U.K. Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, became a member of parliament in 1987. A pioneer for young black diaspora, she was the first black woman MP and since her appointment, she has had a rocky relationship with the British media. It is largely undisputed that Diane Abbott is and has been a politician of great consequence and prowess; her speech on civil liberties in 2008 amidst the Counter-Terrorism Bill won scores of recognition and a “Parliamentary Speech of the Year” award from The Spectator, her work specifically on black children in education is unmatched by any other MP and her stance as an outspoken, black feminist has won her the respect of many politicians, commentators and journalists alike. So, why is such a woman of high regard, with a resume to rival many MPs in the cabinet referred to as ‘an ape in lipstick’? The answer is simple, nobody seems to want to address misogynoir in British politics.
Amidst the accusations thrown about black Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas upon his nomination, he said something that can be applied directly to what we see everyday in the obsessive mocking, hypercriticism and constant abuse towards Diane Abbott that we see every day on social media, news outlets and occasionally amongst fellow MPs. Clarence said – quite publicly, regarding the accusations surrounding him – that: “it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas” (Source). This logic can be applied to attitudes towards Diane Abbott within the politics community, it comes across that white people in particularly don’t like to be challenged on the basis of race, it’s largely a topic that many in the U.K. would rather ignore and have brushed under the rug as opposed to directly address the way it is in (comparatively) in the U.S.
This is particularly seen when Diane, as a black woman, addresses race herself: controversial comments such as “White people love playing ‘divide and rule'” have earned her labels from critics such as “anti-white”, “racist” and “crass”. To many, however, this was simply the violent reaction of a majority white society who don’t like being told the truth about themselves, instead of taking Abbott’s understanding of white people in the western world into consideration, they shut it down with a silencing wave of faux-outrage and spouts of “reverse racism” claims. The truth, however, is pretty clear: nobody wants to hear the analysis of white people from an unapologetically outspoken black woman and that’s why they resort to insults such as: ‘Pathetic useless fat black piece of shit Abbott. Just a piece of pig shit pond slime who should be fucking hung (if they could find a tree big enough to take the fat bitch’s weight)’. This, disgusting and vile attack on Diane Abbott is less than just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the consistent abuse that she’s faced over her thirty years as a British MP.
Diane Abbott, in the wake of the fresh wave of abuse against her integrity, character and competency as an MP spoke out directly against “blatantly racist and sexist abuse online” for the first time in her thirty years as a British member of parliament. In her article for the Guardian, she addressed the growing the growing exposure of blatant racism, sexism and xenophobia towards minority groups all over the world in the aftermath of Brexit last June and Trump’s election in November. While most MPs in the U.K. ignore racial factors behind Brexit and Trump’s election, Diane – again – unapologetically uses her position to address a topic that politicians treat as a hot potato and while this may not win her favors with the majority of the white gaze, she earns the respect of many veteran MPs and political spectators.
Since her appointment in 1987, we have seen 4 new black woman MPs added to parliament over the past 30 years, despite this being slight progress, Britain is definitely not moving fast enough in its movement towards greater representation and understanding of black women in politics. However, it fills me with pride and joy that Diane Abbott – despite seemingly unbearable abuse and constant attacks – continues to fight the growingly difficult task of representing minorities and refuses to be silenced.
Thank you, Diane Abbott – you’re an inspiration to young black diaspora all over the U.K.