Why was Gina Miller’s role ignored in this historic political moment?
On 24 September, Brits, and people across the world, witnessed a historic moment. A moment in which everyday citizens, who often felt powerless, could finally breathe a sigh of relief. The UK’s Supreme Court of Justice ruled that our unelected prime minister – Boris Johnson – had illegally prorogued parliament. Such a monumental moment should have been one that consisted of an overwhelming sense of victory.
For many, though, the win was bittersweet. Because, as the internet and new cycles churned out praise for Lady Hale (the first female head of the Supreme Court, who ruled that Johnson’s proroguing was unlawful), Gina Miller was shoved to the side.
For those who are unfamiliar with Miller, she is a business woman and an activist who has predominantly lead various campaigns against an unlawful Brexit. She is also a woman of colour.
It is Miller who fought for this case to have a judicial review, which ultimately ended up in the brilliant Lady Hale’s hands. Likewise, it is Miller who has tirelessly fought for justice, and fought to prevent parliament – and its members – from believing that they are above the law. (In 2017, Miller won the legal case that demanded a Parliamentary vote before Theresa May, then the UK’s Prime Minister, could trigger Article 50.) And it is Miller who has bore the brunt of the abuse, death threats and racism from those far-right members who seethe in anger over such legal cases, too.
So why is Lady Hale receiving all the praise? Why is there a plethora of articles and ‘who is Lady Hale?’ profile pieces being shared online in the wake of this ruling? Where is Miller in among all this press coverage? Even Stylist, which has run many interviews with Miller in the past, published a profile on Hale before a profile on Miller.
The Right will argue that this is because Miller has long been a familiar face to those that closely following Brexit. But I believe it is because Lady Hale is white, and Miller is not.
It’s not a new trend to erase women of colour from a fight for justice in which they have poured in huge amounts of emotional, intellectual and physical labour. To replace the face of those movements or fights with white women and people when the work is successful. To brush women of colour to the side and forget (or ignore) their efforts and participation in order for white women – intentionally or not – to take the wheel and be placed on a pedestal. Kris Jenner works hard, but white feminism works harder.
This attempt to erase Miller from a historical moment is painfully reminiscent of what happened to Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement. Many people – myself included – had not known of her involvement until she featured in TIME’s Person of the Year in 2017 (although she wasn’t even featured on the cover).
Why? Because the face of the #MeToo movement has consistently been spearheaded by white women such as Alyssa Milano, whose activism stands accused of excluding BAME and queer women/people.
This erasure of people of colour – specifically women – by the media is incredibly dangerous, because it consistently drives in the mindset that white people are the saviours of everything. That they know best, that only they can hold positions of power, and that only they can effect the change that is needed. The women of colour they erase from history, though, have not just stood up and fought because they believe it’s right, but because their opposition threatens their literal existence as a minority. They don’t have a choice in whether they can fight: they have to.
It is unacceptable to expect women of colour to put themselves on the frontline if we don’t even acknowledge their herculean efforts. It is criminal to consistently erase them from history; a history in which people of colour rarely – if ever – see themselves to begin with. And see themselves outside of the racist stereotypes that the white majority and media already continue to perpetuate, too.
Gina Miller deserves to be the face of this historical moment. Not just because she did all the leg work and deserves the praise, but because the children who see themselves in her deserve to know they can make history, too.