I have something of a thorny issue on my mind this morning. As you’ll read here, ”A Labour MP has accused police of racially profiling her after she was stopped while travelling in a car in east London.” Dawn Butler says the MET stopped her car because she and the man driving it were black. They incorrectly inputted the car’s numberplate into their database and thought it came from Yorkshire.
Now, of course I don’t know all the ins and outs of the case, but you have to raise an eyebrow at the way Butler seems to automatically assume this issue was a racial one. There are many reasons why the police might stop a car, but for butler to make such an accusation seems a bit like she is politicising the incident; tapping into a current issue and reducing it down to a case of straightforward racial persecution, when things might not be that simple. I daresay doing so also gets her a bit of media attention, potentially helping to get her out of trouble.
On the other hand, that is exactly what Tory London Mayor candidate Shaun Bailey accused her of. Now, here’s where things get a bit thorny: on Twitter, Bailey – himself a black man – said the police were not racist, and that they should be given the resources to carry out their duties effectively. ”Instead of political attacks, let’s improve relations between police and the communities they serve.” In essence, he was telling Butler to just pipe down, at the same time insinuating that this was all Labour’s fault for underfunding the MET. Had such a comment come from the usual straight, white male Tory Candidate, of course it would have been sickeningly patronising; but because Bailey is black he can get away with it.
That’s obviously why the Tories selected him as their candidate for Mayor: they know London is too cosmopolitain and tolerant – too much of a World City – to fall for their right-wing, short sighted bullshit. So in an effort to seem open and inclusive, they offer us a black guy as a prospective leader. Bailey doesn’t even seem to realise he is being used: as soon as he’s elected, the Tories would insist he implements their usual draconian, repressive policies. According to him, everyone should just accept what the cops say, even though they might be being racist.
This Tweet shows just that. Hell, it could even have been ghost written by someone like Gove or Rees-Mogg. It is dripping with the same patronising authoritarianism we get from the tories. Thus while Butler may have been too quick to assume she was stopped due to the colour of her skin, Bailey was too quick to assume she wasn’t. After all, there is no denying that racial profiling is indeed a problem: determining whether it happened in this case, whether Dawn Butler tried to capitalise upon it as a current topic for her own political gain, or whether Shaun Bailey had a right to accuse her of doing so, is where the issue gets thorny.