People who dare speak the truth publicly ought to be commended, not censured. And they certainly shouldn’t be forced to apologise.
Yet those misfortunes have befallen Labour MP Rupa Huq who both confirmed and illustrated my cherished view on race (and also sex). Rather than being a biological concept, it has become almost exclusively political.
Belonging to a certain race is no longer a matter of a chromatic incident. It’s upholding and practising the behavioural, cultural and political aspects associated with that race in the public, especially ‘liberal’, mind.
I know this – and much to her credit Labour MP Miss Huq knows it too. Which is why she is no longer a Labour MP, having been suspended by the party, and downgraded to independent status, for her remarks about Kwasi Kwarteng, our new Chancellor.
Mr Kwarteng, whose parents emigrated to Britain from Ghana, looks black to me and no doubt to Miss Huq. But her X-ray vision can penetrate beneath the surface to expose Mr Kwarteng for the impostor he is.
“Superficially he is a black man,” she readily acknowledged, thereby proving that her eyesight is of 20-20 acuity. But only superficially, she added with the benefit of her X-ray capability.
“He went to Eton, I think, he went to a very expensive prep school – all the way through the top schools in the country,” she explained. “If you hear him on the Today programme, you wouldn’t know he is black.”
Negritude, in other words, is an exclusive club for whose membership one must qualify. And colour itself is not a sufficient qualification. The aspiring candidate must also walk the walk (pimp roll for preference) and talk the talk (gangsta patois). If he doesn’t, he’ll be blackballed, as it were.
He must also be a behavioural black: dealing and using drugs, mugging old ladies, sporting the entire gold reserves of smaller republics in his ears, nostrils, on his fingers and around his neck and wrists, driving a car with oversized speakers, shooting hoops – and hating whitey (crackers, honkies?). A few criminal convictions to his name are desirable, but not essential.
Mr Kwarteng doesn’t meet these requirements. As Miss Huq espied with her eagle eye, he did go to Eton. He also speaks four languages, has a PhD in economic history and was on a winning University Challenge team (a trivia contest where most questions take me out of my depth).
He is easily the brightest and most erudite Chancellor we’ve had for a long time. That doesn’t mean he’ll be one of the best of course. It takes more than academic knowledge and a high IQ to be a statesman. A candidate aspiring for that club must have a strong character and much common sense.
I’m not sure to what extent Mr Kwarteng’s decision to increase borrowing at a time when interest rates are going up, and with them the price of every pound borrowed, shows that most uncommon of qualities, common sense. We’ll have to wait and see. For all we know, his veneer of competence may be as superficial as, according to Miss Huq, is his negritude.
I wonder if she herself can be regarded as a real Pakistani. After all, she doesn’t wear a burka, she doesn’t pronounce ‘thing as ‘ting’, and she doesn’t run a corner shop. Since that brings her own racial identity into question, she should leave her own glass house before throwing stones at ‘superficial’ blacks.
Was she was inspired by Joe Biden who also knows that blackness has nothing to do with skin pigmentation? During his 2020 electoral campaign he addressed a predominantly black audience with a lucid explanation of his view on race: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump,” said Biden, “then you ain’t black.”
Negritude therefore presupposes support for the Democratic party, ideally for its left wing. A different political affiliation disqualifies a person from the race into which he was born.
Replace race with sex, and exactly the same happens. Because Margaret Thatcher wasn’t a Leftist feminist, she wasn’t accepted by them as a woman. I think Liz Truss will soon have a hard time proving her sex credentials too – and I do hope she won’t cite the affair she had with a fellow MP a few years ago as evidence.
Meanwhile, I’m grateful to the superficially Pakistani Miss Huq for vindicating my observation that politics has squeezed its bulk into the space previously occupied by, well, everything. And I am sorry she had to apologise – although the nature of her apology reinforces my faith in her.
She only regretted her “badly chosen words”, but implicitly not the deep thought behind them.