Solidarity with Black Women targeted by the far right


I was honoured to speak at the recent Operation Black Vote meeting featuring Cecile Kyenge MEP who is being targeted by the Italian League party who are suing her for calling out racism. It is an alarming measure of the rise of the far right who feel emboldened to target Cecile, the only African descent member of European Parliament.

OBV, Parliamentarians and the Black communities are showing full solidarity with Cecile. Let us not forget the chilling impact that the far right's hatred is having on women in public office. Jo Cox MP was murdered by a far right supporter shouting 'Britain First'. Marielle Franco in Brazil, a LGBT Black woman from the flavelas who was elected a city councillor, was shot dead in an assassination style murder which took place just as the far right is on the rise, emboldened by the election of Trump and now Bolsonaro in Brazil. Here in Britain, we have seen an Amnesty Report revealing that the online abuse and threats against Diane Abbott MP, the first Black woman elected to Parliament, was ten as much as against any other female MP and totalled more than the online abuse against female MPs in the Conservatives and the SNP put together.

Black women in elected office are trailblazers and role models. They inspire young people like me to stand up and fight for our rights. As a migrant who grew up in Italy myself, I know first hand the racism that our communities face, from racism in schools, to police stop and search, to the belief that we are inherently inferior that is present across the establishment. That is why I am disgusted at the flagrant abuse Black women are facing at the hands of the media, the establishment and those with power. It is clear that we must play a full role in the political life.

Once our sisters are in office, that is when they really need to be supported. Our political engagement must begin with casting a vote, not end with it. And they also need to be supported by the government of the day against such abuse. It is not acceptable that our Prime Minister said nothing about the abuse Diane Abbott MP faced during the General Election, instead speaking out against it only this year at Conservative Party Conference. Our government must now show its' support for Cecile Kyenge MEP and show solidarity with all those opposing the rise of fascism in Brazil, the US and around the world as as the pronouncements of Trump and Bolsonaro fan the flames which are emboldening the far right.

The impact on our communities is all too clear. From the disgraceful targeting of Windrush citizens, here for generations and now victims of the fallout of Theresa May's hostile environment policies, to the refugee child waterboarded and bullied in a British school a few weeks ago, racism, sexism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia are on the increase as the far right grow out of, and feed this hostile climate. We may have thought that fascism was condemned to history, that comparing black people to monkeys was a thing of the past. Yet Cecile Kyenge was compared to an orangutan in 21st century European political life. Her own party shamefully didn't support her in Italy until Diane Abbott MP went over to support her and called them out.

We must support all our sisters in elected office. As Cecile herself has said, 'I am a black woman who happens to be a politician', meaning that being an MEP is no protection against the racism and sexism we face as Black women, in fact it has exacerbated it because she is a visible Black woman challenging the far right. I take heart and courage from the resilience of women like Cecile and Diane. As Cecile said at the meeting, 'alone I can’t do this but together we can make change'. It is now incumbent on all of us to step up and support Cecile and others like her, and commit to making that change until fascism is defeated.

Myriam Kane is on the NUS NEC / NUS Black Students Committee