We need to talk about Priti Patel. Specifically we need to talk about what happened to her last week. In an emotional statement in the House of Commons, Patel talked about some of the racist abuse she has experienced, from being called a ‘P**i’ in the school playground to being depicted as a cow with a ring through its nose in the Guardian. (Patel is a Hindu, and the cow is a sacred symbol in Hinduism.)
She did so in response to the claim made by Labour MP Florence Eshalomi that the government doesn’t understand the problem of racial inequality. After recounting her run-ins with prejudicial hatred, Patel said: ‘I will not take lectures [on racism] from the other side of the House.’
How did the supposedly anti-racist left respond to Patel’s comments? Did they offer her solidarity as a victim of racism? Did they cheer her for bravely discussing some of the racist bile that has been thrown her way?
No. They mocked her. They insulted her. They accused her of ‘gaslighting’ black people and essentially told her to shut up about her personal experiences. It was, to my mind, one of the most disturbing, and revealing, things we have seen from the contemporary left in recent times.
Let’s consider the seriousness of this: an MP talked openly about the racism and sexism she has suffered and she was told to pipe down, to stop being manipulative, to know her place, essentially. The Labour MP Nadia Whittome was first out of the gate. She accused Patel of using ‘her identity as an Asian person to silence Flo Eshalomi as a black person’.
A group of Labour MPs, led by Naz Shah, followed up with a letter chastising Patel. They expressed their ‘dismay’ at Patel’s comments, accusing her of ‘using’ her ‘heritage and experiences of racism’ to silence the discussion about racism against black people.