Racism in Parliament – Wait, We’re Still Talking About This?

Before you read on, click this link to see the BBC news story that I’m basing my response off for some context. To give you a heads up, this is most likely to be a rant post more than an analysis of any sort. I’m really fucking furious a tad disgruntled about the situation. Please don’t read it if you’re likely to get offended by what I have to say as it’s really not worth an argument.

For a brief overview of what happened in Parliament on 10 July: Anne Marie Morris, a Conservative MP, used the n-word to describe Brexit.

Let me just reiterate. A member of Parliament, whose job it is to represent the opinions of the people, decided that it was acceptable to use a racist term in a public discussion.

I genuinely had to take a moment when I first read the news article because if it wasn’t so disgusting, the ridiculousness of the situation would have made me laugh. I’m not going to repeat what was said on here but it is in the BBC’s coverage. It’s 2017 – no one has seen something like that used in the public sphere, whether that be politics or law, in decades.

It kind of felt like I was reading a scene from To Kill A Mockingbird or Huckleberry Finn. I wouldn’t have thought that I would have to argue against the use of such obvious racist speech in my lifetime. Silly me for presuming we had gotten over that after decades of civil rights campaigns!

Morris said it was “unintentional” in her apology, which is the most apathetic attempt at an apology I can think of. She’s also implied that it was a slip-up, a mistake of not thinking before she spoke. So this is something she says or thinks regularly? In our modern society, why would a phrase like that even come to mind? I can’t say I have ever had to pause before I spoke because I was worried that what I was about to say belonged in the 1930s American Deep South.

And let’s say she does find phrases like that commonplace in her language. Why would it not occur to you to filter that out in a public setting? More particularly, a televised setting that is supposed to be a place of debate for the whole of the UK? Even if she considered an acceptable word, surely she realised that other people wouldn’t be best pleased.

I don’t even think this is “political correctness gone mad”. The extent to which we should be PC is a tentative subject and where I stand is somewhere in the middle: we need to be mindful of the language we use as we become a more equal and liberal society, but some people like to be outraged for the sake of being outraged.

I’d like someone to try and argue that this is us being overprotective in our political correctness. There’s no mistaking that it is a word with a vile and violent history. Yes, it may have recently been appropriated, transformed and used amongst some people or in songs. To me, that’s irrelevant. She is, first and foremost, a white person so it is not her word to appropriate. Second of all, the phrase she used was intended to sound like an old saying (although I can’t be the only one who has never heard it before?). Something with origins in the past, like “butter wouldn’t melt” or “raining cats and dogs”. Except, you know, racist. Surprisingly enough, the phrases that come from the past are of their time, meaning that this one probably has racist undertones.

A quick Google search told me that it is thought to have originated at the time of the Underground Railroad, when slaves from the US South were escaping the North for freedom. Many apparently had to hide in woodpiles from the authorities to avoid being recaptured. How repulsive that a politician thought it was perfectly fine to make a reference to anything like that as though it held no meaning? I don’t care that the discussion was about the UK getting no deal in Brexit, and not a direct debate on race. It’s still ignorant and dismissive and makes me feel icky.

Yes, I am concluding this with ‘icky’ because the revulsion I feel can’t really be put into words. Just imagine someone shuddering and having to put down their coffee for a minute to make sure that she read the notification on her phone properly. Anne Marie Morris couldn’t allow me my first coffee of the day before making me angry, how disrespectful.

Joking aside though, Theresa May made the right decision to suspend her; how can we have someone like allowed to enter the political decisions that could determine our position with the EU? I only wait to see how long it is before she’s quietly allowed back in.

Best wishes,

Siobhán


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