The Tottenham MP was forced to explain that black people can in fact be English while appearing on LBC.
David Lammy, who has served as MP for Tottenham since the year 2000, was taking calls from listeners on the show while discussing Boris Johnson’s racial disparity commission’s call to scrap the term ‘BAME’.
The Shadow Justice Secretary was speaking to a caller named Jean when she told him “You will never be English because you’re African-Caribbean, “I can’t say I’m African-Caribbean.”
David replied: “Britain 400 years ago started going out into the world, colonised and conquered a lot of the world, a lot of the world has ended up coming back to the mother country…when I took a DNA test I had Scottish in me.
“Here I am, having grown up in this country, born of this country, and actually the truth is there’s a myth there’s one English ethnicity, there’s not.
“England has always been a country where Huguenots, Danes, all sorts have passed through…for me, the fact that I was born here and the fact that my sensibilities are English mean I want to claim that heritage as well.”
He added: “For me, the fact that I was born here and the fact that my sensibilities are English mean I want to claim that heritage as well.”
Unconvinced by his response, Jean said that he was “British and not English” to which David took exception.
“You probably don’t realise but in countries like Barbados there are significant white Caribbean populations who have been there for hundreds of years,” he said.
“They are significantly more Caribbean than I am.”
Describing the movement of people around the world as “pollution” Jean sparked a response from Mr Lammy.
He said: “People meet one another, they fall in love, they have kids, they move borders – sometimes through war, sometimes through economic reasons – and they become what they become when they are of that country.
“Just as you can be in America and be African-American, or you can be Italian-American, or you can be Irish-American, how is it that here in England, you can only claim that Englishness if you are white?”
Mr Lammy has since taken to Twitter to address the discussion.
He shared the clip from LBC and said: “Don’t ever tell me I’m “not English”.