Labour MPs have accused Priti Patel of using her own experiences of racism to gaslight Black people in the UK.
The Home Secretary, who was born in London to parents of Ugandan Asian descent, reacted forcefully to suggestions in the Commons she did not recognise the feelings of anger fuelling the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Patel said she was “saddened” that the Government was being accused of not understanding racial inequality, adding:
“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; and a different Home Secretary who was recently characterised in The Guardian—if I may say so, Madam Deputy Speaker—as a fat cow with a ring through its nose, something that was not only racist but offensive, both culturally and religiously. “
Patel went on: “This is hardly an example of respect, equality, tolerance or fairness, 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 a letter sent to Patel on Thursday, 32 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Labour MPs took issue with the Home Secretary’s words.
The letter said: “We write to you as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic 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.”
It went on to say that person experiences “do not allow us to define, silence or impede on the feelings that other minority groups may face.”
“Being a person of colour does not automatically make you an authority on all forms of racism.”
The MPs asked Patel to “reflect on your words and to consider the impact it had towards black communities in the UK trying to highlight their voices against racism.”
Posting the letter on Twitter, Patel said she was “sad” to have received the correspondence.
“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.”
Reacting to the letter, Conservative MP James Cleverly, whose mother comes from Sierra Leone, told ICYMI News: “Being told to hush up and know your place isn’t any less offensive just because it comes from BAME people.”