A recent controversy has erupted in the United Kingdom after a serving Labour MP, Diane Abbott, was suspended from the party pending an investigation.
Abbott had claimed that Jewish people do not suffer racism, but rather experience prejudice similar to redheads.
She argued that racism and prejudice are often used as if they are interchangeable, despite their significant differences.
Her comments were widely condemned as deeply offensive and wrong, with many organizations including the Jewish Voice for Labour and Friends, Families and Travellers denouncing them as utterly inexcusable.
In her letter, titled “Racism is black and white,” Abbott admitted that minorities including Jewish people and the traveling community “undoubtedly experience prejudice,” but claimed this is not the same as racism.
“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice,” she wrote.
“In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and travelers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships,” she added, stating that racism and prejudice are mistakenly “often used as if they are interchangeable.”
However, Labour Party officials were quick to distance themselves from Abbott’s comments, describing them as deeply offensive and wrong. They promptly suspended her whip, leaving Abbott to sit as an independent MP in the House of Commons.
Abbott later tweeted to apologize for any anguish caused and claimed that her comments were an initial draft that was sent in error.
This isn’t the first time Abbott has courted controversy with her remarks. She has previously spoken out about the treatment of former ISIS bride Shamima Begum and suggested that the rape of a teenage boy at a hotel accommodating asylum seekers in northeast London was what happens when you demonize migrants.
Abbott was the former shadow home secretary during Jeremy Corbyn’s time as leader of the opposition and is a close compatriot of the former hard-left Labour leader.
Her comments have reignited the debate on the differences between racism and prejudice, and the need for greater understanding and sensitivity towards marginalized communities.