Being 83 and posh is no excuse for being weird and racist

Baroness Hussey
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Once again we are being asked to believe that being elderly and posh is an excuse for being racist. In this case it’s the old classic: no, but where are you really from? As if it simply does not compute that someone can be Black and British at the same time.

The latest offender is a royal aide, Lady Susan Hussey AKA Baroness Hussey. Hussey had worked with the royal family since the 1960s. She’s been a lady-in-waiting for 60 years, including to the late queen. She is also godmother to Prince William.

Given all that time spent in the company of a family famous for its racism, it may not be surprising that she’s reverting to type.

Hussey stepped down on 30 November after a bizarre exchange with the Black founder of a charity at a reception event.

Ngozi Fulani, founder of the Sistah Space charity, later tweeted a transcript of the interaction, saying it had left her with “mixed feelings”:

Forgiveness for the rich

It seems like an open and shut case of racism. But not for the political right. Tory TV headmistress Katharine Birbalsingh was quick to suggest that her age ruled Hussey out of accountability:

However, this wasn’t a view which carried much weight with other Twitter users, who pointed out that forgiveness is beyond Birbalsingh if you aren’t white and posh, apparently:

Racist intent

With “she’s 83” soon being satirised on Twitter, Hussey apologists were accused of ignoring the content of the transcript as well as its aggressive tone:

Some commenters tried to excuse Hussey’s comments as mere curiosity. However, others pointed out that merely reading them back should dispel any such notions:

We also had a timely reminder that it is in fact possible to be old and not racist:

One twitter user even shared a helpful guide to the stages of white innocence, which ought to make sure you can get away with being racist no matter what age you are:

Special treatment

It’s clear that if you are rich, white, and posh your prejudices will be overlooked or let slide far more easily than if you don’t have those attributes. However, this isn’t just about individual examples of racism. Hussey was part of the royal entourage for decades. She enjoyed the privileges and status which accompanies a role at the heart of the royal family. It seems impossible to imagine the kinds of view which informed her comments flourished only recently. And it certainly isn’t the case that they can simply be attributed to her age.

That she has stepped down is something. However, racism will continue to run through the heart of the British establishment – it is, after all, built on colonialism and exploitation.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Ibagli, cropped to 770 x 403.

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  • Show Comments
    1. No, it doesn’t Mr Glenton, but nor does being 83 and working class, and I have come across many ‘working class’ men and women, in the 70s and 80s as well as younger, often far younger, who are equally ‘weird and racist’.

      It is dishonest of you to generalise from Hussey’s unpleasantness to Ngozi Fulani – it had and has nothing to do with whatever ‘class’ she is. It is personal to her.

      But then dishonesty is a common trait among you political campaigners, whether left, right or indifferent, and I get rather sick of it. Try crediting your readers with a lot more savvy than you seem to and stop subjecting them to your ready-made thought bites.

    2. Of course the silly 83 year old ‘Lady’ wasn’t to know from her unfortunate, clumsily delivered and awkward small-talking encounter that Ngozi Fulani was possibly just as a self-created contrivance in name and attire as ‘Lady Toff ‘ was in her finery thronging at the theatrically arranged royal Buck Palace tea party setting they found themselves at. After all, the late Queen’s Lady in Waiting Lady Hussey, was talking to a certain ‘Marlene Headley’ born in Hackney that the ‘Ngozi Fulani’ name tag did not also have scripted by way of original birth name being ‘Marlene Headley’?

    3. “Where you from?”
      “I was born in Britain”.

      End of questioning.

      Would she demand to know “Where someone was from” if their grandparents were white Polish? Of course not.

      It shouldn’t be offensive to ask where “Someone is from”. But it IS offensive when it’s pushed to the point where they don’t feel at all comfortable. This went so far beyond that it IS worth highlighting.

      Having said that, let’s send every ‘Aristo’ who draws their ancestry back to the Norman invasion, and the theft of British lands, back to France without a penny.

      Do I get a yay?

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