Priti Patel clashes with Labour MPs over experiences of racism

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Priti PatelImage source, House of Commons
Image caption,
Priti Patel says she suffered racial slurs as a child

Home Secretary Priti Patel has clashed with a group of Labour MPs who have accused her of "gaslighting" black people's experience of racism.

On Monday, Ms Patel told MPs, during a statement on anti-racism protests, of discriminaton she had previously faced.

More than 30 black and minority ethnic Labour MPs have written to the home secretary, asking her to "reflect" on her words.

Ms Patel responded on Twitter, saying she would "not be silenced".

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

Gaslighting refers to the act of psychologically manipulating someone, so that they doubt their own experiences.

In Monday's statement, Ms Patel told how she had suffered racial slurs in the playground and had been "racially abused in the street".

The home secretary was updating MPs on the anti-racism protests at the weekend triggered by the death in the US of African-American man George Floyd.

She said the majority of demonstrators "were peaceful" and told them: "I hear you", while in response to some of the violent episodes seen during the protests, Ms Patel said "justice will follow".

Ms Patel published the letter from the Labour MPs on Twitter and said she was "sad" to receive it.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The letter, sent with a letterhead from Labour MP Naz Shah, calls on Ms Patel to "reflect" on her words, and says opposition MPs will "not use their experiences to silence our black colleagues".

Signatories include former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, Florence Eshalomi, Tan Dhesi and Rosena Allin-Khan.

"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," it reads.

It continues: "Our shared experiences allow us to feel the pain that communities feel, when they face racism, they allow us to show solidarity towards a common cause; they do not allow us to define, silence or impede on the feelings that other minority groups may face.

"Being a person of colour does not automatically make you an authority on all forms of racism.

"In conclusion, we ask you to reflect on your words and to consider the impact it had towards the black communities in the UK trying to highlight their voices against racism."

But Conservative MP and business minister Nadhim Zahawi accused Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of "silence" over the letter, adding: "Does he condone the letter sent to Priti, signed by members of his own shadow cabinet and front bench?"

For Labour, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told the BBC: "The home secretary has spoken powerfully about her own experiences and of course I acknowledge that.

"But I don't think it is not for me to lecture my colleagues about the language in which they express their own hurt and anger at this particular moment."

Mr Thomas -Symonds urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to "show leadership" and "address the nation", with more Black Lives Matter protests planned for this weekend.

He added that the PM needed to "show very firmly the action that he's going to take in the weeks and months ahead to deal with" racism.