From as early as I can remember, I was used to meeting people and their first two questions being: “What is your name?” and “Where do you come from?” – and not always in that order. My answer was always “Tooting” and still is today. The questions did not, and do not, stop there: “Where do you REALLY come from?” – with a huge emphasis on the “really”.
My mother was born in Poland, my father in Pakistan, and I identify as being 100 per cent Tooting. Generally, people understand this and I am so fortunate to represent an area which is so vibrant and diverse. There are people from all backgrounds, first generation, second generation and beyond, who each day have to go through the same line of questioning over and over.
Most importantly though, we are all British. Regardless of background, we all live here because we share the same values, support the same teams, enjoy a cup of tea.
On occasion, I have been told to “go home” – especially on Twitter, when someone disagrees with me. Back a People’s Vote? Go home. Talk about sexism in football? Go home. Criticise Donald Trump? Go home. How do you want me to “go home” exactly? Get the tube south on the Northern Line? Get a bus? Taxi?
I have never been told to “go home” by the American President. But going by his track record now, anything is possible.
Donald Trump’s weekend attack on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib sought to do exactly what those who seek to undermine me want to do, to make us appear as the “other”. In truth all he’s doing is seeking to limit the voices of Americans.
The irony is remarkable. Four of Trump’s children have mothers born in Eastern European countries. Would he tell his own children to “go home”? I don’t think so.
Is it any coincidence that he has decided to take a swipe at four rising stars in the Democratic Party? Politics is changing – for the good as well as the bad. Congress is now more racially diverse than ever. American people are being represented more and more by people who have similar life experiences.
What else unites those four? They are all women being touted as future leaders. Deep down, you wonder if Donald Trump most fears being beaten by a woman. His campaign against Hillary was full of lies, perpetually questioning her right to belong in the political sphere.
Women and people of colour in politics are held to greater levels of scrutiny. After every speech AOC does, she is denigrated. Something has been overlooked in her speech – she must be a hypocrite. Simply because of Ilhan Omar’s religion, she was linked to the September 11 attacks during the campaign. All of this is designed to quiet our voices.
The essence of this is about the colour of one’s skin or where our parents were born. This should be irrelevant in politics today, but instead we are seeing it more and more, and accompanied by growing instances of hate crime. Trump’s comments on Twitter do nothing but help to encourage this appalling dog-whistle politics.
Let’s call Donald Trump what he is – a racist.
Trump is a poster boy for racists around the world. Across Europe, the far-right admire him for his persistent bigotry. I love the UK because we do not just tolerate diversity – we celebrate it. And there are millions of Americans who believe in the benefits of multi-cultural communities.
Today, we stand united in solidarity with Alexandria, Ilhan, Ayanna and Rashida. Though we may be separated by an ocean, we are united in our desire for a world which opens its arms to everyone, without prejudice.
Rosena Allin-Khan is Labour MP for Tooting
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