This MP's response to a Black Lives Matter email is seriously not okay

Jennifer Savin
Photo credit: Getty

From Cosmopolitan

Since a video showing the tragic death of George Floyd at the hand of police officers was shared worldwide, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum in the form of multiple protests, calls to action from Black and non-Black folk alike and celebrity support.

Many of the protests, which have been taking place everywhere from London to New York as people unite against systemic racism, have been peaceful (with pictures showing police partaking in some events and even a cameo from a llama in Portland). However, some have seen rioters and looting too.

Given that the coronavirus pandemic is still on-going, many people are naturally concerned about attending mass gatherings (if you are planning to attend a protest, it's encouraged that you self-isolate for two weeks after – here are more tips on how to protest safely). If you want to make a change but don't feel comfortable joining a crowd, there are plenty of other ways you can make your voice heard – one of which is by writing to your local MP.

That's exactly what one woman, known only as Eleanor, did. However, the response she received from New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne (a Conservative party member, with a history of donning and defending blackface), was totally unacceptable. In fact, it was downright unprofessional of him too.

When Eleanor wrote "asking him to condemn Trump’s actions [e.g. tweeting that looters should be shot], support Black Lives Matter and Black people in our community, and urge the UK government to take action", Swayne's response was a brusque.

"Thanks. Sorry to disagree," he said. "Arsonists and looters have it coming. DS." The interaction has now been retweeted over 12,500 times.

Another of his constituents also took to social media to air their disappointment in a councillor who is meant to represent them either. Millie Edland, who wrote a similarly-themed letter to Swayne, including raising concerns over statistics showing BAME people are more likely to be affected by COVID-19, also took to Twitter to post his response. As well as being shockingly narrow-minded, Swayne ignored many of her concerns entirely.

In regards to Swayne's own history of wearing blackface for a party, the MP wrote a blog post saying the only reason he wouldn't do it again in future was because it was "hard to wash off". He also said it was "fun".

At the time, Labour's then-Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Dawn Butler said, "This is another example of a politician not even trying to understand the history of oppression and racism. Desmond Swayne has not only admitted to blacking up himself, but is now actively encouraging others to do so."

Photo credit: < - Getty Images

Sadly, Swayne isn't the only politician to be condemned for racist actions. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has in the past referred to Muslim women as “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”, and has repeatedly refused to apologise. He has also referred to Black people as “picanninies” with “watermelon smiles” in newspaper columns.

All important bits of information to remember when the next election rolls around...

If you'd like to write to your local MP too but are unsure what to say, charity Amnesty International UK have shared a helpful template, as well as signposted to the website (which shows you who your local MP is and how they've voted on topical issues in the past).

Cosmopolitan reached out to Desmond Swayne before publishing this story but received no reply. He was probably too busy being a bigot.

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