Kamala Harris Has Made History But That’s No Shield Against Racism. UK Peer Calls Her “The Indian”

Social Commentary

Kamala Harris Has Made History But That’s No Shield Against Racism. UK Peer Calls Her “The Indian”

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Women have to face sexist and ignorant jibes everywhere, whether at home, the workplace or public spaces. It doesn’t change even if you get elected to one of the highest offices in the world, as proved by UK’s Lord Kilclooney.

The 89-year-old former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and member of the House of Lords referred to US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as “the Indian”.

While Kamala Harris made history and the world celebrated her achievement as the first female, Black and Indian-American Vice President-elect, the veteran politician decided to air his ignorance and condescension in full public view on social media. He took to Twitter to ask “What happens if Biden moves on and the Indian becomes President. Who then becomes Vice President?”

British colonialism may be dead but it seems the colonial attitude still hasn’t left some minds.

The tweet sparked widespread criticism and allegations of racism. While he took down the tweet, Lord Kilclooney defended his actions stating that he “did not know her name and identified her with the term Indian”. When asked by a Twitter user whether he hadn’t seen #BidenHarris2020 even once during the last three months, he replied “never heard of her until three days ago”.

Apart from coming out of the rock he has been living under all this while, Lord Kilclooney might also want to update himself because it’s no longer acceptable to refer to someone by their skin tone or ethnicity just because they don’t know their name. We are in 2020, but looks like he didn’t get the memo.

Norman Fowler, the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords, called on Kilclooney to retract and apologise. “This is an offensive way to refer to anyone, let alone a woman who has just made history. The comment is entirely unacceptable and has no place in British politics,” he tweeted.

Actor Adil Ray pointed out how there’s precedent to Lord Kilclooney’s antics. In 2017, he had referred to Irish PM Leo Varkar as “the Indian” and later withdrew it after it caused “upset and misunderstanding”. Clearly, this doesn’t seem like a case of “not knowing the name” but a deliberate attempt to take a jibe at a successful woman of colour.

Presenter Jameela Jamil was scathing in her criticism of the comments.

Kilclooney has also been reported to the Commissioner for Standards, which is responsible for independent investigations of alleged breaches of the House of Lords Code of Conduct. While making a complaint to the Lords Speaker, Labour’s Lords leader, Baroness Angela Smith said “I am so angry about this comment. It is despicable and beneath contempt, and totally unacceptable from anyone – but especially from someone in Parliament.”

Grow up Lord Kilclooney, racism and sexism has no place in 2020.