I APPRECIATE that there will be much written about Frank Hester’s hideous, highly offensive and dangerous language and his pathetic excuses when it emerged into the public arena, but I cannot stay silent on this one.

He shows his true colours on so many levels. His prejudice – ie, an irrational hatred, fear of and contempt for people of another race – screams from his hateful words. Hester believes – because it is interwoven in his vile tirade – that he has a God-given right to say things, but Diane Abbott does not because she is black and she is a woman.

A Conservative spokesperson told The National: “His criticism had nothing to do with her gender nor the colour of her skin.” Tell me then please what “black” and “woman” next to each other are about if they are not about blackness and femaleness? And these comments are not “alleged”. He wrote them. Plain and simple.

Some unknown man was yesterday claiming Hester (below) could not be racist because he was an international businessman who travelled to Jamaica and Indonesia. In other words, according to this ignorant individual, as Hester travels to countries where the people are black and brown, he is not racist. That does not follow. Of course he feels superior otherwise he could not write these things. And I thought racism was illegal. It was the last time I looked.

The National: Under-fire Tory donor Frank Hester (CHOGM Rwanda 2022/YouTube/PA)

Any connection of the colour of your skin to your character is racist. I don’t care if it was in 2019, he wrote it. Where does this fit in Rishi’s recent sermon from the Number 10 podium to us all about extremism? This is all happening in plain sight in front of our own eyes. What are we doing about it?

I do not have language for the contempt I feel for men such as Hester or any individual who has come out in support of him. I know there are racists in every single political party, but I believe it is endemic within the Conservative Party. Because the vast majority of them have not been on the receiving end of it, they do not “get” it. They collude in their silence or in their ignorant utterings. Having a multicultural Cabinet does not mean government personnel are not exhibiting racism.

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As a white Scot studying for my Masters degree in Washington DC in 1991-92, I will always give thanks to the black parents in an all-black elementary school where I was doing a placement who would not let me work with their offspring because of the colour of my skin. I also give thanks to the white woman who, in an interview for a position in a private school, told me that, had I been black, I would have had the job half an hour into our meeting. These experiences – ghastly as they were at the time – opened up and challenged my homogenous, white, middle-class, Scottish world. I did not understand racism when I crossed the Atlantic but I did by the time I came home.

When I returned to Scotland, I taught counselling to hundreds of students over 14 years. Because I spoke openly about racism, prejudice and discrimination, my students listened. As a result of what they heard, I was invited by one of my black students to provide clinical supervision for the counsellors in a women’s black and minority ethnic mental health project.

In my nearly nine years in that work, I learned more than from any other organisation or educational institution in my life.

As a white woman, I was humbled and honoured every time I was welcomed into the building.

One of my proudest moments as a lecturer was when a student marched into class one day and said that I would be pleased about what had happened in Atlanta, Georgia that weekend. A certain Tiger Woods (below) had won a golf tournament. A world-class golfer who, at that time, was still denied access to many golf courses in the States because of the colour of his skin.

The National: Tiger Woods returned to golf after a life-threatening car crash (Jane Barlow/PA)

In that era, there were also golf clubs in Edinburgh which denied access to Jewish people.

In class, I always started my introduction to Freud’s work by saying that, had it not been for bigotry, we would not have psychotherapy. I knew that it would get my students’ attention and dispel the myth that he was a racist. It was he who was on the receiving end of racism – and more specifically, antisemitism. Freud did not work only with middle-class Jewish women through choice. He worked with them because, as a Jewish man, he was not allowed to practice with anyone else. And in time, his books would be burned in the streets by the Nazis and his family would flee to England where he spent the rest of his life.

How far are we from such horrors in today’s world?

Please let us wake up and take action before it is too late.

Frank Hester will never understand what Diane Abbott – and all black women – experience most days of their lives in the way many behave towards them, both consciously and unconsciously, purely because they are black and they are women.

Frank Hester’s words have EVERYTHING to do with Diane Abbott’s gender and EVERYTHING to do with the colour of her skin.
Jenny Pearson