A Labour party member who suggested ‘horse whipping’ Bristol’s black mayor has been forced to apologise for using words with ‘unintentional racial connotations.’
Mal Sainsbury called for a ‘metaphorical horse whip to lick our mayor and councillors into shape’ in a post on Facebook.
The message provoked fury among equalities activists from Operation Black Vote, who called on Mrs Sainsbury to be expelled from the party.
They brought it to the attention of Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who responded by asking if it was ‘an appropriate way of describing an interaction between a person of white European and black African heritage in a city like Bristol?’
Mal Sainsbury called for a ‘metaphorical horse whip to lick our mayor and councillors into shape’ in a post on Facebook
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who responded by asking if it was ‘an appropriate way of describing an interaction between a person of white European and black African heritage in a city like Bristol?’
Mrs Sainsbury claimed she was referring to an incident in 1909, when a suffragette whipped Winston Churchill at the city’s Temple Meads train station.
But she later apologised and conceded it was a ‘lesson in how language matters.’
She said: ‘My words were intended to reference white patriarchal dominance over women. It was about gender and power, not colour.
‘But although unintentional, the imagery also conjured up racial connotations of another dark and dreadful part of Bristol’s history.’
Mrs Sainsbury said she ‘deeply regretted any offence’ and offered ‘a full and unremitting apology to all those affected’.
Bristol has strong links to slavery. Thousands of ships left Bristol for Africa between 1698 and 1807 to exchange enslaved Africans for goods.
Equalities campaigner Marvin Rees became the Bristol mayor in May 2016. He describes himself as the mixed race son of a white single mother.
In his mayoral victory speech, Mr Rees, 45, described his difficult upbringing where he said he was a rare ‘brown’ face on a Bristol housing estate. He said his main reason for entering politics was to create a ‘fairer, more inclusive’ society.
Campaign group Operation Black Vote said they had ‘spoken to her at length personally’ and agreed she was not motivated by racism. They said they were ‘pleased’ with her apology.
Simon Woolley said: ‘Above all, what this episode shows me is that language matters. Whilst I can accept there was no racial intent, it doesn’t mean to say there was no racial hurt.
‘The image of a white person horse whipping a black man in a city like Bristol has clear racial connotations.
‘I’m pleased that Mal Sainsbury has acknowledged this and unreservedly apologised to Marvin and the wider black community.’