A Government minister has said there is “a lot of casual racism” around when asked about “unacceptable” remarks from the late Queen’s lady in waiting to a black charity boss.
Tech minister Paul Scully said there are “ways and means” of going about inquiring about someone’s heritage after Lady Susan Hussey, the Prince of Wales’s godmother, challenged Ngozi Fulani on where she “really came from”.
Lady Susan resigned from the household and apologised after making the “unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments” to Ms Fulani, chief executive of Sistah Space, at a royal reception on Tuesday.
The campaigner shared a rundown of the conversation, which took place at a major gathering hosted by the Queen Consort to highlight violence against women and girls, on social media – describing it as a “violation” and saying the experience will “never leave me”.
Asked if Lady Susan’s remarks were racist, Mr Scully told Sky News’ The Take with Sophy Ridge: “I think there’s a lot of casual racism. I say that as someone who’s half-Burmese, that there’s often this kind of idea that people say: ‘Yeah, but where are you really from?’
“Unfortunately we’re still having to educate people. I think there is this casual sort of approach sometimes which you have to be careful, because I’m all for free speech, but why on earth would you want to offend someone?”
He added: “I’m glad people are interested in people’s heritage. There’s ways and means.”
Mr Scully recalled his own experience of “name-calling” growing up because he had “slightly darker skin”.
“I don’t consider myself particularly dark, but I had a slightly darker skin than some of my friends and they knew my Burmese background, and there’s a lot of casual racism in that,” he said.
“For me it was name-calling – it was children, really, I think, exploring their boundaries.”
But he said there was “no way” he would ever describe himself as having a “discriminatory childhood”.
“If I wanted to kick back, and I did every now and again, people realised. So I’m very lucky, in that regard,” he said.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said he thought Lady Susan’s remarks were an example of “casual racism”.
“I just pay tribute to Paul, I think he spoke very bravely about his own personal experiences there,” he told The Take.
“I think it is an example of casual racism. There is a lot of casual racism in society and we always have to stand firm against it.”