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'I don’t have time to talk to white people about race'

MISSPEAKING: Amber Rudd has apologised for calling Diane Abbott a “coloured woman”

ONCE UPON a time when we were coloured it would have been quite acceptable to call us “coloured”, but for a government minister to describe black people as “coloured” in this day and age is a shocking reminder to those of us who are deluding ourselves that we are living in a parallel post-racial universe in which we can scrape off the black because it is no longer a burden in this multi-culti society, that we need our heads tested.

You wot, you wot, you wot, Adebayo?

Yes, that’s right. If old Sigmund was around today he would have dubbed it PTNS – post traumatic negro syndrome, this hankering to not be too militant in talking about race when white folks are around.

Like Reni Eddo-Lodge, I’m having to explain repeatedly why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race.

What’s the point, when the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd, sees us as “coloured” people as we were regarded in the 1950s and 1960s and once upon a time after we were so-called “negroes”?

EXAMPLE

I know Amber Rudd has apologised to Diane Abbott, Russ Abbott, Abbott and Costello and any other “Abbotts” that are listening for calling the Shadow Home Secretary a “coloured woman”, but as old Sigmund might say, ‘What you’ve got ‘ere mate, is a classic example of yer actual Freudian slip’ (you see what I did there?).

I mean, what was she thinking, I hear you ask. And, yes, I have thought about it over and over and over again (you see why I don’t have time to talk to white people about race when so much of my time is spent trying to figure out where one or two of their number are coming from with regards to race) and the only conclusion I can come to is that Amber Rudd, Angela Smith of Chuka Umunna’s so-called The Independent Group in parliament, who also talked of “funny tinged” people (is that coz we is black?) just a couple weeks back, and the entire cabal of out-of-touch politicians, are living back in the “darkie ages”.

Yes, back in the 1920s and ‘30s and ‘40s and ‘50s, back when we woz coloured. And, as far as they’re concerned, the times they are not a-changing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if Amber Rudd, Angela Smith or any of parliament’s “coloured people/funny-tinged people” mafia were living out in the sticks and genuinely hadn’t come across a black person since Elvis, I would find time to sit down and talk to them about race and why colour, the colours and “the coloureds” have got nothing to do with it.

In my sojourn as a national radio broadcaster I have a few times come across listeners who genuinely didn’t know any better.

This was of course in my early days on BBC Radio 5 Live when I was literally the only black person that some of my listeners had ever spoken to when they phoned in to go live on air.

I remember one old duffer, Neil in Cumbria (bless him), who cheerfully and respectfully told me that he met a “coloured” guy once.

Remember, this was 17 years ago. I could have rinsed him out and taken him to the cleaners. But he was such a pleasant old school chappie that I could genuinely hear how mortified he was when I said, ‘Errr, Neil me old duffer, I’m sure that ‘coloured’ chap would prefer to be called ‘black’ nowadays’.

I didn’t mean it as a chastisement, I genuinely didn’t, but I wanted to let him and everybody else listening know that when they buck-up on some “coloured” person they should err on the side of caution and refer to him/her as “black”.

So, I get it, it’s not because we don’t get it, why we no longer talk to white people about race. It’s not that we’re not prepared to cut Amber Rudd some slack when she talks of “coloured” women. After all, she is the MP for Hastings and Rye. She’s no Bernie Grant or David Lammy representing the BPRT (Black People’s Republic of Tottenham). However, when you dig a bit deeper into her background, you realise that she is from London.

GENERATION

Yes, she’s from the Black People’s Republic of the Capital. And, what’s more, she’s not a geriatric like Neil in Cumbria. Amber Rudd is 55 years old. In other words, she’s my generation. How on earth could she have navigated her way through the minefield that is London while even thinking at the back of her mind every time she bucked-up on a black person that we are actually “coloured”.

We must have been somewhere over her rainbow. You see, that’s what I don’t get about this, and the same goes for Angela Smith of The Independent Group or whatever they’re going to call themselves this week or next.

Imagine her going to Jamaica on behalf of Chuka Umunna and “misspeaking” the Jamaican national motto as “out of many (you lot are) one funny tinge”. She’s the MP for Sheffield for goodness sake!

The last time I looked there were no “funny tinges” amongst the city’s people of African and Asian descent.

Anybody who does not know how to talk about race cannot be trusted with black national interests such as work, pensions and (please God) education or any other portfolio of state.

It was Professor Paul Gilroy who coined the phrase “there ain’t no black in the Union Jack”. You cannot help wondering how resonant that is when you look at the national symbols of this sceptr’d isle through the eyes of Shakespeare and, not least, in the otherwise excellent production of the bard’s Richard II at the Sam Wanamaker playhouse in London, part of the Globe Theatre complex, literally a stone’s throw away form Shakespeare’s original theatre on the Southbank.

It is an all woman and all “women of colour” production. Which begs the question, where and how does the black woman fit in to “women of colour” and enter that discourse?

Why cannot black women be black?

Why could not Adjoa Andoh’s Richard II have been a ground-breaking black production?

Did the funding it needed demand that it should be a cornucopia of ethnicities?

And do we not have to find some sympathy for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in that, if “women of colour” is good enough for Shakespeare 400 years on, Diane Abbott should be forgiving of her for “misspeaking” if not mistaking black women for “coloured”, however outdated that term is?

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