For a few seconds last week, Diane Abbott, the first elected Black female MP in the U.K., forgot that she was a politician and became sistergirl Diane when commenting on the highly publicized Stephen Lawrence murder verdict on Twitter. In an exchange with British journalist Bim Adewunmi, Abbott wrote, “White people love playing divide and rule. We should not play their game.” And with the click of her mouse, she set a frenzy that days later resulted in calls for her resignation, endless television news segments and several calls to the Metropolitan Police demanding she be brought in for racial harassment charges.
Now, whether you agree with Abbott’s perspective or not, this was a discussion that should have been left for the kitchen table — not Twitter. As a woman of color, I understood what she was saying, as did many other people of color in this country, but it is impossible to discuss issues of race and colonialism in 140 characters or less without missing a vital point or two and pissing someone off. Did Abbott forget that she has over 35,000 followers and that all eyes are on her all of the time? Right after sending her “divide and rule” comment, she sent another Tweet ending in “#dontwashdirtylineninpublic.” Perhaps she should have taken her own advice before letting her emotions rule over basic logic.
Now, I could go on about the outrageous response that this ignited in the British community only a day after the Stephen Lawrence verdict was announced. Were her Tweets sloppy and irresponsible — yes. Is she a racist — absolutely not. And it’s completely laughable that she was even called such a term in what became a subtle tit-for-tat game of “who’s more of a racist “only one day after justice was found for the life of a young black teenager who was murdered in what was clearly a racist attack over 18 years ago. It certainly speaks volumes to the bubbling issues of race that no one wants to discuss in this country.
Abbott has since apologized and even posted a recent Tweet stating that her comments were “taken out of context and that the complexities of her argument could not have been explained in 140 characters.” Well, perhaps she should have thought about that before-hand. Oh Diane …
For more on this fiasco, read here: