UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, who had recently shared her experience about facing racial abuse while growing up in Britan, has said that she will not be “silenced” by the Labour Party MPs. The opposition has accused Ms Patel of using her Indian heritage to “gaslight” the “very real racism” faced by communities in Britain.
In a statement in the House of Commons earlier this week, the Indian-origin cabinet minister had spoken about her personal experience of racial abuse while growing up as an ethnic minority in the UK.
A group of 12 ethnic minority Labour Party parliamentarians, including Indian-origin Virendra Sharma, Tan Dhesi, Preet Kaur Gill, Valerie Vaz, Seema Malhotra and Nadia Whittome, wrote to Priti Patel on Thursday saying, “Being a person of colour does not automatically make you an authority on all forms of racism”.
“We write to you as Black Asian and Ethnic Minority Labour MPs to highlight our dismay at the way you used your heritage and experiences of racism to gaslight the very real racism faced by Black people and communities across the UK,” the MPs wrote.
Gaslighting refers to a form of psychological manipulation where seeds of doubt are planted against a particular idea.
In response to the letter, Priti Patel on Twitter said, “I will not be silenced by @UKLabour MPs who continue to dismiss the contributions of those who don’t conform to their view of how ethnic minorities should behave.”
A day after clashes broke out between Black Lives Matter protesters and police officers, Ms Patel had condemned the violence perpetrated by a minority of protesters in an address in the House of Commons.
Ms Patel retaliated with references to her own experiences whe an Opposition Labour Party MP questioned whether she fully understood the “anger and frustration” felt by anti-racism demonstrators protesting against the brutal killing of African-American George Floyd in police custody in US.
The minister, born to Gujarati-origin parents who fled Uganda for the UK when dictator Idi Amin expelled Asians from the African country in the early 1970s, said: “On that basis, it must have been a very different Home Secretary who as a child was frequently called a Paki in the playground; a very different Home Secretary who was racially abused in the streets or even advised to drop her surname and use her husband’s in order to advance her career… so when it comes to racism, sexism, tolerance or social justice, I will not take lectures from the those other side of the House.”
In their complaint letter, the group of 12 Labour MPs demand that Patel “reflect” on her words and the impact it had towards black communities in the UK.
“Structures of racism, hatred and equality have many layers and therefore, whilst it is true, there are some experiences of racism that we all face, there are also some experiences of racism that we all do not face,” reads the letter.