Speaking on LBC, the shadow justice secretary addressed the conversation he had earlier in the week with an 80-year-old caller named Jean – which prompted a huge reaction – and asked people to be “gentler” with individuals who express problematic views, and instead focus on institutionalised racism.
He said: “There are a few people who have said some really vile things about Jean online and I really want to disassociate myself from that.
“All of us have had a grandparent of a certain generation who says things openly that you wouldn’t want people to hear frankly.
“We are really good about jumping on people and calling them racist.
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“We are far less good about the systematic and institutionalised racism.”
This is what he said:
The initial conversation with Jean took place during a phone-in on Monday discussing plans to scrap the term “BAME”.
Jean told Lammy: “You will never be English because you’re African-Caribbean.” She added: “The world is polluting everybody. You are what you are where’re you’re born - it’s your inheritance.”
You can watch it here:
Lammy was hailed for his “calm” response, in which he explained to Jean why that was incorrect. Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tweeted afterwards:
Some on Twitter said Jean didn’t “deserve” a “polite and considerate response”.
But today, Lammy urged people to focus on systematic aspects of racism. And speaking about the census, he said it was instances like these which betrayed racism in the UK.
He said: “I cannot put on the form that I am black and English and I cannot put on the form that my children are of mixed heritage.
“That is institutionalising the point that Jean was making.
“If you can now put that you are black and Welsh or that you are Asian and Scottish why can't you put that you are black and English?”
Responding to his, people on Twitter praised him for his “courtesy”:
Writing on Twitter, Lammy added:
Today, a government report on race has been published, claiming the UK should be seen as an international exemplar of racial equality.
But going by Lammy’s experiences, there is still a long way to go.