A barrister has been ridiculed for claiming that a white person can be black if they decide they are black.
Allan Briddock, a barrister at One Pump Court, was also pilloried for suggesting that people are disabled if they choose to identify as disabled. The barrister, who specialises in immigration and asylum law, made the comments on Twitter when another user posted an article about Rachel Dolezal, the American woman who falsely presented herself as black. The user asked why it was wrong for a white person to identify as black but acceptable for a man to identify as a woman. Briddock answered, "Whose definition of black or white? I know people who ‘look’ white but identify as black or mixed race. I think that’s quite common. No one else decides someone's identity except the person."
When asked if he meant that anyone could identify as anything, Briddock stated that self-identification applied to "gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, disability". If white people "identify as black", wrote Briddock, "then they are black. It’s not up to anyone else to decide."
"This is insane", commented one person. "Are you on acid Allan?" asked another. "The next time the police pull me over," posted a black tweeter, "I'll simply tell them that they've made a mistake - that I really identify as a white man. I'm sure they'll pass it along...You've lost your damn mind."
"You're a BARRISTER?", exclaimed another user, to which Sarah Phillimore, a barrister at St John's Chambers, responded, "He identifies as a barrister. That is enough." She added, "I have decided to be a young Uma Thurman".
Briddock before going on Twitter.
"I identify as your dad, Allan", wrote a tweeter. "Time to stop this nonsensical talk and on to doing your homework".
A disabled tweeter, @ninja_rainbow, asked Briddock, "You think disability is an identity that I choose to identify with? With all due respect, f* you". Ninja continued, "There are many reasons that it is not an 'identity', including a medical diagnosis. If someone came along without this medical condition and started saying it was their 'identity', it would be one of the most offensive things I could imagine". "Yes I understand that completely", replied the barrister.
Briddock was less forgiving towards Phillimore. When a Twitter user asked if it was acceptable via Briddock's logic for a white man to identify as a black transwoman, Phillimore interjected, "Please don't give white men any more inspiration for identities to appropriate". Briddock replied "Wow. That's just racist".
"Twitter doesn't allow for nuance", the besieged barrister told RollOnFriday. "What I was saying is that it is not up to someone else to decide a person’s identity as looks do not define it". Asked if he wanted to clarify his tweeted views, he said, "I do not believe at all that a person who does not genuinely identify as a certain race/ethnicity should be treated as such and I recognise there will need to be a certain amount of objectivity to it in some scenarios. However the problem of people saying that they are X when they are not appears to be non-existent".
Asked if he regards Dolezal as black because she identifies as black, Briddock said, "I do not believe that if she has no black heritage she is black". As for disability, said Briddock, "I got in a lot of trouble over that! What I meant was that some people with what we may regard as minor or non-debilitating disabilities identity as disabled and some people with more debilitating disabilities do not. I am certainly not saying, as was suggested in the thread, that you can ‘identify out’ of disability."
"All I am saying", said Briddock, "is that people have differing views of their own situation and we should respect that".
Phillimore told RollOnFriday, "I was both surprised and disappointed to find that a fellow lawyer would make arguments that he was apparently not willing to defend other than call me a racist", which was "offensive and untrue". She said, "I hope after he has time for reflection he would agree to withdraw that accusation". She said, "as a disabled person I am well aware of the physical limitations and confines of my identity that I may not cast aside by sheer force of willpower. Mr Briddock ought to have been able to appreciate the impact of his publications that identity was entirely a matter of personal ‘choice’, upon those of us who are the subject of discrimination from others because of their perception of our ‘identities’" .