But for one word, the twitter storm surrounding Diane Abbott would have come to nothing. If she had just qualified her tweet and used the word ‘some’ to make clear that she was not accusing all white people of trying to ‘divide and rule’, a day that had so far been dominated by questions of her supposed racism, would instead be dominated by a discussion of race in the context of the convictions of David Norris and Gary Dobson for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. But she didn’t. She used a sweeping, generalisation that has led to unworthy calls for her resignation or sacking by the usual suspects.
Harry Cole of Guido Fawkes fame is working tirelessly to keep the story alive and is touring the airwaves as I write to state and restate his calls for an apology or her sacking. Toby Young was a late starter but after catching up with news and gathering what details he could get from Harry, wasted no time at all in taking to his blog to decry her comments and call for her head.
Neither Harry or Toby as far as I can tell are known for their anti-racism campaigning. One tweeter this morning had the good sense to check Harry’s twitter feed to see just how his tweets about Stephen Lawrence and Diane Abbott measure up. A quick count showed that he mentioned the Stephen Lawrence trial once, and Diane Abbott 14 times.
He and others have seized on this ill-advised tweet to turn the tables and accuse a black person of racism, something that they don’t get the opportunity of doing very often. They leapt on it with ill-disguised glee. It reminds me of some friends of mine who occasionally moan that it’s not fair that they can be accused of racism and their black counterparts cannot. At such times, I breathe deeply and patiently explain to them that racism isn’t confined to white people. Context and power is everything and a moment to reflect a little on what we know of the black experience in the UK could help. I invite them to tell me the last time they were given poor service at a restaurant because of the colour of their skin; or when they were denied a room at a hotel; or were stopped by the police and searched because they were black. There’s a context to everything and those people baying for Diane Abbott’s blood deliberately choose to don their blinkers against the realities of racism and how much it continues to distort our lives.
Diane Abbott has now apologised. Will that be enough for them? Probably not. Point scored they may withdraw for another day, another fight, but will they do anything in the interim to campaign against racism or to further equality in anyway? Sorry but I just don’t think so. As Harry Cole stated on twitter today when asked his views on the hate crime committed in Salford, “I do politics,” he said.