The Sidelining of Women of Colour in the Labour Party
The Labour Party has always prided itself on its diversity and its commitment to liberalism and social justice.
But recently, I have noticed that women of colour within the Party – many of whom are the reason for Labour’s popularity – have been sidelined. And the issues pertaining to ethnic minority women are all but ignored.
Diane Abbott was the first black female MP. She has fought everyone – even her own Party – to get to where she is now. She is also the most abused MP in Westminster. But there is very little support from the main players in Labour, particularly from leader Keir Starmer.
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Also, appointing Neil Kinnock – who prevented resources to Abbott’s 1987 campaign – as Labour’s communications chair is a bit of a slap in the face. It is as if Starmer is following Kinnock’s playbook – treat your MPs of colour as a liability until you realise that whoops, people actually support them.
When Dawn Butler was ejected from the House of Commons last year for calling the Prime Minister a liar, there was little uproar from Keir Starmer, or Jess Philips, or Angela Rayner. You know, because they are all for feminism and sticking up for black people.
We kneel with all those opposing anti-Black racism. #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/ZvjBndwqKk
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) June 9, 2020
But the Labour Party really only addresses so-called ‘comfortable’ feminist issues. There is little discussion on the maternal death gap, in which black and Asian women are more likely to die in childbirth and pregnancy. There has been little consequence for Rosie Duffield, who seems to view transphobia as her second job.
And let’s not forget that very strange anecdote that Philips told, claiming she told Diane Abbott to “f*ck off”. I’m not sure who this was supposed to impress other than the proponents of misogyny and racism.
In essence, the Labour Party espouses feminism that befits middle-class white women, as opposed to making any revolutionary change to upend the patriarchal and racist nature of the UK.
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Zarah Sultana, who as one of the younger MPs has been working to help encourage more young people of colour to join Labour and vote, revealed last year that there was a lack of solidarity from other members of the party, particularly the leader who had not reached out in the midst of the sexist and Islamophobic abuse she receives.
It is hard to take Starmer’s criticism of the Tory party’s Islamophobia and sexism when you barely stick up for your own MPs who face this on a regular basis.
Moreover, there have been investigations into Labour finding anti-black sentiment and Islamophobia. It is a feature of white liberalism too often dismiss this in favour of ‘solidarity.’
Now, by no means does this mean I’m going to vote for the Conservative Party – they have a long history of this, with little want to fix it. But I would like to know that if I were to vote Labour, I would be voting for a party that sees me and my community as people who have their unique problems in this country.
Not as moments or catchy tweets to celebrate Stephen Lawrence day or Eid, but actually supporting people of colour in the party and listening to their concerns. Stop taking your MPs for granted – because a lot of us are watching and listening. Do you want people of colour to continue voting for you? Earn our votes.