In just a few days, the outrage over Anne Marie Morris’ comments appears to have dwindled. But it was not just an expression and it cannot simply be forgotten, writes Martin Edobor
‘Now we get to the real n****r in the woodpile, which is: in two years, what happens if there is no deal?’ These were the exact words uttered by Anne Marie Morris, member of parliament for Newton Abbott at an event launching a report looking at the future of United Kingdom’s financial sector after Brexit. Earlier this week when I first heard her comments like many I was shocked, mortified and outraged.
As a person of black heritage, I was not so much offended – I have become accustomed to the use of racially charged phrases in modern political discourse. My main issue was that Morris as a public figure felt it was appropriate to use the N-word.
First of all, I have not heard the phrase ‘n****r in the woodpile’ used before, let alone understand why Morris would utilise the racist slur to describe the UK leaving the European Union without a deal at an event in parliament. Second, Morris’ nonchalance in using the term raised a red flag, indicating this may not have been the first time she used this phrase.
Soon after the news broke, Morris apologised; simply saying that her comments were ‘unintentional’ and the N-word ‘slipped out’. Following this, the Conservative party announced an urgent investigation into her remarks, with Theresa May suspending her and removing the whip.
However, Anne Marie Morris’ apology is simply not enough. The silence from her fellow Conservative MPs is deafening. The lack of condemnation of the incident reveals that the Tory party has not learned from their past.
At the event in which the comments were made, the Conservative MP, John Redwood, was a panelist sitting beside her. It appears Redwood did not bat an eyelid when her comments were made. His lack of response indicates a much deeper problem with the Conservative party. Although publicly the Tories appear to be a more diverse and modern political party compared to a decade ago, they still have little to say when oppressive racial slurs are openly used by one of their members.
Morris is not the first member of parliament to use a racial slur, and sadly likely will not be the last. We cannot let her suspension from the Tories be the end of it all, allowing a racial slur to be forgotten by Conservative MPs with little in the way of repercussion or condemnation.
This not only alienates black and ethnic minorities, it poisons our political discourse. On social media, some have come to Morris’ aid attempting to defend her, arguing that her comments are just an ‘expression’; that the phrase ‘n****r in the woodpile’ is a commonly used term in America.
Those who attempt to brush aside Morris’ comments are simply wrong. There are no excuses that can be made for using a racially derogatory term.
In the use of the phrase, Morris revealed her underlying prejudice. The N-word did not simply ‘slip out’: she intended to use the term and fully understood what she meant. We cannot just give Morris the benefit of doubt. Her apology is not sufficient. To improve political discourse we must seek to understand why Morris thought it was appropriate to use the term and challenge any further use.
Martin Edobor is a member of the Fabian Health and Social Care Group
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