Labour MP Zarah Sultana was told to “lower the tone” and “stop shouting” by Home Office minister Victoria Atkins during a debate on racism in the House Of Commons.
The MP for Coventry South hit out at the government, referencing comments made by England defender Tyrone Mings. He accused Priti Patel, the home secretary, of having “stoke(d) the fire”, having previously refused to criticise fans who booed the team for taking the knee in protest against racism.
“You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against happens,” he said.
Jumping on Mings’ comments, Sultana said: “Isn’t it the case that the home secretary and the prime minister were stoking the fire of racism, and only now, when the consequences are clear, are they feigning outrage?”
What Sultana said
Sultana referenced a newspaper column written by the Boris Johnson in 2002, describing black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”.
She also mentioned that Johnson mocked Muslim women in newspaper columns as “letterboxes” and “bank-robbers” and that he refused to condemn the booing of England players taking the knee.
Sultana then suggested Priti Patel did not treat the England team taking the knee seriously.
But Home Office minister Victoria Atkins replied she was hoping to conduct her debate with Sultana “in a measured and collective way.”
“I don’t genuinely think the honourable lady is accusing either the prime minister of this country or indeed the home secretary of racism. That would be a truly extraordinary allegation to make,” Atkins said.
She added: “But I hope at some point we will be able to work together to tackle racism. That is what we all want to do. That is what the work of this government is directed towards.”
Atkins then added she hopes “we are able to just lower the tone a bit” and reinforced Sultana was “trying to shout at her”.
Sultana later highlighted on Twitter that she was the only person of colour to down to speak and yet she was told to lower her voice.
Boris Johnson and Priti Patel gave a green light to the racism our England stars are facing. They stoked this abuse.— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) July 14, 2021
Now they’re feigning outrage. None of us are fooled. pic.twitter.com/avRApTpAzK
Black Girl Book Club tweeted: “Raise your hand if as a woman you have experienced this tactic in the workplace from other women”.
Another online user said: “Saying you ‘want to tackle racism’ and then proceeding to dismiss and belittle a woman of colour as well as failing to acknowledge her valid points? What a joke.”
Jamie Ranger added: “Tone policing is racism in action”.
Raise your hand if as a woman you have experienced this tactic in the workplace from other women ☝? https://t.co/yOzxc707Kb— black girls book club (@bg_bookclub) July 15, 2021
Saying you ‘want to tackle racism’ and then proceeding to dismiss and belittle a woman of colour as well as failing to acknowledge her valid points? What a joke. https://t.co/spogZD74h0— ❤️? (@as1z_) July 14, 2021
Tone policing is racism in action. https://t.co/Ggbz1Mfaj0— Jamie Ranger (@jamieandhisego) July 14, 2021
*brings up multiple recorded quotes*— Adam Seal ? (@AdamSeal_) July 15, 2021
“I hope ur not saying they’re racist because that’s an outrageous allegation”
That was literal evidence tho lmao https://t.co/CUVp6aJd3z
Racism after England team lost in Euro 2020 final
The debate comes after Boris Johnson condemned the “appalling” racist abuse of the England football team players on social media after they lost in the Euro 2020 final.
“This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media. Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves,” Johnson said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also expressed her disgust at the racist reactions the morning after the final.
She said: “I am disgusted that England players, who have given so much for our country this summer, have been subject to vile racist abuse on social media”.
She added racism “has no place” in the UK – but only last month she said England fans had a right to boo the national team during the European Championships. “That’s a choice for them quite frankly,” she said.