Ngozi Fulani: Charity boss accuses Buckingham Palace of institutional racism after ‘traumatic’ encounter with royal aide

Exclusive: ‘This is bigger than one individual. It’s institutional racism,’ Ngozi Fulani tells The Independent

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Wednesday 30 November 2022 16:20 GMT
Palace race incident was abuse, says charity boss Ngozi Fulani
Leer en Español

A Black charity boss has accused Buckingham Palace of institutional racism after the late Queen’s lady-in-waiting was forced to resign for making offensive remarks during an event.

Ngozi Fulani, of Sistah Space, Britain’s leading domestic abuse charity for Black women, spoke of the “traumatic” encounter in which Lady Susan Hussey asked what part of Africa she was from.

It happened at a Violence Against Women and Girls reception hosted by the Queen Consort.

Lady Hussey, who served as Queen Elizabeth II’s lady-in-waiting for more than 60 years and is Prince William’s godmother, stepped down from her honorary role on Wednesday and expressed her “profound apologies for the hurt caused” via a statement.

Prince William also issued a statement in relation to the incident, saying that “racism has no place in society”.

Speaking exclusively to The Independent about her encounter, Ms Fulani said: “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 said that Lady Hussey moved her dreadlocked hair out of the way of her name badge after she arrived at the event, before asking questions about where she and “her people” were from.

Posting what she said was a transcript of the conversation online, the prominent campaigner for survivors of domestic abuse described how Lady Hussey had subjected her to “relentless” questioning about her heritage.

“I was in shock after it happened and anybody who knows me, knows I don’t take this kind of nonsense,” wrote the Sistah Space founder. “But I had to consider so many things. As a Black person, I found myself in this place where I wanted to say something but what happened would automatically be seen as my fault, it would bring Sistah Space down. It would be ‘oh, she has a chip on her shoulder’.

“There are so many things to consider before you can even react to the pain of racism. Can you imagine? I’m just processing the incident.”

Ms Fulani added: “This woman was relentless and determined I am not British. I was thinking ‘what can I do here now?’ Nothing. ‘Who can I tell?’ No one.”

However, the charity boss did not welcome the news of Lady Hussey’s resignation – which she learnt about online – and said it was a missed opportunity for real lessons to be learnt within the palace.

“My nature is not that somebody of senior years should be vilified even though she did it to herself. I don’t want to be part of that. I’m old school. This is an elder and that’s not an excuse, but I’m thinking why don’t we just do something different such as 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.”

Ms Fulani is calling for the royal household to implement anti-racism training of the kind that earned her an invitation to the palace in the first place.

Ngozi Fulani said her meeting with Lady Hussey was traumatic (Supplied)

Sistah Space delivers cultural competency and anti-racism training to organisations such as the Met Police, and is also behind the campaign to introduce legislation referred to as Valerie’s Law, which would make such training compulsory for police forces and related bodies, in a bid to tackle barriers to Black victims of domestic abuse accessing help.

Ms Fulani said her organisation would be willing to oversee training at Buckingham Palace.

“It is that very training that got us the invitation in the first place. It is ironic, therefore, that the thing that we’re fighting to end was targeted at me. I was not the only one standing there, and certainly not the only one affected. And I’ll go as far as to [suggest that] even those who were not there must be affected by this.”

In its statement, Buckingham Palace said the comments were “unacceptable and deeply regrettable”. It said it took the incident “extremely seriously” and that all members of the household were being reminded of its diversity and inclusion policies.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in