'Mistaken' for staff: Non-white British parliamentarians call out racism

One in 10 of 650 MPs are now from an ethnic minority background, compared with one in 40 a decade ago

Afp January 13, 2020
New London MP for Labour party Abena Oppong-Asare. PHOTO COURTESY: THE GUARDIAN

LONDON: Britain's new parliament may be the most diverse in its history but black and ethnic minority MPs say there is much room for improvement.

Abena Oppong-Asare, a new London MP for the opposition Labour party, this weekend revealed her eye-opening experiences on arriving at Westminster following last month's election.

She said she was chatting to another MP in parliament when a counterpart from the governing Conservative party "walked straight to me to put his bag in my hands, asking me to look after it".

On Twitter, she also recalled how in her first week someone confused her with another black MP.

When she corrected him, "he raised his eyebrows and said, wow there (are) more of you".

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"I'm thinking I might need to write my name on my forehead as I think some people are really struggling to tell the difference," she tweeted.

She added the hashtag: "#Thisiswhyrepresentationmatters."
The revelation came four years after prominent black Labour MP Dawn Butler made headlines by describing how an unnamed lawmaker suggested she leave a lift reserved for MPs.

"This lift really isn't for cleaners," she was told.

In response to Oppong-Asare's tweets, a number of other MPs wrote back in sympathy.

"Girl, I also got confused for another black sista MP as we were coming out of the voting lobby," said Florence Eshalomi, another new London Labour lawmaker.

"But I have to admit it was by a fellow Labour MP. Guess we all need to wear massive name tags right."

Labour MP Rupa Huq said she had been mistaken for several colleagues by lawmakers of different parties and House of Commons staff.

One in 10 of the 650 MPs are now from an ethnic minority background, compared with one in 40 a decade ago, according to the British Future think-tank.

In the wake of the December 2019 election, there are now 41 non-white Labour MPs, 22 Conservatives and two Liberal Democrats—37 of them women.


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