Recently I wrote a Facebook post that got a little bit of attention. The gist of it was that Tories are the baddies.
Somewhat Entirely predictably, a significant proportion of the responses to me outlining the many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many reasons why Tories are the baddies, were from people saying: “But look at Diane Abbott. She’s a bit stupid, isn’t she?”
As well-constructed, erudite, and witty a retort as that may be, it’s also entirely evidence-free and an example of the inherent racism (and sexism) that has become so normal that most people can’t even see it.
When it’s suggested that Diane Abbott is unfairly targeted because she is a black woman, the response is invariably “It’s nothing to do with her being black. Why do you have to always play the race card?”
Well, my friends, we can only ever play the cards that we’ve been dealt. So maybe shut your pie-hole and just listen for a second.
The charge against Diane Abbott is that she’s stupid and incompetent because she messed up some numbers in an interview in 2017.
And I get it. If you’re the Shadow Home Secretary, you should know your numbers if you’re going to go on television and talk about policy. That’s a fair comment.
As it turns out, she was ill at the time, later revelaing she had been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetic hypoglycemia – essentially low blood sugar – can cause confusion, anxiety, drowsiness, and slurred speech, among other things. But apparently that’s not good enough an excuse for an admittedly poor performance during that interview.
And she is far from stupid. You don’t come from a working class, immigrant background and get a history degree from Cambridge without having a little bit of smarts.
You see, what’s happened with Diane Abbott is that there has been an almost constant and entirely disproportionate focus on her perceived mistakes because she has the unfortunate double-whammy of being black and a woman.
This is intersectional discrimination at its most obvious. Intersectional discrimination is discrimination based upon multiple social identities (like race, gender, disability, social class) in combination.
So you can say it’s not because she’s black, and point to non-black MPs that you criticise. And you can say it’s not because she’s a woman, and point to examples of male MPs that you criticise.
But you’d be ignoring the interscting identities of being black and being a woman that produce a unique form of discrimination. Thank god she’s not lesbian with a disability as well. Jesus, can you imagine the memes!?
It’s entirely possible that you don’t think that’s why she receives so much negative attention, and I’m not saying you, dear reader, personally discriminate against her because of those things. No one is accusing you of being racist or sexist – take a breath and calm yourself.
But the fact remains that she absolutely has been discriminated against because of those things. And public opinion of her has absolutely been influenced by that misogynoir.
In the run up to the 2017 General Election, Abbott received the most abusive tweets of any MP, according to research by Amnesty International. Not only that, but she also received 10 times more abuse than any other woman MP – a somewhat staggering 45% of all abusive tweets against women.
Now ask yourself, were her perceived errors 10 times as egregious as anyone else’s? Like honestly?
In a 2019 appearance on BBC Question time, Abbot was interrupted 21 times by host Fiona Bruce, compared to only nine interruptions for Rory ‘Tory’ Stewart and eight for Kirsty Blackman (SNP). In fact, audience members took to social media to complain about the unfairness of the discussion and alleged that disparaging comments were made before filming, creating a hostile environment for Abbott.
So why is she deserving of this tag of incompetence and the abuse that goes with it, while there’s a long list of utter disasters from other people that seem to go unnoticed?
Let’s look at some of her competitors:
Dominic Raab – The Brexit Secretary who didn’t understand that the Dover-Calais crossing might be important.
Chris Grayling – The Transport Minister who awarded £14m contract to shipping company that had no ships, that ended up costing the government £50million.
Nicky Morgan – The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport who can’t (or won’t, more likely) grasp that 50,000 new nurses aren’t new if 18,000 of them already exist.
James Cleverly – Chairman of the Conservative Party who tried and failed to defend edited videos of Kier Starmer, and the rebranding of the conservative Twitter account as an independent fact checking service.
Jacob Rees-Mogg – Leader of the house of Commons who said that those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire lacked the common sense to avoid dying. The same Leader of the House of Commons who retweeted a video from the far-right AfD.
Angela Smith – The ex-Labour MP who referred to people from BAME backgrounds as being “funny tinged.”
And have we all forgotten that David Cameron fucked a pig (allegedly)? Did we just forget that David Cameron fucked a pig (allegedly)? Does anyone remember that David Cameron fucked a pig (allegedly)?
Like an actual pig though (allegedly)?
But yeah, sure. Diane Abbott’s unfit to be an MP.