BREAKING NEWS: WOMAN ASKED WHERE SHE'S REALLY FROM!
You may have gone to bed last night with a vague awareness that someone connected to the British Royal Family had asked a black woman where she’s “really” from at a charity event.
To most sensible people of every background, an incident of this nature is, at worst, a mildly unpleasant misunderstanding. On learning the questioner is 83 years old and has since been forced to resign, most people would conclude that while we live in hypersensitive, unforgiving times, the matter is now closed.
Fortunately, our moral betters in the mainstream media have other ideas:
Take a moment and read the other stories on the BBC news homepage.
People are waiting up to 40 hours for an ambulance. In Britain. In 2022. House prices are falling. People in deprived communities are eating pet food out of desperation. A mentally vulnerable rugby player has been missing for weeks. Protests in China have forced the Government to ease COVID restrictions.
The war in Ukraine and the brutally-supressed protests in Iran don’t make the cut. And rightly so - who has time for such frivolities? Thank God the BBC has its priorities straight. Someone was clumsily asked about their ethnic background! This deserves not only the prime slot in coverage, we must urgently be told in the second most prominent story on that same page the whereabouts of the Prince and Princess of Wales during this international crisis.
So, let’s break down the biggest story of the year so far.
Lady Susan Hussey, who is Prince William’s godmother, and the late Queen’s lady-in-waiting, apologised and resigned after repeatedly asking Ngozi Fulani, a charity founder, where she is “really” from. An unverified transcript of this incident, produced by the “victim”, was published by the very same BBC here.
Assuming the transcript is accurate, Lady Hussey was pushy and rude in attempting to establish the guest’s ethnic background. “Unpleasant and insensitive but not the end of the world,” you might think to yourself.
As the Guardian helpfully explained the incident left Fulani “traumatised and violated”. And we all know this is a totally appropriate and reasonable reaction to an old lady being a bit clumsy in attempting to strike up a conversation about your background because that’s not what she was doing at all! Lady Hussey was, in fact, deliberately attempting to make her feel like a foreigner in her own land!
Indeed, as Fulani explained the encounter felt like an “interrogation” and was “abuse”. We can only hope that the nimble old racist didn’t organise the others in attendance to tie the poor charity founder to a chair before collectively chanting “WHERE ARE YOU REALLY FROM?” in her face as the Royals are want to do with uppity minorities.
This is no storm in a teacup, my friends. This is a major story that needs wall-to-wall coverage.
Furthermore, it would obviously be an outrageous example of victim-blaming to ask whether Fulani may have brought her own preconceptions into this conversation. Even if it were to emerge that she believes that Meghan Markle is a victim of “domestic violence” perpetrated by King Charles and Camilla.
My stocks of sarcasm are running low so I will say simply this:
As a first generation, dark-skinned immigrant who has been a British citizen most of my adult life, I am regularly asked about my background. I myself frequently ask other people whether they were born here and how their family ended up in Britain. To be interested in the stories of people you meet is the most natural human curiousity. Sometimes even well-meaning people can phrase things badly, misread cues and cause offence.
It is true that asking someone where they’re “really” from can sometimes feel exclusionary and offensive because it implies that because of your ethnicity you can never be “really” from Britain, even if you were born here. It’s not a phrase I would use - it is much better, in my opinion, to ask about someone’s “family background” or “name”. These are well-understood and not-yet-banned codes for “what’s your family story?”
But being offended requires a desire to be offended. It is a choice, at least for those of us who aren’t racial activists or click-hunters working in the mainstream media. Rapidly changing multi-ethnic societies like ours will always produce frictions and misunderstandings. How we deal with them is up to us.
The fact that this non-story has received the attention that it has instead of being resolved via private complaint followed by private apology reveals a deep truth about our society. We are no longer willing to be adults on issues of race. We are locked in an endless loop of outrage and offence-taking driven by irresponsible journalists, cowardly employers and attention-hungry activists.
How do we get out of it? I once thought that aspiring to Martin Luther King’s dream of striving for a colour-blind society was the way to go but under the modern rules of Western society, that’s racist too. So this, I’m afraid, is it - it’s division and stupidity all the way down.
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