Buckingham Palace accused of ‘institutional racism’ as charity boss breaks silence
Buckingham Palace has been accused of “institutional racism” after a black charity boss said she was faced with “relentless” questioning over her ethnicity by the late Queen’s lady-in-waiting. Ngozi Fulani, of Sistah Space, Britain’s leading domestic abuse charity for black women, described a “traumatic” encounter with Lady Susan Hussey, who she claims repeatedly asked where her “people” were from and left her feeling like a “trespasser.” Ms Hussey, a close friend of the late Queen has since resigned, offering her “profound apologies” – but Ms Fulani has said the resignation was a missed opportunity to deal with the “institutional racism” present at Buckingham Palace.
Ms Fulani said Ms Hussey was “relentless and determined I am not British”, adding that it showed “nothing has changed.”
The charity boss told the Independent: “This is bigger than one individual. It’s institutional racism.
“What’s the lesson here? When I drove into the palace, the car was searched and we were searched as you would expect because they have to protect the household. But what protects us, Black people, from that treatment? This incident is unfortunate and shows that nothing has changed.”
Ms Fulani shared what she said was a transcript of the conversation on Twitter, in which the member of the household allegedly continued to ask “what nationality are you?”, “where do your people come from?” and “what part of Africa are you from?”
Ms Fulani repeatedly said she was from Hackney – but says Ms Hussey wouldn’t accept it
She also allegedly said: “I can see I am going to have a challenge getting you to say where you’re from. When did you first come here?”
Eventually, Ms Fulani says she replied: “I am a British national, my parents came here in the 1950s,” to which Hussey responded: “Oh, I knew we’d get there in the end, you’re Caribbean.”
Ms Fulani corrected the aristocrat by explaining that she was “of African heritage, Caribbean descent and British nationality.”
She later said that the interaction had left her “in shock”, and while normally she wouldn’t “take this kind of nonsense”, she felt that as a black person, if she tried to say something, “what happened would automatically be seen as my fault, it would bring Sistah Space down.
“It would be ‘oh, she has a chip on their shoulder’.”
Prince William said it was “right” that his godmother had resigned
Mixed feelings about yesterday’s visit to Buckingham Palace. 10 mins after arriving, a member of staff, Lady SH, approached me, moved my hair to see my name badge. The conversation below took place. The rest of the event is a blur.
Thanks @ManduReid & @SuzanneEJacob for support pic.twitter.com/OUbQKlabyq
— Sistah Space (@Sistah_Space) November 30, 2022
She added that Ms Hussey had been “relentless and determined I am not British,” and stated that she felt powerless to tell someone at the event or do anything about it.
But for the founder of Sistah Space, which delivers cultural competency and anti-racism training, referred to as Valerie’s Law, to help bring down barriers to black victims of domestic abuse accessing help, Ms Hussey’s resignation was not a sufficient response to the problem.
She said that she didn’t believe “somebody of senior years should be vilified even though she did it herself,” adding that she didn’t “want to be part of that.”
Ms Fulani said that while being an elder wasn’t an “excuse” for racism, a better response could have been to “pull her up, re-educate, demote her, keep her from public-facing roles? Having been in this position for decades, it’s horrible that she goes out like this because of ignorance and racism.”
She called on the palace to implement anti-racism training – which she credits with leading to her being invited to the royal event in the first place.
Prince William, for whom Ms Hussey is his godmother, said it was “right” that the aide had resigned, adding: “Racism has no place in our society, these comments were unacceptable.”
Political commentator Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu said she was “livid” to hear the charity worker’s harrowing experience, describing a moment when Ms Hussey reportedly pulled Ms Fulani’s dreadlock aside to see her nametag as a “violation.”
Responding to the incident, a spokesperson from Buckingham Palace said: “In this instance, unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments have been made. We have reached out to Ngozi Fulani on this matter, and are inviting her to discuss all elements of her experience in person if she wishes.
“In the meantime, the individual concerned would like to express her profound apologies for the hurt caused and has stepped aside from her honorary role with immediate effect.
“All members of the Household are being reminded of the diversity and inclusivity policies which they are required to uphold at all times.”