'I will not be silenced': Priti Patel hits back after Labour MPs accuse her of using 'experiences of racism' to 'gaslight other minorities'

Ewan Somerville
PRU/AFP via Getty Images

Priti Patel has said she "will not be silenced" after dozens of Labour MPs accused her of "gaslighting" other ethnic minorities after speaking out on her experiences of racism.

The Home Secretary accused Labour MPs of "dismissing the contributions of those who don't conform to their view of how ethnic minorities should behave".

A group of 32 Labour MPs wrote to her on Thursday saying she should "consider the impact" she had on black communities when she refuted criticism over her comments on Black Lives Matter protests.

The race row was sparked after Florence Eshalomi, the Labour MP for Vauxhall, suggested Ms Patel had failed to understand the "anger and frustration" felt by people of colour when she criticised "thuggery" during violent skirmishes at Black Lives Matter protests last weekend.

She replied in the Commons: “Well, 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.

(PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

“A different Home Secretary recently characterised, if madam deputy speaker I can say so, in The Guardian newspaper as a fat cow with a ring through its nose – something that was not only racist but offensive, both culturally and religiously.

“This is hardly an example of respect, equality, tolerance or fairness. So, when it comes to racism, sexism, tolerance for social justice, I will not take lectures from the other side of the House.”

It prompted Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, to pen a letter saying she was not "an authority on all forms of racism", signed by 32 Labour MPs.

"We write to you as Black Asian and Ethnic Minority 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," the letter said.

Florence Eshalomi challenged Priti Patel in the Commons, prompting her to list personal experiences of racism (UK Parliament)

It added: "We all have our personal stories, of the racism that we have faced, whether it has been being defined by the colour of our skin or the faith we choose to believe in.

"...We ask you 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."

But Ms Patel fired back on Twitter: "Sad to have just received this letter.

"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."

Naz Shah led the letter to Priti Patel (Parliament TV)

Police made 135 arrests last weekend as some 137,500 people descended on streets in cities across the UK for 200 anti-racism protests at the weekend.

It came amid unprecedented unrest over the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in US custody, with more protests planned this weekend.

But in the capital, where 41 arrests were made, violence broke out in Whitehall on Saturday and Sunday night seeing fierce clashes between riot police and protesters with missiles thrown.

In Bristol, the statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was toppled and dumped in a harbour by activists.

Ms Patel said that "justice will follow" for the "lawless minority of protesters" that turned violent, telling “The thugs and criminals responsible are already being brought to justice."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said the protests were "subverted by thuggery".

Labour declined comment when approached by the Standard.

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