A few weeks ago, I signed a letter that was published in The Times that said racism was no longer a central problem in our society. Had someone asked me at the time what I thought would happen to an MP being blatantly racist, I would have said they would be fired immediately.
Yet when the disturbing racism of the Labour MP Emma Dent Coad was revealed this week, hardly a word was uttered in condemnation either from the Left or the Right.
Emma Dent Coad wrote (a few years ago and before she became an MP) about the black Conservative politician Shaun Bailey, “Who can say where this man will ever fit in, however hard he tries? One day he is the ‘token ghetto boy’ standing behind D Cameron, the next ‘looking interested’ beside G Osborne.”
Dent Coad also drew that picture above referring to Tories, ignoring the gut-wrenching history of blacks being lynched in the United States. Only thanks to the blogger Guido Fawkes do we even know about this. Where are the journalists?
How is it possible that in 2017 someone who is now an MP from the main political party of the left could say and draw such things without censure, and not in her distant past but just a few years ago when her views were presumably the same as they are today? Not only has Dent Coad not been censured by her party but the whole issue seems to have disappeared almost without comment.
The story would not have been ignored in this way in the US if Dent Coad had been a Democrat politician. And I suspect if she had been a Conservative or even UKIP politician she would have been fired on the spot.
Shaun Bailey said this of Dent Coad, “I’m extremely disappointed and further saddened by the cowardly response given by Emma Dent Coad. Instead of facing this issue, she has attempted to blur and camouflage the views she expressed in her blog by falsely dressing them up as someone else’s words.”
Emma Dent Coad thought it sensible to invent a story about how Shaun Bailey had called himself ‘boy’. What black man with any sense of history would do that, given the oppression associated with this word? Shaun Bailey visited our school (Michaela in Wembley Park) about a year ago. He comes from the same area as our pupils. He spoke with such pride of growing up in that area. In no possible world would he ever think, let alone say that where he comes from is the ‘ghetto’. Only racists speak in this way of areas where hard-working people are trying to make a living.
It is also absurd to call him ‘token’, another typical racist assumption that black people achieve because of bias in their favour. In fact Bailey is one of the brightest people I know and has struggled against multiple disadvantage, including racism, to get where he is. He would be a great addition to our House of Commons and it does not reflect well on the Conservative party that he has not found a safe seat.
As Bailey says, “Despite her claims, she can provide no evidence that I or anyone else used the horrendous terms she advocated. I find it appalling that someone as privileged as Ms Dent Coad would dare question the legitimacy of my background. I am now urging Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party to take the strongest disciplinary action possible.”
Sadly, not only has Corbyn not acted but thousands of white progressives have come out in defence of Dent Coad’s vicious remarks.
I am not one of those black people who sees racism in everything. Indeed, I signed that letter in The Times. I’m even forgiving of various types of everyday racism, especially when it comes from ordinary people. When white progressives hacked my email account and sent out vile racist emails to my address book, all because I dared to once speak at the Conservative Party conference, I ignored it.
On another occasion, I met a member of the BNP for lunch. While I found some of his ideas disturbing, I was fascinated to speak to him to find out why he thought as he did. He was very friendly and wore a suit to meet me because as he said, I was educated at Oxford, whereas he was white-working class and had never been to university. When walking through the streets of London, I noticed him limping and asked him what was wrong. He explained that he had bought new shoes for the occasion and they were hurting his feet.
Racism is complicated. So the whites who jump to Dent Coad’s defence with the ‘some of her best friends are black’ argument, or the ‘but she has helped black people in Kensington by doing x’, are either being dishonest or they do not understand how racism works.
Neither is it OK to point to blacks who are supportive of Dent Coad’s words and say, well if they say it is OK, then it is OK. During slavery times, some blacks supported slavery. Some even owned slaves. That did not make slavery right.
Emma Dent Coad being a racist isn’t what shocks me. The BNP man was polite, respectful and bought me lunch. I liked him, despite his racism. What is deeply disturbing is the fact that Dent Coad is in a position of power and respect in this country and the man who leads her party has refused to discipline her and indeed has made no comment about it. Does Corbyn think it is fine that black men should be referred to as ‘boy’?
Where are the protests? Where are the whites demanding action? When the Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris used the phrase ‘nigger in the woodpile’ earlier this year, she was immediately suspended and had the whip withdrawn. Theresa May showed leadership and demonstrated by her actions that racism will not be tolerated within the Conservative Party.
The Labour Party cannot now say the same. One of their MPs has directly attacked a black person using three terms of abuse—token, ghetto and boy—that have been unacceptable in the black community for decades and nothing has been done.
Who has come to Shaun Bailey’s aid? Here is a black man being vilified for being black and working-class and it is left to other black people like the Conservative MPs Kemi Badenoch and James Cleverly to write letters to Corbyn to ask for action.
Why is no one supporting them from either the Conservative Party or Labour Party? Why does no one care? This last week has taught me a lot about our country.
I am not a Conservative, nor am I a politician. I am a swing voter who has small c conservative values. Once upon a time, the Labour Party might have shared those values, some of which are about valuing the content of our characters and not judging people by the colour of their skin.
Sadly, I can now see that the Labour Party of today no longer agrees with that sentiment. Labour was at the forefront of the early battles against racism in the post-war period but it has grown arrogant and lazy when it comes to race. Too many people on the left think that they own black people politically and if you are seen as a black person on the wrong side of the political divide you are evidently fair game for attack and even for racist abuse.