I feel like I’m just repeating myself.
March, 2019. Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was being asked about online trolling and abuse of female polititians. She replied that it “definitely is worse if you’re a woman. And it’s worst of all if you’re a coloured woman. I know that Diane Abbott gets a huge amount of abuse, and I think that’s something we need to continue to call out.”
Just as I said when Angela Smith made her “funny tinge” comment, to put this in context, I’ve heard a lot worse and been called a lot worse things than coloured! But, referring to people as coloured is at best outdated, at worst pretty fucking offensive really.
Of course Amber Rudd immediatey issued an apology. She was “mortified at her clumsy language.” Other commentators leapt to her defence. “What’s the problem?” they cried. “It’s political correcness gone mad,” they wailed. “It’s so hard to keep up with all this PC nonsense,” they belched from behind a mouthful of cheese an onion crisps (the most Brexit of all crisps).
Well here’s why all of those people need to get in the fucking bin.
Describing people as “coloured” isn’t clumsy or old-fashioned. It’s a call-back to when racism was part of people’s everyday lived experience. Coloured meant and still means non-white. Think about that – there’s white, and then there’s everyone else. White is the default, the norm, and then everyone else is “other.”
Coloured was and is a derogatory term, a racial slur, used to perpetuate segregation and poor treatment of anyone not white. Speaking of which, let’s not forget, Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary over the Windrush Scandal in 2018 after “inadvertently (cough)” misleading MPs over targets for removing illegal immigrants.
It’s plausible that if you live in Midsomer and have somehow avoided being murdered, you might still think that coloured is okay. You might be confused by which terms are acceptable and which terms aren’t, I get that. But it’s really easy to find out. Here I am now, telling you that coloured is not okay. Half-caste is definitely not fucking okay. Black is fine.
People of colour is also different to coloured people. I’m not personally a fan, but it’s different to coloured because it’s a descriptor chosen by the people in question, rather than one that has been ascribed to them for nefarious reasons. The first-person terminology also suggests that the people are more important than the characteristic describing them.
So now you know. But you could have easily found that all out yourselves, right?
Please don’t call me coloured. I’m asking nicely. If you still want to because you don’t see anything wrong with it, and it’s just what you were taught, then that, my friend, makes you a shithead. And if you’re not from Midsomer, and definitely if you’re a cabinet minister in the 21st century, then you don’t have an excuse.
“Describing people as “coloured” isn’t clumsy or old-fashioned. It’s a call-back to when racism was part of people’s everyday lived experience.”
The worst thing about all of this though, isn’t necessarily Rudd’s use of the term, it was the fact that it was, quite possibly, entirely premeditated. Whether it was Amber Rudd’s call or not, it’s possible and probable that it was done on purpose. Here’s how this goes…
You say something that seems supportive, but is actually a backhanded insult. The key here is plausible deniability. You were just trying to say something nice, you were actually defending Dianne Abbott, but you just used “clumsy” language.
“No one should suffer abuse because of their race,” you say, at the same time using “coloured” to describe another person. As detached from reality as Rudd and her colleagues are, I refuse to believe for one second that they don’t understand how loaded that term is.
Perhaps she meant to say “funny tinged?” Anyway, Rudd is the victim now. “Look at everyone, piling in on me just because I used coloured to describe black people.”
Enter stage right, hordes of gammon: “It’s political correctness gone mad.” “Typical Abbott, playing the race card.”
You sit back and watch as your support grows. An outpouring of salty sympathy from swathes of middle-aged, mail-reading, golliwog collectors. “You can’t say anything these days. You can’t even say ‘blackboard’.”
And the worst thing, the worst thing, is that Rudd, or whoever came up with this, thinks we’re all too stupid to know it was done entirely on purpose. Deliberately stirring up racism, and creating further divides in a country already on a knife edge.
When people express their casual racism, they haven’t ‘slipped up’ or made a ‘gaffe’. They haven’t misspoken. They’ve revelaed an underlying level of conscious, or often unconscious racism. And it fucking stinks.
But here they come! The gammon are coming! The gammon are coming!