As black folks throughout the world can attest, white people far too often have an extreme degree of difficulty telling us apart. Footage of LeBron James was somehow included in broadcasts covering the death of Kobe Bryant and, not too long ago, both Fox News and CBS were forced to apologize after mistaking the late Rep. Elijah Cummings for civil rights icon John Lewis.
Eager to carry on this aggravating tradition are outlets such as the Evening Standard, BBC, and frequent offender Getty Images, who the Guardian reports are all facing accusations of racism and flagrant ineptitude after confusing British Labour MP Marsha de Cordova, Labour frontbencher Dawn Butler, and Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy.
I’ll allow the Guardian to explain the resulting chaos:
In a chaotic series of events, the BBC was initially forced to apologise after mislabelling the Labour MP Marsha de Cordova as Labour frontbencher Dawn Butler on its Parliament channel.
Then, in an article about the BBC’s mistake, the Evening Standard’s online edition published a picture of a third black female Labour MP, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, mistakenly claiming it was De Cordova.
The Evening Standard blamed a wrongly captioned photo provided by Getty Images, the main supplier of editorial images to British news outlets.
On Monday, De Cordova, the MP for Battersea, was speaking at a debate in the Commons about the agriculture bill. But the strap-line identified her as Butler, the MP for Brent Central and one of the candidates for the Labour deputy leadership.
Fed up from a lifetime of this bullshit, Butler aired out the offending party on Twitter.
“@BBCNews @BBCPolitics I love my sister @MarshadeCordova but we are two different people,” she tweeted. “Marsha is amazing and deserves to be called by her own name. Diversity in the workplace matters it also helps to avoid making simple mistakes like this.”
While Butler took the high road, the rest of Twitter wasn’t as kind.
“Serial offending like this, I’d suggest, is due to institutional racism,” replied user @WarrickHunt4.
“Really @bbcnews this all-black-folk-look-the-same trope is pretty outrageous,” tweeted @MakeAmericaWait. “Are you really going to put it down to a tech error? @bbc clearly has a major internal culture problem. Anyone been disciplined?”
“This is absolutely appalling from the BBC,” replied another user, @JennThorburn_.
And as if the above wasn’t infuriating enough, Abena Oppong-Asare, another black MP trying to do her damn job in the United Kingdom, has experienced much of the same among her white colleagues in parliament.
From the Guardian:
Abena Oppong-Asare, the new MP for the London seat Erith & Thamesmead, has claimed that a Conservative MP who saw her outside the Commons chamber put his bag in her hands and asked her to look after it, not realising she too was an MP.
In a series of tweets, the chair of the Labour Women’s Network detailed the anger and humiliation she’s experienced during her first few weeks working in Westminster.
“In my first week someone came up to me confusing me with another black MP. I said no I’m the other black sista from @E_TLabour,” she tweeted. “He raised [his] eyebrows and said wow there [are] more of you 👀”
She added in a subsequent tweet, “I’m thinking I might need to write my name on my forehead as I think some people are really struggling to tell the difference.”
And of course, Butler had similar stories to share:
Dawn Butler, the shadow women and equalities minister, who is running to be deputy leader of the party, said she was once mistaken for being a cleaner.
Butler, who is the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, said she was in a members-only lift when an MP, who she has never named, told her: “This lift really isn’t for cleaners.”
The Labour MP for Brent Central said it had been one of “so many incidents” of racism she had encountered while in parliament.
She also said that in 2005, a minister had also once challenged her about being on the Commons terrace, which is reserved for MPs. She said he remarked: “They’re letting anybody in nowadays.”
Sadly, none of these stories are even remotely surprising as the workplace is oftentimes a haven for blatant discrimination, microaggressions, and other offenses which far too often deliberately target black women.