A short defence of @hackneyabbott

Maybe Diane was a little thoughtless.

However, racism doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it exists in application to dynamics of power. Anyone who spends 50 years as a black woman is going to have experienced a constant stream of active, passive, institutional and even well-meaning racism in that time as well as a whole load of misogyny.

Sexism is just as rife. Elite professions are dominated by white, public school educated Oxbridge men and women in those environments often get a smoother ride if they wear contacts instead of glasses, heels instead of flats or remember to dye the grey hairs.

White men in Britain simply don’t experience unrelenting discrimination in the same way.

In some sense it’s not about institutions but about society as a whole and our blindness to the impact our history has on our current attitudes.

In short, it is not the same for a black woman to generalise about “white people” as it is for a white person to generalise about black people. Because “white people” is a broadly legitimate way of thinking about 92%-white Britain and its 99.5%-white elite.

Diane’s point was legitimate. Her error was minor. The right wing response has been disproportionate, gleeful and insincere. And yes, if she had thought about it, she could and should have worded it better.

And a lot of decent people are legitimately annoyed by her “prejudiced” generalisation. But you’re so unused to the prejudice in that direction that you’re as offended as you would be if it were the other way around. It is a lesser sin, because of the context of power behind it.

It’s worth reading this http://33revolutionsperminute.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/racism-vs-racism-why-diane-abbott-was-right/ and this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege.

I shall look forward to the corresponding twitterstorms about the almost daily xenophobia in the Daily Mail from now on.

IMHO and all that.

  • Jonathan Sheppard

    To summarise Alex I think you are suggesting a black female can say something prejudiced that a white male cannot. A view you are entitled to, one I do not share.

    If something is racist it is racist full stop, There can be no “lesser sins”, as that would be like saying I could get away with being slightly more offensive than someone upper class because I was brought up in a single parent family unit in the North.

    Of course that’s IMHO

    Diane should have said sorry and clarified last night rather than openly stand by what she said in further tweets:-


    • swatantra

      It was making a mountain out of a molehill on the very day that the Lawrence judgement was seeping into the public concsience; its almost as though it was deliberately done by the Media to detract from the sentencing. Of course the comment wasn’t racist and no white person should have been offended but accepted the hand of history. Of course Dianne should not have apologised but was forced to by Ed getting cold feet.
      But having said that Dianne is way behind the times on Race issues as are many of her generation who simply don’t see that we’ve all come a long way in 20 years. And talk of Imperialism and Colonialism simply don’t resonate with Modern Britons who simply haven’t a clue what those words mean.
      And its because of her lack of comprtancy that she should leave the Shad Cab along with half the others who are well past their sell by date.

  • http://twitter.com/alexhilton Alex Hilton

    Sheppard, I shall defend to the death your right to be quite wrong on thjis point :)

    • Jonathan Sheppard

      Oh Alex, I am often wrong….. and it often gets pointed out.

  • Chrizzp

    Of course she’s not a racist and of course she could have expressed herself in a “better” way. But then thats one of the disadvantages of twitter and why frankly, its not the best place for discussing racism (or any other complex subject) – although sadly we will continue to try!
    And of course she should have apologised for her gaff…let’s move on…nothing to see here…
    Except that a group of people won’t – which is more to do with them not liking Diane Abbott than any real concern over her supposed racism…

  • Johndclare

    I am a ‘white male’. I hope and pray that there is not a hint of racism in my being but, as many decent white males, I am careful to watch everything I say just in case — in our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society which I LOVE — some careless remark might nevertheless throwback to an unrecognised prejudice from my past which causes somebody some offence.

    Diane Abbott is a legend. She has achieved wonderfully. She is a marvellous role model. But she is duty-bound to watch her words too.

    I decry the exultation which which her gaffe is being received by bigoted, ignorant, racist people; but the answer to her mistake is not to try and say that it was somehow, in some obscure way, OK.

    She messed up. She has apologised. Now let that be the end of the matter.

    • Anonymous

      Twitter is deadly, and these people believe Twitter is a gain for them like it or not this has damaged her and damaged labour, then Miliband goes on twitter and make a mistake which is just as bad, these people want to go out to the public come onto Forums, if they did the forums would become major players and you could have somebody check the mistakes before they go up.

      Labour believes the the internet is the way to communicate with people it’s cheap and it reaches millions, but if your not careful you can be seen as an idiot

  • Anonymous

    Well all I can say is that my wife, with her leftist leanings, was very much offended by Diane Abbott’s comments. I’m sure many other white people who don’t consider themselves to be racist will also be offended.

    When you start to have less and greater types of racism it blurs the concepts. Either racism is wrong or it isn’t. You can’t have different rules for different people. Otherwise we get into the idea of Liverpool FC defending Luis Suarez on the basis that ‘Uruguayan racism is really friendly’. Or saying the killing of Stephen Lawerence was a lesser form of racism since the killers were from poor disadvantaged backgrounds.

    • Anonymous

      Do we defend Miliband, no laughing now…


      Ed Miliband has become the latest politician to come a cropper on Twitter after accidentally paying tribute to Bob Holness for his work on “Blackbusters”.

      Mistakes can be made…

      • Anonymous

        Freudian slip I’m sure. Of course Labour defend this by saying that Ed’s Twitter feed is run by a very junior member of staff. So a false pretense that Ed Milliband is actually on Twitter. Please Labour, stop lying!.

        • Anonymous

          I did not think his brother was that far down.

  • Anonymous

    “In short, it is not the same for a black woman to generalise about “white people” as it is for a white person to generalise about black people.”

    Ah the equality of the socialist. Some are more equal than others, huh ?

    • http://twitter.com/alexhilton Alex Hilton

      I’d recommend reading the article again, and the two links.

  • LesAbbey

    Yes, Diane Abbott should have taken more care with her words and was right to apologize, but the circumstances of the media circus have left a smell of something far worse in the air.

    Coming at a time of the sentencing of two of the group that killed Stephen Lawrence after so many years ago, a killing that exposed the ‘institutionalized’ racism of London’s police force, it seems suspicious how certain people have taken Abbott’s gaffe to be of such importance.

    It’s not as if she called all us white folk ‘honkies’ was it? She wasn’t being secretly filmed prancing around with a knife saying she was going to skin a white person, the opposite of which we heard at the trial.

    No, I don’t think I’m going to be dragged into defending my race and attacking Abbott by this rag tag bunch with the likes of Toby Young, Louise Mensch, Paul Staines and Harry Cole, in order to ease any guilt on how five or six white boys killed an innocent black kid at an Eltham bus stop. I think I will leave that to Nick Griffin.

    • Anonymous

      She was way to slow to apologies and only did so after she was told to by Miliband.

      She does make to many mistakes  the biggest was telling Blair about private schools, when she her self was sending her kids to a private school.

      I like Abbott but boy she can be a pain sometimes

      • Anonymous

        Abbott doesn’t know when to cool it. A day after being repremanded by EdM over one racist tweet, she tones it down by just calling all cabbies racist, not all white people.


        I really think Twitter is dangerously addictive for the gaffe prone. Ms Abbott should have yesterday closed her laptop and left Twitter alone for a few days.

        The whole saga is now enveloping the leader’s office to such an extent that EdM’s twitter feed made the Freudian slip of paying tribute to Bob Holnes, presenter of Blackbusters!

        More popcorn please!

    • john Reid

      Why should we feel guilty that 5/6 men commited A racist murder in eltham in 1993, Maybe we should feel a bit guilty that for those around then,we didn’t critcise the police attitude or crtiticise the Left being out of touch so they couldn’t be taken serious on criticisng the police then,And whats Abbott comments got to do with the lawrence case,And as for Nick griffin, yes he said it was a black person who killed lawrece, but he also whole heartedly and unconditionally condemned the Lawrence murder and said he and the BNP would do everything in it’s power to bring the killers to jusitce (wether he meant it is upto you to decide

  • Psmiddx

    Sorry Alex, but you’re entirely wrong – you’re trying to say that only white people can be racist. If I started a sentence… ‘The trouble with black people is…’ I wouldn’t get to finish it. That would be you, yet you’d let Abbott off if she said the same with ‘white people’. She could have said ‘some white people’, but no, she didn’t, it wasn’t a gaffe, as it was on a twitter message. Get over your defence of this person and stop being a lackey. She should’ve been sacked, as she’d be the first to call for it if it was the other way around – you forget this.

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t say that only white people can be racist. All sorts of people can be racist. I have heard that Chinese people get a rough time in Malaysia, Jews a discriminated against in most Arab countries, except in Israel where Arabs are discriminated against. I have heard Asians be racist towards Black people and vice versa.

      But context and power dynamics are essential elements of racism. I refer to myself as a “brown” person because I am half Indian. But the very same word used in a malicious context could be seen as racist.The way Diane worded her tweet did offend some people and should have been worded better, however, it was clearly a mistake and a comment on the post-colonialist white dominant elite in this country. It was not an expression that Black people were in any way innately superior to White people and therefore entitled to treat them as second class citizens.

      • Psmiddx

        You may not believe this, something I didn’t feel the need to mention, but as you have, I’m half-Indian too – you’re definitely out of touch and as offensive as Abbot, for defending the indefensible. I’m sure Hitler thought he was reasonable and well-meaning too. You still can’t answer the question what would Abbot have done had this been a white person carping on about black people in the same way – in equality, she should have been sacked and you won’t find me voting for Labour ever again – whilst you’re at it, ask Millband why him and his cronies didn’t oust Gordon Brown a dn only now (As all parties do, to be fair when they’ve lost the election) do you all see the light?