P Is For Political Correctness

PI’ve neglected my Moron Alphabet series of blog posts for a little while, but today’s news gives me an opportunity to continue. So here we are at the letter P.

In 1987, Diane Abbott achieved the distinction of being the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons, representing a poor, racially mixed area of east London. She still serves as a Labour MP, and is generally on the left of the party. Originally a hero of the left, she burnished her radical credentials by deciding to send her son to a private school, rather than to a local comprehensive as her Labour principles would dictate.

In recent years, I’ve found myself in the strange position of supporting much of what Abbott says, but wincing at her apparent inability to argue her views convincingly. She says the right things to sound radical, but doesn’t sound convinced that she believes (or understands) everything she says. I guess I’d class myself a reluctant supporter; it would have been good to see someone with Abbott’s views win the Labour leadership contest; but not necessarily Abbott herself.

So anyway, yesterday Abbott tweeted someone as follows:

White people love playing ‘divide & rule’

And of course, the standard debate ensued: was this racist? Was it justified? Should she resign? Is this discussion a symptom of “political correctness gone mad”? And so on…

My favourite white racist Twitter morons all exploded with (faux) outrage: “why is it OK to say such a thing about white people and not black people?” These people are a lot of fun to mock usually, but the problem is: this time they have a point. I doubt that Abbott is a racist, but it’s true that if a white MP had said “Black people love…” followed by something negative, they would be publicly shredded as racists.

More nonsensical were the justifications I saw from her supporters. Apparently, it’s OK to say bad things about all white people, because back in history, some white people did terrible things. Presumably it’s also a historical fact that black people love… nah, I think I’ll leave that one there.

This, to me, is the worst of “liberal” thinking. An argument in a blog post I saw went roughly like this: “The Belgian Empire treated Tutsis better than Hutus, resulting in the Rwandan genocide. Therefore Diane is right”. Let’s break this down:

  1. It’s very sadly true that the Belgians, or more accurately, King Leopold II of Belgium, ran commercial ventures in Africa involving genocidal behaviour that was responsible for millions of deaths.
  2. King Leopold and his people in Africa all had white-ish skin (not true, black people were involved too, but let’s not get bogged down in detail).
  3. Rule in the Belgian Empire (in the area now occupied by Rwanda, Burundi and DRC) was partly maintained by raising some tribes above others in status – also known as “divide and rule” or “divide and conquer”.
  4. I have white-ish skin too (not an identical colour to King Leopold’s, no doubt, but close enough to call us both “white”).
  5. Therefore, Diane Abbott can link me to genocidal behaviour carried out a century ago by King Leopold II.

Racist or not, the idea that it’s “historically truthful” that white people are good at divide and rule is a wonderful piece of nonsense. Divide and rule is a classic political strategy used by successful leaders in every part of the world at some point. Furthermore, divide and rule is rife in modern-day African politics, probably more than anywhere else. African politics are intensely tribal; most African leaders can fairly be accused of favouring their own tribe above others, and sowing division between tribes when it suits them, as so often happens.

So it turns out that black poeple are good at divide and rule too!

Let’s see if we can deal with this mathematically:

  • White people are good at divide and rule. Black people are good at divide and rule.

Since this doesn’t apply to all white or all black people, we can improve this as follows:

  • Some white people are good at divide and rule. Some black people are good at divide and rule.

Now we can simplify:

  • Some (black/white people) are good at divide and rule.

And (assuming this also applies to other races too) we can reduce this to:

  • Some people are good at divide and rule!

We’ve discovered a new fact about mankind, to be filed along with “some people are prone to violence” and “some people like apples”.

Somehow, the moronic self-censorship we call political correctness has led liberal-minded anti-racists to accept some forms of racism as OK – or at least, less bad than other forms. If it’s OK for black people to link white people with the evils of Empire, can I link all native Americans to the human sacrifice carried out by Mayan society? And black people sure have a lot of explaining to do over the behaviour of Idi Amin and countless other black mass-murderering leaders.

By defending Abbott’s little racial slip as somehow “more valid” than if a white person said it (based on false “historical accuracy”), all racists win. I’ve always fought against racist morons like the National Front and the British National Party who attack Jewish, black and Asian people. Why would I then accept racism from black people as OK? Racism is either acceptable or it’s not – it’s really that simple.

11 thoughts on “P Is For Political Correctness”

  1. I don’t think that Dianne Abbott meant ALL white people at alll. As you know, Twitter is a 140 character-constrained medium – meaning can be (and is often) misconstrued.

    But historically Western Europeans (whites, if you like) have had the upper-hand colonially. And, as you point out, this was done using classic “divide and rule” techniques as always.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most diverse and minerally wealthy continent on the planet is the poorest and the most violent. Western corporations (and their respective governments) have an interest in keeping it that way – it keeps labour costs down and allows them to siphon off most of the wealth.

    Perhaps she should have said “Western corporations love playing divide & rule”. And who heads up them (and their respective governments)?

    I think she’s been taken too literally.

    1. My genuine question to you is: if (let’s say) Nadine Dorries had said “Black people like…” followed by something negative; can you imagine any ending to that sentence you would find acceptable?

    2. the fact is divide and rule is a technique used by human beings to gain control-simple. to link it to any race ,gender,group etc is ignorant and perpetuates more divisiveness. her influential public position demands more mindful speech

  2. I like your style of argument. On the subject of whether Dianne Abbot was racist I can only say I was not offended by her remarks. I think they may be silly and her ideas half-baked but I doubt she meant offence and as I say none was taken by me.

    Just one question from me (albeit very silly). Who would win in a fight between Aiden Burley (Tory MP with a penchant for Nazi-themed nights out) and Dianne Abbot (Labour MP with silly views)? I think the public has a right to know the answer to this question.

  3. Hyper pedantic point – but Rwanda was a German colony when all the very worst stuff went on the Congo Free State. Thereafter it was a Belgian mandate.

    So, the Germans were to blame. Like most things.

  4. I believe you’re referring to Dorian Lynskey. If so, why did you fail to mention that he criticised Diane Abbott’s ‘careless oversimplification’? It’s all very well pulling an argument apart, but it’s less impressive when you cherry pick the bits you want to critique.

    I believe the main thrust of his argument was that there is – in terms of real impact – a prevalent prejudice in our society that is white on black.

    What Diane Abbott said was thoughtless and counterproductive, but if the extent of anyone’s exposure to ‘racist’ treatment today is getting willfully enraged by a tweet then I put it to you that you that they are much better off than many who have to deal with actual prejudice, overt or otherwise, daily. I’ll take a blundering microblog over stop and search any day of the week.

  5. Isn’t this just a simple case of unfortunate and perhaps accidental generalisation on behalf of abbot? As a former history student the crimes of the Nazis were often described in books and by lecturers as crimes committed by Germans. Does this imply racism or just a general (if not unfair) turn of phrase?

    Just because abbot refers to colonial powers as white people does not imply racism in my book, It is a fact. They were white, they did play ‘divide and rule’ to the detriment of the nations they invaded. It is an unfair generalisation but it is not racist

  6. Excellent article. I usually like Dianne but was very unimpressed with her moronic comment. She really should read this.

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