'Coconut' row councillor in race conviction appeal
- 29 June 2010
- From the section Bristol
A black councillor who called an Asian colleague a "coconut" will appeal against her conviction for racial harassment, her solicitor has said.
Liberal Democrat Shirley Brown used the derogatory remark against Conservative Jay Jethwa at a Bristol City Council debate last year.
She was given a conditional discharge at Bristol Magistrates' Court on Monday after being found guilty.
Solicitor Greg Foxsmith said she was a champion for diversity.
Mr Foxsmith said: "To have spent all her life championing diversity and community cohesion and she now has a race conviction.
"It's extraordinary, particularly while real race hate crimes go unpunished and uninvestigated."
The term coconut has been used to accuse someone of betraying their race or culture by implying that, like a coconut, they are brown on the outside but white on the inside.
Mrs Jethwa did not hear the insult during the meeting but watched it later on the council's webcast.
Mrs Jethwa, who moved to England from India 24 years ago, had proposed to cut funding to the city's Legacy Commission, set up to educate people on the abolition of the slave trade, during the debate on 24 February last year.
She said that it did not make sense to spend £750,000 of taxpayers' money "righting the wrongs of slavery".
Mr Foxsmith said Brown "took exception" to the cuts and added: "She said in our community there's a word for people like you and that word is coconut.
"You have abandoned your ethnic roots, I suppose is what it means."
The Conservative Party lodged a formal complaint and Brown apologised for her remarks.
In July, Brown was suspended for a month by the council's Standards Committee but this was overturned on appeal.
Avon and Somerset police then received a complaint and Brown was prosecuted.