All that glitters is not gold and all women of colour are not sisters.
Saira Khan has a platform. As an Asian Muslim woman on ITV where we have such little representation, this should make me happy, but instead it makes me wonder why?
She is a co-host on ‘Loose Women’; ITV’s afternoon all-female panel talk-show that discusses current events and topics, as well as being regularly featured in the British tabloids. I usually don’t pay much attention to her. It’s not like she is a Whoopie Goldberg an EGOT winner. Saira Khan has never even won a first place on a reality show. It’s not like she is of any real standing. However, the other day I had the TV on in the background and Loose Women came on and I caught the part where she talked about her personal experience of suffering from sexual assault, how it has impacted upon her life. She deftly finished her part off by tying it to the phrase ‘All lives matter’. I was bothered.
‘All lives matter’ is a term coined to downplay, divert attention from, water down and gaslight the public with the intent of taking the focus off and discrediting the Black Lives Matter movement. This is intentional. Saira Khan is an expert of whitesplaining or should I say ‘racistsplaining’ of any grievance about race issues. She is educated, a professional woman of the world who understands and navigates the world of media. Her use of the terminology is especially offensive and problematic as she often starts her points by presenting herself as an immigrant child born to a ‘hard-working’ Pakistani family. In a medium where there are so few Asian female presenters, she gives the impression she speaks for other Asian people. I am here to say she does not.
This is not a one off. She has a long, horrible record of expressing disdain and apathy about racism towards black people. When Prince Harry and his wife Meghan chose to leave the UK, after his wife received years of racial abuse by both the British Press and online trolls; Saira Khan blamed Prince Harry and Meghan for stirring up racial tensions in the country. This was an actual Daily Mail headline. Not the fact that she is part of day-time programmes where hosts are all white bar one or two like her and they have all spent unquantifiable hours obsessing over, scrutinising, justifying the scrutinising, name calling and smearing a woman of colour. A woman who was new to the country, without friends or family here, learning a new culture.
Meghan was criticised for closing her own car door, wearing dark nail polish, eating avocados and her work with the Community Hubb Kitchen; which comprises of women who survived the Grenfell fire was linked to terrorism. The most distasteful of all was when she was branded as a ‘show off’ for touching her pregnant stomach. These articles were written by privileged white women who short of using the ‘N word’ basically let us know of the revulsion they had for a woman of colour who dare be beautiful, opinionated, articulate, self-made and unashamedly black and adored by her husband. Saira wanting to associate herself with those racist women who are middle aged, frumpy make a living out of writing articles about how they don’t like their own children, how they had to deal with their alcoholic mums, born or married to high connection, rub shoulders with moral giants like Dan Wootton and gleefully nit-pick and criticise one woman in particular. I wonder why?
And let’s not forget that Meghan Markle was vulnerable and pregnant through a significant period of that time. She went on to give birth to a child who was featured as a monkey by a BBC presenter straightaway (he was very publicly fired and then quietly re-hired a few weeks later). The Pledge on Sky news then discussed if he should have lost his job instead of discussing why in this day and age would a grown man do something so disgusting. But we know why. Saira Khan joined on to that band wagon.
Meghan was criticised for being ‘woke’ and ‘privileged’. A bit of a sad joke considering the white talk show hosts who are often on high figure salaries, do fluffy jobs compared to say a nurse or a teacher and seem to have no social awareness or meaningful interactions with people of other ethnicities or working class people.
The ITV daytime show Good Morning Britain brought in hand writing and body language experts to decipher and analyse Meghan Markle who had no means of speaking back. Saira Khan was part of this hate campaign; she was an unreserved vocal critic of Meghan and party to this onslaught of abuse while not extending the same heat to other members of the royal family. If she was truly balanced, she would have addressed things like despite having years of private education, some royals seem to have difficulty stringing a sentence together, allegations of using Palace PR to distract attention from extra-marital affairs, or wanted by the FBI to be questioned about sex trafficking.
And funny how they hardly dedicated any of that interest and time to Samira Ahmed who won the case of equal pay against the BBC. Yes, funny that. Another woman of colour, a Muslim woman taking on the BBC and winning.
The odd occasion where there has been other British Afro-Caribbean celebrity women on to the Loose Woman show who shared their experiences of racism, Saira Khan was the first one to shut them down, deny their experience by once again saying yes you guessed it, she is from a ‘hard-working’ Pakistani family; gaslighting the Black women guests on the panel. I watched her do this to Trisha not so long ago. Trisha was a pioneer, who was the first Black female to host a talk-show in the UK. She also had her looks mocked by a White comedian in Black-face and fake big lips, talking in a fake Jamaican accent about ‘rice and peas’, which saw her children get bullied in school. Trisha who had the N-word painted across her house when she lived in Australia and had to have the Special Branch teach her children not to open packages sent to the house.
On Loose Women Trisha explained how in the UK, people use covert language such as reference to ‘culture’ as opposed to straight on racist comments to express their opinion of you. Saira Khan cut down Trisha’s points by using ‘I am from a Pakistani background and my family ‘worked hard’ and I ‘work hard’ old chestnut; completely discounting Trisha’s experiences. She told Trisha that she should take it as a compliment if people make references to her ‘culture’ like Saira does.
Who would want to go to Saira Khan to enquire about the Pakistani culture is a mystery like the Bermuda Triangle. Probably one of her bourgeois White middle-aged girlfriends, to whom Saira is her only ‘one ethnic friend’. She uses this rhetoric of being from a hard- working Pakistani family a lot and by doing so implies immigrants from other communities don’t work as hard and they are just complaining. She is not fooling anyone. We all see through it. Does Saira Khan work harder than a Black nurse, a Polish cleaner, a Bengali shop worker who pulls long shifts, does physically and mentally taxing work, puts their own health and safety at risk and serve members of public?
Saira Khan did not understand how H&M selling children’s clothing items featuring monkey pics and captions showcasing a Black child is offensive. It is hard to believe that living in a country where Black footballers are subjected to monkey chants and banana peels, the centuries of using this comparison to primates to dehumanise and legitimise the exploitation of Black people to justify slavery. Saira Khan who claims she understands racism so well that she wrote a whole article distinguishing between micro-aggression and racism could not understand why the H&M marketing stunt would be deeply hurtful and demeaning.
But Black people, please do not feel special!
Saira has been very vocal in her scrutiny of all the ills of the Asian community too. Alas, her unbalanced criticism of all things evil that are associated with Asians would be a whole other article on its own. In an article on the Daily Mail, she wrote how she only learned to feel ‘guilt’ being raised in a Pakistani family and it took her to find her (White) husband to really find herself and be happy. How sad not to experience the joys, the flavoursome delicious food, the vibrant rich culture, the elegant clothing, the colourful weddings, the religious celebrations, the sense of belonging, the spirit and the hope that permeates in the Pakistani community and culture, like all other cultures and be proud of it.
Her recent stint was about getting grief from some Muslim men after subjecting all of us to photos of her in a bikini. She chastised the community for lacking tolerance about welcoming her bikini pics when she has written articles effectively telling Muslim women who wear burkhas to leave the country. Note, Saira Khan often advocates it is racist to tell privileged white people that they may not understand racism because it is not an experience they are subjected to but she is confident about telling women who wear burkhas, who are often marginalised, caricatured and are vulnerable to assaults and hate crimes to leave the country.
The self-loathing of Saira Khan and the need for attention goes back to her background. She described her childhood and home life as being unhappy and something she had to escape from; she had a difficult relationship with her father. There was nothing positive about her family or about the community in her article. That is truly sad.
What is more sad about Saira Khan is not just the self-loathing, but the desperation to be accepted by the white, elite establishment that she is happy to act as mouth piece for to defend the indefensible, write negative and cruel hit pieces about other women of colour and dish out phrases like ‘All lives matter’ to appeal to a racist group.
People like Priti Patel and Sajid Javid were so quick to side with the media shutting down voices who dared to acknowledge the racism in the UK.
This gave White media personas, such as Fiona Bruce the bravado to negate any accusations of racism towards Meghan Markle by using Priti Patel’s statement when Lawrence Fox shouted down two women of colour (one an audience member; an academic and Shamim Chakrabati; a lifelong activist on the panel) on BBC’s Question Time. Fiona Bruce failed to mention Stormzy, Naomi Campbell, Priyanke Chopra, Hugh Grant, Clive Lewis, Afua Hirsh, Brian Cox, Nesrine Malik, Amna Saleem, Bette Midler, Hillary Clinton and the open letter written by cross-party female MPs who condemn the treatment of Meghan. But Priti Patel’s statement gave cover to it all.
Sajid Javid is now writing articles on racism reeks of opportunism and jumping on a band wagon. This is the same Sajid Javid who wasn’t invited to the state dinner when Trump was invited, but took a job in the Boris cabinet anyway. The same Sajid Javid who stayed silent when Trump would take low shots at the first Muslim mayor of London Sadiq Khan. The same Sajid Javid who was quick to contradict Stormzy very real lived account of racism as a dark skinned young black man who grew up in inner city London and had the courage to address racism in Britain, speak the truth and stick up for others. Sajid Javid wasted no time to ‘correct’ Stormzy. Feeding Stormzy to the Daily Mail onslaught smear campaign, a paper Saira Khan gets paid to write for.
Since the Black Lives Matter protests in the UK, Priti Patel has been presenting retro pics of her childhood, showing off her ethnicity recently after shutting down a Black female MP’s concerns about racism on the Parliament floor. The same Priti Patel who works for a government who has been quietly gutting the little history of the Empire left in the curriculum without consulting the public. Same Priti Patel who works with Dominic Raab who recently ridiculed taking the knee, likened it to Game of Thrones. Dominic Raab thought it was funny to mock a stance that millions all over the world have adopted to show solidarity to Black Lives Matter and demonstrated complete apathy, lack of knowledge of the civil rights movement and the persecution of Colin Kaeprineck for adopting that stance. Maybe police brutality and killing of unarmed black people is funny to Dominic Raab. Priti Patel had nothing to say about this. The same Priti Patel who works for a cabinet where there are no senior members of Afro-Caribbean background in her party.
These characters have spent the last few years gaslighting about racism, then weaponising their own race to justify it when caught out. These people are nothing but opportunists and give all tolerant, caring, conscientious Asian people a bad name. They don’t have credibility and we don’t claim them.
Thankfully there are more of us then there are of them. We have people like Aysha Hazarika, Mehdi Hasan, Samira Khan, Naga Munchetty, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Amna Saleem, Nesrine Malik and many others. The Uncle Javid and Aunty Sairas just seem to get a platform to peddle their lies, but the rest of us know them and see them for who they are. It is a sign of our times but it will not be like this forever. The tide will turn. In years to come no one will remember Dominic Raab accept for the ignorant bigot he has shown himself to be but they will read of Dr King and Colin Kaeprineck in history books.
Let me clarify though, I am aware that there is ignorance, sexism, racism and colourism within the Asian community. After all, these people did not grow up in white foster homes but in Asian families. There are also many, many, many white people who don’t think like bigots and are marching on the streets protesting now against racism. But the Asian community is evolving live in multi-cultural boroughs side by side people of other communities. Being subjected to an onslaught of Islamophobia in the last decade also mean we are acutely aware of the pains of racism and discrimination. People like Saira Khan, Priti Patel and Sajid Javid just go on to prove all skin folk are not kin folk.
I have noticed Saira Khan has Malcolm X on her Instagram now. I would like to think she has been educating herself lately, but I doubt it. It shouldn’t have taken the image of White police officer kneeing an unarmed hand-cuffed Black man to death to become aware of racism. You cannot be party to casual vicious racism for years and then act like you are in with the people.
But, please do not be fooled.
‘All that glitters is not gold’ and ‘all women of colour are not sisters’.