Institutionalised Racism Needs To Stop Now

At the beginning of February this year the BBC mistakenly labelled MP Marsha de Cordova as MP Dawn Butler while De Cordova was involved in a debate in the Commons, the mistake lay in that they are both black female MPs. In response to this, Butler tweeted; “Marsha is amazing and deserves to be called by her own name. Diversity in the workplace matters, it also helps to avoid making simple mistakes like this.”

Mistake or not, no minority group should have to put up with being treated as part of a generalised group, instead of as an individual. In an interview with The Guardian Butler revealed that she is constantly having to “justify [her] presence” in Parliament and must “constantly fight that battle”.

It is often forgotten that minority groups are not as incorporated as they should be, mistakes such as this one makes this clearer than ever. Although Butler is an MP in her interview with The Guardian she makes very clear that she doesn’t feel included in Parliament and often has experienced a dismissal of her role as an MP, she rightly states that she’s “earned [her] right to be in the room”.

This misstep by the BBC is not an isolated error. In a report by the Evening Standard about the BBC’s mistake, a photo of another black female Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy was placed in the article instead of De Cordova. Ribeiro-Addy’s commented on the Evening Standard’s error; “it is hard enough for us to get elected here, but when we do get here we are not treated as individuals.” Moreover, the BBC made a similar error while reporting on the death of Kobe Bryant by including footage of LeBron James instead. 

These series of ‘mistakes’ are ripping away the individuality of these talented and strong leaders. There is a known lack of diversity within these platforms, which has often been commented upon, but there doesn’t seem to be any attempt at change. In 2016 Dawn Butler spoke to the BBC about the racism she has experienced within Parliament, mentioning an incident where she was mistaken for a cleaner. 

Clearly this racism and lack of diversity is not a new issue, this mistake made by the BBC should not be treated as one incident, it should be treated as one incident out of many. De Cordova commented on this saying that “This is what happens when the media does not represent the society it reports on. Representation matters. Diversity matters. This cannot continue.” Diversity is lacking everywhere, but in a world where the media is so important, the lack of diversity within the media will then have a knock-on effect.

This incident should be used to create a more diverse and representative Parliament, it is not acceptable to have minorities on the outskirts. Other MPs might argue that they have been included, but there is no implementation, nothing to make sure that they are actually being included in practise. As Gary Younge, a journalist and author who has spoken before about being mistaken for MP David Lammy in the street, said in reaction to the BBC’s error; “These aren’t old mistakes – they are the same old mistakes.”

Image: The Independent