Wednesday 20 July 2022

The UK: Why Kemi Badenoch is not the poster child

The lady runs to lead

Kemi Badenoch’s elimination from the contest to lead the Tory Party and hence become the Prime Minister must have been a great disappointment for her, though it would have been well received in some quarters.

Kemi Badenoch, née Adegoke, is someone I have encountered since the mid-2000s when she appeared to camp in the comment sections of a blog run by Jeremy Weate and controversial does not begin to describe the views and opinions she shared.

Now, if Kemi Badenoch had been successful in her quest to lead the Tory Party, it would have presented the first time that an ethnic minority led the United Kingdom if we are to discount Benjamin Disraeli’s Jewish heritage when he was Prime Minister in the 19th Century.

Everything but representing

In her case, besides the issue of her identity, race and heritage, there is little about her that is common to the apparent identity constituency people might think she represents. We are consequently products of influences, circumstances and situations more than of the ethnic minorities we are, and it is essential that we begin to disabuse the view that ethnic minorities represent a monolithic or homogenous political leaning.

Beyond Kemi Badenoch, the issue is simple. Much as having an ethnic minority ahead might present inspiration and possibility to the youth aspiring to be significant members of communities and society, we need to ensure we are choosing the right examples demonstrative of embracing common humanity with all its diversity.

That is not essentially codified in having similar backgrounds as I would be the first to say that from a reflective and policy standpoint, Kemi Badenoch and I are so radically different and divergent as it might be as the east is far away from the west.

Equipping us to become roles

Yet, we have work to do. Our parents before us and similarly, many of us have been pioneers or first movers in various areas of endeavour. We did not see people like us in our roles or ahead, rather, we, from what was imbued in us through education, opportunity, possibly privilege and influence, forged ahead to become recognised and respected in the things that we do.

In some way, we had role models that did not look like us or come from our kind of background. Quite as we might want to have visible role models and high achievers that might give our children a sense of what is possible, those scenarios might well not be as packaged or presented for them to see as they grow up.

It is then incumbent on us to give our children the tools and the wherewithal to be able to walk into places where they might be the first and only, the confidence to be able to hold their own, the assertiveness to be able to speak with a strong voice and the mien not to be caught out in a victim syndrome when situations, opportunities, or encounters turn sour.

Choosing the right examples

Sadly, I have seen too many academically high achieving ethnic minority people unable to realise their full potential because they are lacking in confidence or have been emasculated by a system and institutionalised settings that suggest they do not belong, where, by merit, they are more than capable, if given the opportunity.

I doubt the likes of Kemi Badenoch making political progress of the sort she aspired to would open doors for anyone like her, even as it might be uncharitable to suggest that she having gained opportunity is kicking the ladder away for those like her. Even one might be inclined to feel she is trying too hard to endear herself to the radical rather than a broader embrace of inclusivity.

Indeed, we can do with exemplary and amazing achievement amongst ethnic minorities, if we cannot agree, my view is Kemi Badenoch is not that example, her controversial track record highlighted in The Independent would suggest we deserve better. [The Independent: 10 of Kemi Badenoch's biggest controversies as she is knocked out of Tory leadership contest]

1 comment:

Yossie Olaleye said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience of Kemi before the 'fame'. It is a fair and balanced piece. I also agree that we should give our children tools to be able to walk into spaces where they stand out and hold their own. It is how I was raised.

To be transparent, I supported Kemi's campaign on the basis of representation, especially for young British-Nigerian girls who look like her (I was one, in secondary school). And I think she has said fair things about leadership and some policy issues, which I highlighted on Twitter. But I do take issue with the lack of transparency about her background and the way she has twisted stories for certain audiences.

I hope to see more people from our background take an active interest public service for true and real diversity.

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