Kwasi Kwarteng: Don’t be distracted by outrage over Rupa Huq’s ‘superficially Black’ comments

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Rupa Huq, as an Asian MP, should not have called Kwasi Kwarteng “superficially Black” and it’s right that she has now apologised.

Now, we should all move on because this is a distraction from the bigger issues afoot – such as how the economic crisis and Kwarteng’s mini budget is disproportionately affecting marginalised communities around the UK, including the Black people that everyone’s suddenly happy to advocate for.

In audio published online today, Huq can be heard discussing Kwarteng’s elite school background during a fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on Monday, before adding that “you wouldn’t know he is Black” when listening to him on the radio.

At no point in what we’ve heard does Huq appear to make this point because of his party’s policies, so you’d be forgiven for translating her remarks as “he’s not Black enough because he’s well educated and speaks in a particular way”. It is reasonable to question whether Huq meant that to be Black is to be dense or poorly educated – which would be very offensive indeed.

Unfortunately, many people, from all walks of life, hold this narrow-minded view of Black people… only they say it at the kitchen table and not openly at a conference. This, in the context of rife Afriphobia within some Asian communities, is alarming.

Has Huq ever referred to Suella Braverman or Rishi Sunak as “superficially Indian”, or Sajid Javid as “superficially Pakistani”? Something to discuss.

Kwarteng has, in his own words, long detached himself from Black communities up and down the country, so he doesn’t need defending in this instance. He’s okay. If anything, he’s laughing now because this all provides a deflection from discussion about his failings on the economy early doors. Result.

Labour’s decision to suspend Huq has been welcomed by many. Personally, I don’t think that this debacle – or the performative allyship we’re seeing in response – helps Black people at all. No one cares like this for the majority of the time – people will just move on.

Is it important to call out Huq’s remarks? Absolutely. But it’s also essential to remember that racism didn’t end when Huq was successfully dragged on social media and then suspended from Labour; further battles lay ahead.

Much of the outrage around her ill-judged remarks seems disingenuous, because it feels as though few people actually care about Black people’s humanity.

How many of those condemning Huq today consistently and proactively support Black people in raising their voices – and help tackle the very real issues that our communities face on a daily basis?

I’ve watched with interest as figures from across the political spectrum have swiftly condemned Huq’s comments – and recoiled in horror as those who have not previously proved themselves allies of Black people in any way, shape or form, have waded into the discussion.

Conservative politicians are in uproar over these comments while presiding over policies that disadvantage Black people – the same party which has been subject to an inquiry into Islamophobia in its own ranks.

Just months ago, Nusrat Ghani said she was sacked from her cabinet job over her “Muslimness”; the Tories backed PM Boris Johnson who referred to Black people using slurs such as “piccaninnies” and just elected various cabinet ministers with a history of making divisive statements on race.

These politicians are now judge, jury and executioner on what is and isn’t racist?

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is actively dealing with mutiny from its own Black MPs over the Forde report, which found that anti-Black racism is prevalent. The party’s shadow cabinet is lacking in diversity and only four Black men have been elected as Labour MPs since 1987. So, its own house is not in order either.

The establishment’s critique of Huq looks like little more than cynical opportunism while racial disparities remain entrenched in society – and concerns of this are not being adequately addressed within political parties themselves.

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More pointedly, it’s a diversion from a malfunctioning government that is failing to serve all communities as it is duty bound to. I fear it will give closet racists fodder to create false equivalences.

Guido Fawkes, the platform that broke the story, has itself criticised left-wing journalists for being “woke”.

This has become a political, point-scoring mess that’s getting far more attention than is warranted – for, in my opinion – the wrong reasons. I won’t be giving it another moment of my time. There are more important things to focus on.