There has never been a place for racism: “We are all children under god’s sun”

This day cannot pass without commenting on those comments by a now ex member of the royal household.

I am sure I am not alone in having wanted to throw a brick at my radio, in my case an Alexa, listening to Radio 4 PM last night. The racist comments by Lady Susan Hussey were enough to make anyone angry. And then Petronella Wyatt defended her ladyship on the programme. It was sickening. There is no defence for racism. Wyatt’s defence was that Lady Hussey was old and that somehow excused it. No. It doesn’t. Many of my friends are elderly to the point of being ancient. They don’t have a racist thought in their heads.

Racism has no place in society.

 

I remember a situation in a pub in Buckinghamshire. It was Sunday and the pub was usually closing by 3pm but it was a murky winter day and we were hoping to keep drinking. A black couple with two children walked in looking for warmth and coffee. John, the landlord shouted: “We’re closed!”. A one legged Irishman propping up the bar roared: “John. We are all children under god’s sun”. We all wished we had said that. I don’t believe in any gods but that was a perfect expression of equality.

That was two decades ago and I had hoped we had left all this behind. But of course, we haven’t. There is institutional racism. Some people in authority, some police for example, have the wrong attitudes associating the colour of skin with criminality. Some people, including youngsters, have adopted a hate relationship with people of colour. I sometimes wonder whether this is from their parents or whether their frustration and anger with life means they need to hate someone. A person that doesn’t look like them is an easy target.

Language can be a nightmare. Back in the eighties, a chief constable referred to people as “nig nogs”, creating a furore. That is a clear racist term in America but in the mining village I then lived in the north east, it was an affectionate term for boy and girl. It also means foolish people.

But we have since got stricter on words and most of us have learnt that we must address people language that is mutually acceptable.

These days everyone should be aware of the words they use and the need to ensure that they are free from perceived prejudice. Of course, errors and slips of the tongue happen. Some are inexcusable. Others can be quickly corrected. But Lady Susan Hussey pressed the point repeatedly seemingly unaware that someone who is black can be born here and is a British as she is. It reflects an underlying attitude that black people are foreign, no matter that they are born here. Our country, like America and so many other countries, is built in immigration, ancient and modern. Migration injects vitality, and new genes, into population. New ideas. Innovations that will help our country

There are no words that can describe Petronella Wyatt’s defence of Lady Hussey on R4 PM last night. Age is not an excuse for racism. It doesn’t matter whether your skin is black, brown, yellow, white or any shade in between:

We are all children under god’s sun.

Comments on this post will be pre-moderated due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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7 Comments

  • I clicked on a link to ‘Petsy’ Wyatt, it took me to the ‘Mail’ comments page; ’nuff said’!

  • When my mother was in her 90s and suffering from Alzheimer’s I took in a photo of Obama and explained that he was the new US President. “Oh, he’s a negro!” she said, with a big smile on her face. The language was an inappropriate throwback to her younger days, but the sentiment was joyful. Age may excuse the occasional misuse of terms, but does not excuse the complete absence of cultural, historical or personal sensitivity shown in this case.

  • Mick Taylor 2nd Dec '22 - 6:51am

    I rather fear that this sort of casual racism is far more common that any of us like to admit.
    I remember canvassing in a by-election that the BNP won. I, perhaps naively, asked a voter why he was voting BNP. A bizarre conversation followed. Him “Well, they’re everywhere”. Me” I don’t understand”. Him. “you have only to go down town and you can see it for yourself” and so on. So, he had learned to speak only in riddles, but his underlying racism was loud and clear. The battle is far from over in defeating racism.
    No-one would be defending Lady Susan if she had made the same comments about a Jew or an Irishman. So why oh why is Lady Wyatt trying to justify the indefensible.

  • The attempts to defend Lady Hussey’s hurtful questioning is possibly worse than the original offence. I don’t consider age to be an excuse for racism, but I do think age (or rather living in a cultural bubble which is more likely when you are older) can mean some people have never noticed that certain lines of enquiry or language isn’t appropriate, or have never been properly challenged on it, or been given a proper explanation as to why many other people now know to be more careful.

    Some media coverage, summarising the exchange as the less aggressive ‘where do you come from?’ has confused some people who thought it was reasonable small talk and shows interest, so this is at least a good opportunity to highlight the issue to a lot of people who hadn’t previously given it any thought.

    The incident does underline why diversity and unconscious bias training remains valuable.

  • There is a good explanation here of what was wrong with the questions.
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/dec/01/anatomy-exchange-led-to-racism-charge-royal-resignation

  • @Mary Reid – I agree, we recently experienced similar with a now-deceased aunt. In her last months she built a fantastic relationship with the Ghanaian live-in carer social services sourced.

    What got me about this incident wasn’t the initial question but the persistence and being deaf to the answers. Personally, being of a similar age to Ngozi Fulani, I remember the hard time the few “black” kids (girls and boys) at school got from the “white” kids, they got it more than the Italian, Chinese, Russian and Asian kids; I “take-my-hat-off” to Ngozi for her tenacity and achievement. Perhaps the circles Susan Hussey grew up in have prevented her from gaining an appreciation of just how difficult and far Ngozi’s journey has been and the changes in social acceptability we’ve lived though since the 1970’s.

  • Eternal vigilance is the best protection from racial utterances and actions. I’d prefer we looked at a person’s consistent behaviour over time rather than rush to condemn on a single one taken out of context. We need to be more tolerant and not hide behind other’s mistakes. There but for the grace of God.

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