfork, it suggested a behaviour based on a skin colour. I am not part of a mob nor do I think she is a racist.” I know what you are thinking: provocative words. I added, “I think had the statement been made by a white MP about ‘black people’ the reaction would be different & to deny that is not accepting the truth. I truly like Diane Abbott but I am against the reaction of people denying the statement was pejorative,it was.” Hmm, I don’t pull any punches here. Admittedly the thing about a white person saying the same about black people is a bit lame. It is true though, however it does belittle my own point as it does ignore the lack of equality between the races historically. And to ignore that is to ignore a substantial social and historical context. It doesn’t make ‘white people love etc’ not racist though.

Quite rightly Kennedy finished with “go away you hysterical man“. I now thought maybe racist wasn’t the only word being confused, hysteria seemed to be getting a little confused. Now I am not trying to make some case for hysteria here. But I don’t think I was. She replied to someone else with this to support her argument. I happen to think you don’t have to use vile slurs to be racist – ironically it’s the exact opposite of the kind of racism Diane Abbott was talking about, the political hegemony of white culture over centuries. But was/is this not racist because there aren’t people doing it with the n- word?

In summary: I like Diane Abbott. I don’t think she is a racist. I think she can be inspiring and passionate member of the Labour Party and also she frustrates and annoys at times. I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking about the political suppression of minorities or anyone but I don’t think it needs to be labelled as the acts/thoughts/beliefs of white people as it’s certainly a group that I don’t feel I want to be part of. Just a person like everyone else etc and other bullshit. I do think this though, it’s just hard to say without sounding like a simpering idiot.

All the white writers and journalists defending Abbott on Twitter certainly didn’t seem to be part of any white power conspiracy…or are they? Maybe that is how it works, I knew I should have gone to the ‘Secret White Person Agenda’ talks at University.
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