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Royal race row

Royal race row

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Lady Susan Hussey has caused a race row after asking a Black charity boss where she was “really” from during a reception at Buckingham Palace. Who is Ngozi Fulani and why does this come at such a bad time for the royal family?

“That you have asked me a question and I have answered it several times, in fact, and you do not stop until you get the answer that satisfies you that I really cannot claim to be British…”

Ngozi Fulani

Ngozi Fulani runs a domestic violence charity called Sistah Space, which supports women of African and Caribbean heritage.

A few days ago she went to Buckingham Palace, home of King Charles, for an event to raise awareness of violence against women and girls.

“I let my guard down in a space that I thought I was safe in, because we deal with violence against women. Now violence isn’t always physical. It can be verbal. And that felt like violence to me.”

Ngozi Fulani

She met the Queen consort, Camilla, who organised the event. And she also had a conversation with a woman called Lady Susan Hussey, who had been working at the royal household since 1960. 

Here’s how the conversation went.

Lady Hussey: “Where are you from?”

Ngozi Fulani: “Sistah Space.”

Lady Hussey: “No, where do you come from?

Ngozi Fulani: “We’re based in Hackney.”

Lady Hussey: “No, what part of Africa are you from?”

Ngozi Fulani: “I don’t know. They didn’t leave any records.”

Lady Hussey: “Well, you must know where you’re from, I spent time in France. Where are you from?”

Ngozi Fulani: “Here, the UK.”

Lady Hussey: “No, but what nationality are you?”

Ngozi Fulani: “I am born here and am British.”

Lady Hussey: “No, but where do you really come from? Where do your people come from?”

This was just part of an extraordinary exchange, witnessed by other people, and recounted by Ngozi Fulani after the event.

Buckingham Palace quickly tried to keep a lid on things…

“The Palace described Lady Hussey’s remarks as unacceptable and deeply regrettable and said that she had stepped aside with immediate effect.”

BBC News

A few days later Ngozi Fulani was invited to meet King Charles.

But by that time, driven by the media and the internet, the story had taken on a life of its own.

People attacked Ngozi Fulani for using a different name to her British-sounding birth name, something which is common among Black Caribbeans whose ancestors were given the name of their slave owners.

Others said that Ngozi Fulani’s charity, Sistah Space, was “racist” for only catering to women of African and Caribbean heritage. Ngozi Fulani set up the charity after a 45-year-old Black woman, along with her infant daughter, was murdered by her ex-partner in east London.

An article published in the magazine the Spectator said that Ngozi Fulani should have acted with some grace. And that Lady Hussey doesn’t have any prejudices, evidenced by the fact she spent a long time married to a man called Marmaduke, who only had one leg.

Ngozi Fulani said that she’d experienced “horrific abuse” since she’d spoken up about the conversation with Lady Hussey.

The irony is that those who have tried to excuse what the member of the royal household said, or attack Ngozi Fulani, have only added to the royal family’s problems, because people are still talking about it.

“British royals, Prince William and Kate Middleton, arrived in Boston today on their first visit to the US in eight years.”

CBS Evening News

The story about Ngozi Fulani and Lady Hussey overshadowed a major visit to the United States by the Prince and Princess of Wales, which was then further derailed by the release of a hotly anticipated Netflix documentary.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, stepped down from royal duties two years ago.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle claimed that the royal family was institutionally racist. 

She said she experienced this first hand, when questions were raised about how dark their son’s skin might be. 

And now Prince Harry and his wife have released a six-part documentary, promising to show what happened behind closed doors.

The story about Ngozi Fulani will make it harder for the royal family to dismiss some of the claims that might be made by the couple.

Not least because Lady Hussey wasn’t just any member of the royal household. 

She’s the godmother of Prince William and was a lady in waiting for the late Queen Elizabeth. She’s now created a royal storm, which, against the backdrop of a bombshell documentary, shows no signs of abating.

This episode was written and mixed by Xavier Greenwood.