Once again, the issue of representation politics has come up in the leadership contest for the next Conservative party leader and possible future prime minister, with Black and Brown Tories placing themselves as contenders. Consequently, a flurry of tweets on a theme from the past about how Britain’s Black and Brown communities should be grateful for said representation has reared its ugly heads.
We have seen this before with the Rwanda deportation fights, the Nationality and Borders Bill, the shambolic (
sewage) Sewell Report, and the continuing injustice of the Windrush scandal (all of which were spearheaded by Black and Brown MPs). It is no coincidence that non-White people actively champion these policies. White supremacy is always more palatable when administered by Black people instead of White people. It allows the government of the day to hide the institutional racism of the state and continue to implement policies that disempower, oppress, and harm Black communities while using the mask of a Black face against White racism.
It is true that Britain’s Non-White communities are far from a monolithic racial group, and I do not claim to be the leader who speaks for “the community.” However, we must never be complicit with those who will harm our communities, despite any similarities we share with them racially and ethnically. For example, I am not proud that our Asian home secretary deports desperate Black and Brown people from the Global South to their deaths or allows innocent refugees to drown in our waters; nor of the former Asian home secretary that played into the most debased stereotypes about Asian men having a propensity for sexual crimes, tweeting about “sick Asian paedophiles;” nor of the Black equalities minister’s active anti-Blackness and hostility to the reality of structural racism and LGBTQ+ rights; and nor of the former Asian education minister’s criticism of universities and schools as “woke” simply for discussing slavery and colonialism in schools (see teaching history). No one should feel ashamed to call out blatantly racist practices, irrespective of the race of the person that advocates for that practice.
This process of racial gatekeeping is old wine in a new bottle. For instance, there needed to be Black people in South Afrika who sided with White racists for apartheid to continue; for Black people in America who sided with White oppresses for segregation and Jim Crow to flourish; and for Black and Brown people in Britain to side with White racists for segregation and the color bar to prevail in the UK. We should not celebrate an intently hostile government that implements policies aggressive to racialized communities simply because it is “diverse.” Naturally, White liberals have fallen victim to this, with a constant desire to highlight that “politics aside,” we now have the most ethnically diverse cabinet in history–which is correct. Yet, it is currently the most racist government in modern British politics.
Your identity only matters in terms of whether you are fighting to improve the actual material conditions of the people who share your identity–the ones you claim to “represent.” We must remember that if we are fighting for greater ethnic representation, without understanding what it is for, we shall end up with photo opportunities and not equal opportunities.