Priti Patel has clashed with a group of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Labour MPs who accused the Home Secretary of using her Indian heritage to cast doubt on black communities’ experience of racism.
She said she “will not be silenced” by the 33 MPs who wrote to Ms Patel, accusing her of having used her own experiences of prejudice to “gaslight” the “very real racism” faced by black people in the UK.
The exchange on Thursday came after the Home Secretary told of the racism she has herself suffered and said she would “not take lectures” on prejudice in the House of Commons earlier in the week.
But she was accused of having sought to “silence” the black Labour MP Florence Eshalomi, as the Labour MP called for action from the Government to tackle discrimination.
Black Lives Matter
Shadow minister Naz Shah and other Labour MPs, including Ms Eshalomi, Diane Abbott, Tan Dhesi and Rosena Allin-Khan, to question Ms Patel’s attitude towards Black Lives Matter protests.
“We write to you as black, Asian and ethnic minority Labour MPs to highlight our dismay at the way you used your heritage and experiences of racism to gaslight the very real racism faced by black people and communities across the UK,” they said.
“Our shared experiences allow us to feel the pain that communities feel, when they face racism, they allow us to show solidarity towards a common cause; they do not allow us to define, silence or impede on the feelings that other minority groups may face.
“Being a person of colour does not automatically make you an authority on all forms of racism.
“In conclusion, we ask you to reflect on your words and to consider the impact it had towards the black communities in the UK trying to highlight their voices against racism.”
Gaslighting refers to the act of psychologically manipulating someone to doubt their own experiences.
Ms Patel published the letter on her Twitter account, saying she was “sad” to have received it.
“I will not be silenced by @UKLabour MPs who continue to dismiss the contributions of those who don’t conform to their view of how ethnic minorities should behave,” she added.
During the Commons exchange on Monday, Ms Eshalomi called on Ms Patel to “act now” to resolve “structural inequality, discrimination and racism” as thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand change in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Anger and frustration
The Labour MP for Vauxhall asked the Home Secretary if she does “actually understand the anger and frustration” felt, and whether she wants to see action from the Government.
Ms Patel replied: “Well, on that basis, it must have been a very different Home Secretary who as a child was frequently called a P*** in the playground, a very different Home Secretary who was racially abused in the streets or even advised to drop her surname and use her husband’s in order to advance her career.
“So, when it comes to racism, sexism, tolerance for social justice, I will not take lectures from the other side of the House.”
Ms Patel received support from fellow BAME Tory MP James Cleverly who wrote on Twitter: “BAME Labour MPs tell Priti Patel to stop disagreeing with them. They champion diversity of race in politics but not diversity of option.”