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To think not all 'whataboutery' is evil

(74 Posts)
NotMyNicknames Mon 22-Jun-20 16:20:37

I've NC for this as I know the title could get some people's back up but please listen to my explanation. I also wanted to post in chat but couldn't find it so am stuck here in AIBU.

I am not talking about people who reply to BLM with ALM. Or when people say ‘but a black man shoved me and called me a white bitch’.

I'm talking about as an Indian woman living in Britain, being told to shut up about my experiences of racism because 'now is black people's time' despite the fact that these same people say 'you can't tell someone who's been oppressed for hundreds of years when the right time is to speak up about their oppression'.

For some examples

Being told I'm stealing black people's spotlight when I say all ethnic history needs to be taught, including the colonisation of India, as well as black history. I'm signing all the petitions saying introduce black history into the curriculum, I totally agree with this. But I don't want to see this introduced and people say 'racism is solved now' without some acknowledgement of my history and the history of my people as well.

Similarly with the calls to bring down the statue of Churchill 'because he was a racist'. I totally agree. Yet when someone asks about how and I begin to explain about Churchill's starvation of India and the mass famine he induced I was told not to by someone who said the important things to focus on were his racist quotes about black people because now is about BLM so the focus should be on bringing down Churchill's statue for that. Yet when people say 'what else did he do' the famine is brought up. I feel both tokenised and silenced by some BLM activists. If the Churchill statue comes down I damn well want it in the history books that part of the reason is that finally people started to take notice of the millions he essentially killed in India, to ignore this would be erasing my and my families history.

I have no problem with black people who want to focus their campaign and efforts on their oppression, it’s what most affects them and is close to their hearts. As an Indian person I absolutely concentrate my efforts on campaigning about issues that affect Indian people and are close to my heart whilst also doing what I can to support the BLM movement. I understand completely that not everyone can focus 100% of their efforts into every injustice in the world. But when BLM activists (this grate particularly with white ones but it has been said to me by black people too) go ‘we need to teach about black history and Churchill’s racism in school’ I go ‘yes absolutely, and don’t forget to also teach about his racism and starvation of Indian people’ and then get shouted down for whataboutery I do feel silenced.

I want to work towards a world and a way of ending all racism and I understand the black people in particular experience it horrifically, but I really don’t think you can end racism by only allowing one race’s experiences of it to be spoken about and shouting down anyone who brings up their experiences of racism, until it conveniently supports your own argument too (e.g. Churchill).

OP’s posts: |
OldQueen1969 Mon 22-Jun-20 16:36:21

Just wanted to say I hear you - so many issues regarding power and division are inter-connected and while one has to start somewhere the narrow focus on one specific issue, while vital and understandable can remove layers of context and nuance that might bring better understanding for all concerned. The shutting down of legitimate related debate means that those with a stake in the matter may feel paralysed and yet further marginalised ...... it goes round and round in ever decreasing circles which in turn can lead to nothing much being resolved.

I don't know what the answer is, but am trying to hold onto hope that better times are ahead. It really isn't easy though.

TerrorWig Mon 22-Jun-20 16:38:39

YANBU. Your examples sound like thick idiots who don’t get it though.

BLM has come about specifically because of police brutality against black Americans. It’s different in the U.K. because our historical landscape is different.

Both are just as valid.

DomDoesWotHeWants Mon 22-Jun-20 16:39:53

I hear you, OP.

Newname4now Mon 22-Jun-20 16:43:59

YNBU, so much needs to be taught, re exposed and thought about. IMO you can talk about racism and Churchill without talking about India and colonialism. I personally feel sick to the bottom of my stumoch when thinkinh about the brutality of this era.
Very very relevant to the political landscape in the UK today.

Hopoindown31 Mon 22-Jun-20 16:45:39

Like a lot of such movements people can't agree on details and get very militant about it. In the UK focussing only on parts of our colonial history is wrong and I think people who try and do that need to be challenged (there was a recent article in the Indy that was saying this).

BLM is a US movement, but even there the black community are not the only minority community to experience systematic discrimination. I think it is important to support it, but only if it can place itself in the wider anti-racism movement and not be exclusionary.

The point about Churchill is an important one. Ignoring his role in the starvation of millions in favour of a few quotes seems rather perverse.

onlinelinda Mon 22-Jun-20 16:47:18

A lot of it is, though. In my community, the people who were all over Facebook saying "all lives matter" were the same people who were complaining about those shielding getting any concessions, or complaining about the GP practice holding events for carers. They view everyone as getting something they aren't, and some of them are outright racists. Oh , and some are politically motivated whilst pretending not to be.

NotMyNicknames Mon 22-Jun-20 16:49:51

It's the worst kind of tokenism IMO.

Only recognising another groups oppression when it is convenient to you and using it to push your own agenda further without actually caring about the deaths of those millions.

It is almost certain that I had family members die in the famine but no one knows because of the poor documentation of people in rural villages and no one can even recognise and mourn their suffering without using it to support their own political agenda.

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MorrisZapp Mon 22-Jun-20 16:51:25

I've come to loathe the concept of whataboutery. It's just another way of saying 'don't talk about that'. It's not how conversation works, it's not how debate works. Nothing will change when you demand others stay focused on your own top priority.

DustyMaiden Mon 22-Jun-20 16:54:15

What you say makes sense. Probably my ignorance but I thought the argument was that privilege was not bestowed upon the white, therefore as an Indian lady I would have considered you black.

ExtremelyBoldSquirrels Mon 22-Jun-20 16:56:22


I've come to loathe the concept of whataboutery. It's just another way of saying 'don't talk about that'. It's not how conversation works, it's not how debate works. Nothing will change when you demand others stay focused on your own top priority.

I totally agree. It's just another way of shutting people down and dismissing them out of hand. It does nothing to help promote dialogue.

NailsNeedDoing Mon 22-Jun-20 16:57:46

You couldn’t be more spot on OP, and I’m sorry you’ve been made to feel the way you do.

It is absolutely not ok.

Unfortunately I don’t think many Brits are ready to hear about what happened to India and especially Churchill’s part in it, but that’s all the more reason why it needs to be talked about.

hamstersarse Mon 22-Jun-20 16:59:52

Inter-sectionality has created whataboutery, and it has now morphed into an Oppression Olympics where we have different groups all vying (in a narcissistic fashion) for all the pity and being the most oppressed.

There are millions of ways to intersect every one of us - attractiveness, height, weight, religion, race, region, town, wealth, hair colour, eye colour, sex, gender, sexuality.....god the list goes on.

What I want to know is who decides which one is most important?

missyB1 Mon 22-Jun-20 17:01:04

As MorrisZap says the concept of “whataboutery” is a form of silencing people. It shuts down important discussions, it denies people the right to relate their own experiences.
As soon as someone shouts “whataboutery” I know they are not interested or not capable of intelligent debate.

NotMyNicknames Mon 22-Jun-20 17:02:15

therefore as an Indian lady I would have considered you black

Dear God please change your thinking.

I am not black, I don't look black (I'm actually very fair skinned for an Indian woman). I do not have any of the same lived experiences as a black person or vice versa. My culture and history is vastly different to that of black people. The stereotypes about us are miles different. Even the racism we experience is different (p*ki vs n**gger ect).

By saying this you're essentially saying all people of colour look the same to you and you don't recognise our differences or individual experiences.

Yes as a woman of colour I can stand in solidarity with black people in that we both experience persecution because of the colour of our skin but that is where most of the similarities end, but to say we are the same is deeply offensive.

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Fallstar Mon 22-Jun-20 17:04:01

My family is from India, although I was born here. I see BLM as including us as systemic racism in the UK includes racism against South Asians.

ExtremelyBoldSquirrels Mon 22-Jun-20 17:09:02

I don't agree that the concept of intersectionality has created whataboutery at all, @hamstersarse. People banging on about intersectionality are possibly the most likely to accuse anyone who might have a different opinion to them of 'whataboutery'.

I think it's yet another SM fuelled buzzword (they are proliferating at an incredible pace) that is used to ensure debate remains as oversimplistic as possible. It's a way of avoiding thinking about all the complex factors and context surrounding issues and experiences and reducing everything to easily repeated slogans. You either adopt these aphorisms entirely and wholeheartedly, or you're just some dreadful bigot/racist/other insult engaging in 'whataboutery'.

It's just not helpful at all.

FromMarch2020 Mon 22-Jun-20 17:14:11

I'm sorry that people have made you feel bad. Your experiences are equally valid. No one holds a monopoly.

A lot needs to change.

kateemo Mon 22-Jun-20 17:14:41

I understand what you're saying, but this current conversation has been opened by a specific event involving a certain ongoing conflict. Of course all of the things you mention can be included as valid points, but black people have been campaigning for a voice, an equal seat at the table in the US since the birth of the country, and these calls have not been heeded. That is what opened the conversation here, which quickly turned into a larger condemnation of imperialist history. This doesn't diminish anyone else's cause, but maybe recognise that this moment is a long time in the making for black people in particular. Martin Luther King Jr asked the question "Why we can't wait" for justice in 1964. There was a big moment in history that we celebrate, things were looking up. Fast forward to now and these days, nooses are appearing all over the US and reprisals directly to black people with references to black history.

Here, I'm reading more stories each day in the paper about mistreatment of black men by police. I'm not sure what the conversation will become here in the UK or anywhere else, but if you're agreeing with "yes, absolutely.. . ." and going directly into your anti-colonialist discourse without pausing to acknowledge and truly empathise for a minute, then maybe that's what your conversants are picking up on? If that's what's happening, then you're not taking a minute to be in this particular conversation which is happening now because of what happened to George Floyd and all of the others before him.

I mean, have they actually called your forays 'evil' or are you putting that label on yourself? I get that this is extremely painful for many, and everyone's experience counts and is valid. But there are those of us who could actually end up dead like George Floyd and so many others because of this particular racism.

Stay123 Mon 22-Jun-20 17:31:06

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

NotMyNicknames Mon 22-Jun-20 17:32:31


Are you saying I need to wait until an Indian person is murdered in a racially fuelled attack until I'm allowed to be angry or campaign about it?

I and every other young Indian person I know has been campaigning for recognition for years. I was taught about the famine by my parents because the school was never going to teach me and I have been trying to educate people about it for years but no ones ever listened, it's always been, 'oh maybe he did that but he also won the war and stopped the holocaust so he was a good guy overall', it's only getting any attention now because it fits into the BLM narrative. There are not nearly as many Indian people in the U.K. as black people so our voices are even more ignored and yet when minority voices are beginning to be listened to ours is still ignored because our minority is too small, or we're all lumped together as 'Asians' despite China and Indian being miles apart and having vastly different histories and experiences of oppression.

Your moment may have been a long time in the making but ours is still in the making, we've never had a historical moment. And if the bringing down of the Churchill statue goes down in history as an example of taking down oppressors with no mention of his murdering of millions of Indian people then it will almost be a 'blackwashing' of history to ignore the other minorities that suffered far greater hardship because of his actions.

I'm glad there's more and more stories of black people's experiences in the paparazzi yet there still fails to be any note of other minorities experiences. My male cousins are stopped and searched at equal rates to their black friends, Indian people experience police and race based brutality all the time but it never gets coverage because no one cares.

I have acknowledged and empathised and I continue to but black people seem incapable of doing them same when talking about Churchill's famine, merely using it to support their cause when necessary but failing to recognise that it is an evil in itself rather than just another example of his racism.

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Stressing Mon 22-Jun-20 18:22:04

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

NotMyNicknames Mon 22-Jun-20 18:29:04


I really hope you're taking the piss.

Are you trying to excuse Churchill's actions because of some good he did?

Hitler did great things for german industry, built roads which are still in use today, invested in infrastructure and healthcare ect. He was still an evil tyrant responsible for the murder of millions and should be looked back on in history as a bad guy who just did a couple of good things on the way.

Churchill is the same, no matter how much good he did he is still responsible for the needless death of millions spurred on by racist views. And it's not even like oh he had to sacrifice millions to save billions, no, he simply starved Indians because he saw them as inferior and decided the British deserved the food more even though they didn't need it and the Indian people did.

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Stressing Mon 22-Jun-20 20:15:36

I'm just saying you have your way of looking at it. And other people have theirs.

NotMyNicknames Mon 22-Jun-20 20:18:08


You really think there's any way to look at the systematic, racially motivated killing of 3 million people, other than a horrific action and injustice?

OP’s posts: |

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