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White woman representing BAME issues is a slap in the face

REPRESENTATION: Members of East Ham CLP including Donna Guthrie (Photo credit: Twitter @EastHamLabour)

SO A white woman has been selected to represent BAME women at a constituency Labour Party. Yes, let’s let that sink in for a moment.

Taking place at East Ham's Labour branch last Saturday - an area particularly known for its diversity and high population of BAME residents - it was decided that this woman would be selected as women’s officer on its Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) forum - a move which divided opinion and understandably so.

For many, they felt this appointment was a direct attack on the black community. A member of the forum, Donna Guthrie explained: “Black activists are being made to sit at the back of the bus in our own networks.

"The fact that a white British woman could think it’s acceptable to stand, let alone be elected, is telling of the state of race relations in the local Labour Party where there is now no African or Caribbean representation amongst constituency officer positions."

Our community is still in a hostile tentative period. Whilst the Windrush scandal has been externally resolved, following May’s rather pathetic attempt at a ‘sincere’ apology and the Government’s pledge to rectify its appalling treatment of the Windrush Generation, not much has really changed.

None of the hostile environment legislation introduced by May has been repealed.Those who lost their jobs, were denied healthcare or were made homeless have not received individual letters of apology.

It’s no wonder a number of black Brits are left with little hope and are concerned about their futures.

As MP David Lammy said: “Justice must mean not only due compensation and reparation, but changes to the institution and immigration laws that created this crisis.”

This is why the need for black representation in politics is paramount. Not white women representing black women, but black women representing black women. This is key to ensure our voices and concerns are not just heard, but acted upon and taken gravely.

My next issue with this appointment, is the minimisation of black people's feelings, known to many as the racial empathy gap.

East Ham CLP's secretary, Syed Taqi Shah denied the branch had any kind of problem because there are still a number of non-white members, like himself serving, in key positions of office. He said: "If there was a problem, I would not have been elected."

This approach to issues of diversity - specifically pertaining to black people - is all too familiar. We are often told that we can not think there is a problem because *insert a peripheral unrelated piece of information that supposedly disproves our point* or, we can not feel hurt because *insert a sad excuse of denying the intentionality of their comment*.

If I think there is a problem, there’s a problem. If I feel hurt, I am hurt and my feelings are not invalidated just because you feel differently.

The problem in this case is simple. A white woman, is not indicative, nor will be able to relate to the plight of black and Asian women in London. Thus, her being appointed as a representative of us is neither accurate, nor fair.

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