Was Mrs. Hussey really racist?

Or just ignorant, literally? And was the black woman who runs a charity in London justified in making such a fuss over what might have been just a silly woman who simply couldn’t understand?

I don’t know, but I have been half watching (getting dinner at the same time) an interesting programme on BBC TV weekdays at 7.30pm. The format is that there is a different group of 5 experienced walkers each week who in turn devise an interesting walk accompanied by facts about the location.

The first one this week was led by a Scotsman (they were all Scottish) who had a Scottish mother and a Ghanaian father. At one point he retold in a humourous manner an experience he once had with a questioner:

Where are you from? Perth.
Yes, but where were you born? Perth.
Where were you brought up? Perth
So what is your heritage? Scottish.

All this to roars of unembarrassed laughter from his audience in which he joined and it was quite obvious to me that he was not in the least insulted by the encounter. At first I was surprised, but it was obvious that this had been recorded before the Hussey incident.

So was too much made of it, or was Mrs. Hussey really racist? Just made me think. :thinking:


Well, Harry and Meghan don’t seem to think so according to various news reports of Harry’s interview(which I didn’t see)
I think she was just exceedingly clumsy in her approach but racist ,no.
There again I am white and have not had to suffer racist comments throughout my life as have most black people which I would think would make anyone exceedingly sensitive to a perceived slight even if there was no intent.So I can understand people of colour being offended
If she had said" what is your heritage" would that be perceived as racist?
Also in my experience some of these elderly aristocratic women can come over as being quite overbearing anyway (even if they are in reality very nice)
We have all the right to change our names and whether this is actually true I don’t know but it has been said that Ngosi Fulani’s name was originally Marlene Headley who has Barbadian heritage.
I grew up in an area of mass immigration in the sixties and I’ll have to admit we used to find it very funny at first when we heard some of ourblack/Indian classmates talking in broad Midland accents .

Not sure if this would be perceived as racist these days?

The persistent questioning turned what should have been a simple conversation into an interrogation just because she was black so yes it was racist. Did Lady Hussey believe she was being racist probably not and that is in many ways the bigger problem - the world has moved on but some people haven’t.

I do think Ms Fulani has used this to promote her charity and herself which is a bit opportunistic but I guess I might have done the same thing.

1 Like

Oxford says:

a person who is prejudiced against or antagonistic towards people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group,

I don’t know either woman of course, but I would have thought that the above definition might make Mrs. Hussey insensitive rather than antagonistic. Also, it is quite possible that she really was interested in the offended woman’s family origins. Perhaps she would, at the drop of a hat, tell endlessly of her own family origins and was really interested in someone else’s.


Personally, I don’t think she was being racist… just interested (and perhaps intrigued) by the outfit worn by Ngosi Fulani …

If I’d been wearing a similar outfit… or even full Highland kit (I do love a kilt)… I reckon that might well have caused some questioning of my origins… (and it certainly wouldn’t surprise me…)


I think you’d have to show your working there, @tim17, on the question of whether it was racist (if even Prince Harry didn’t think so) and on how it was an “interrogation”.

I’m with @Stella. Marlene Headley (as was)
i. changed her name to Ngozi Fulani
ii. said she had been wearing “authentic” African clothing at the palace
iii. Said, "Any time I go to these spaces, I must bring my history with me; I walk with my ancestors without apology. And that was what, I think, was under attack.”

There is nothing wrong with any of what Miss Fulani did. If she wants to display pride in her heritage then she’s entitled to do that, and all of that seems aimed at that end.

However, I still think most reasonable people would have assumed Miss Fulani, in dressing as she did, would be proud to talk of her heritage, and that the kindest way of dealing with Lady Hussey would have been to explain why persistent questioning in the way she did it might not always be appropriate.


It almost seemed as if Ms Fulani (despite being dressed in authentic African clothing) didn’t want to talk about her way-back history… she had the obvious moment to smile broadly and say something along the lines of…

“I’m from Brixton, born and bred… but I have African roots of which I’m very proud…”

(yes, perhaps she wasn’t born in Brixton, but you all get my drift…)


Simple, if you asked a white person you met here where they’re from and they said Paris you’d leave things there, would you do the same if they were black?

But if they were dressed in full Scottish regalia with a (possibly faked) Scots accent then you might well ask the question several times. And as Stella pointed out, they could always help you our by saying “my heritage is Scottish and my parents were from Dundee, but I was born in Paris”.

I wonder if Ms Fulani/Headley wasn’t caught out a little.

Ah, but that’s not quite the same thing, is it?

Imagine if I turned up at a French function, dressed in bowler had, furled umbrella and morning suit You ask me where I’m from and I say, “Paris”.

Would you really consider that continuing that line of questioning was racist?

I think the point I’m making is that reasonable people know nationality and origin isn’t dependent on skin colour, but that dressing to display your “heritage” might be expected to spark interest.


I’m not sure I’ve ever asked someone where they come from. However, as soon as I speak, people say “you’re from Stoke”. :joy: Mutual respect is what is needed. The Imam at work was really good at explaining the difference between racism and perceived racism.

Some interesting replies there and most seem to concur with my own although I didn’t realise that Mrs. Fulani was dressed in full African clothes. I think even more now that the questioning was interested rather than racist.

Hmm… I can honestly say that it makes no difference to me…
I see strangers in the village… I smile and say along the lines of “welcome, are you newcomers or just visiting…”

The person then usually smiles and tells me along the lines “we’re visiting from blah, blah blah… or we’ve just bought a place blah blah blah…”

mind you, if they’re in “full -rig” … I would certainly comment on it… and the conversation would continue this way and that… as conversations tend to do…

and by full-rig… it can indeed be top-hat and tails… turned out that person had come to our village by mistake…
nope, there’s no wedding here today… aaaargh. :roll_eyes:

I have to plead guilty.
I once had a Swedish student who didn’t “look” Swedish. Out of curiosity, I mentioned this. I was surprised by her apparently annoyed reaction. She explained that she was fed up with people asking her. Her parents were from Iran.
This report has made me think. Was I being racist? Was I unconsciously biased?
I always asked students where they came from, white or not (it being a music college, they came from all over the world). I was genuinely interested.
Lots of German people used to ask me where I came from, saying I looked Danish or Scottish, because of my ginger beard. Were they being racist?

Nope it used to be conversation until people with agendas waded into the conversation


Exactly… interested is a world away from racist…

I wouldn’t ask people now because I expect someone at some stage to play the racist card - it feels almost inevitable.

1 Like

Actually, these days one has to be very, very careful what one says to whomever… and in no matter what situation…

Generally, it’s obvious from my mumblings in my best French… that I’m not totally “local” and perhaps folk would give me the benefit of any doubt…
Even so, I’m extremely careful at first… and gradually relax depending on how the conversation continues…

The British in general and the English in particular are racists. If you want evidence it is called Brexit.