Once upon a time (actually about the same time a certain Panel was delivering a finding that would cause some ‘rep en roer’, some unexpected turns in the continued reign of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who recently rode in a gilded coach to the palace), while the Queen Consort of England was attending an official Buckingham Palace event and various Royal appendages were moving deftly around the room assisting the hostess in her social interaction, a Baroness asked an exotically dressed guest with a foreign name, ”Where do you come from?”
It was a fairly anodyne, innocuous question with which to open small talk, and is not very far off from one of the late Queen’s reputedly favourite openers when greeting people lining a walkabout route: ‘Have you come far?’
(It’s a cunning one that one: quickly sorting the locals from the tourists and gave her room for a follow up appreciative remark before moving away muffled by a posy of flowers).
Unfortunately when 83-year-old Susan Hussey, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth for simply yonks, cornered the blinged, Rastafarian-braided and leopard print-draped 61-year-old Marlene Headley aka Ngozi Fulani (I shall not dwell on activist Ms Headley’s several apparent “acts of cultural appropriation”) and asked her question, the first of several, that attempted to drill down to Fulani’s ancestral home, a race row was born and was nurtured by the media, the pages of outrage.
The allegations of racism both instititutional and covert, microagressions, and somewhat over the top “physical abuse” resulted, very quickly, and without much ado, in the sacking of the old, decades loyal servant of the House of Cringer, Charles III.
The monarch wasted no time it seems in accepting Fulani’s interpretation of the prickly interchange between the two women as evidence of Hussey’s aggression and antipathy to black people and their right to British nationality.
Fulani says her trauma began when octogenarian Hussey touched her hair in order to see her name badge (didn’t Hussey know, as we do, you touch the hair, you touch the rock), and began to question her ‘persistently.’
Fulani has now had a lot of publicity for her charity for black women affected by domestic violence and for her race cause. A bevy of black women activists have been featured on media platforms eloquently tearing into the usual foes. There are now counter allegations that it was something of a set up by Fulani and allies. I await evidence.
I do not fall for the line that Ms Fulani was traumatized – however unnecessarily dogged the old aristocrat was at trying to get her to acknowledge her ancestral home and bring up her Caribbean roots. I do wonder, as have several others, how Fulani goes about vetting the race of anyone applying to her charity for help. Does she ask for their origins? How far back does she go? Does she refuse those with the wrong race profile?
I have sympathy for the Baroness.
Possibly she recalls that around 1976 when Roots was the block buster book on everyone’s shelf and, a black person from America wanted nothing but an opportunity to talk about their ancestors from Africa, to trace their lineage back to Africa, don a dashiki and recount how their family put down roots in a new country.
She probably took part in a couple of Royal functions honouring the pioneers and champions of the Windrush generation, the West Indian men and women who immigrated to Britain in the ‘40s. People proud of where they come from, polite enough to oil the wheels of the conversation at a formal function.
Ghaleb Cachalia, now a DA MP, is appalled by how shamefully Susan Hussey has been treated and recalls that as a student in the 70s in London the Queen Mother was opening a library at his college and chatting to students on her way. She asked him where he was from. “I thought I was being very clever and answered Clapham Junction, Ma’am. On reflection I was being too clever by half and really should have told the delightful old lady I hailed from South Africa.“
I doubt we will all be totally up to date and sensitive to (or would or should, actually care a fig about) modern mores come our Eighties. Let alone the proliferating ways of committing microaggressions or demonstrating innate or institutional racism as identified and tracked by the new moralists.
Fulani says she did the morally right thing, the just thing, calling out this evidence of institutionalized, covert racism, flagging this aggression. And she wasn’t responsible for what happened to Hussey.
But this incident occurs as I read Peggy Noonan’s opinion in the Wall Street Journal (December 1, 2022) on what she says are the new psychopaths in the news; people who lack a conscience, who think of themselves as highly moral.
Manifestations of this condition, according to Noonan, include a tendency to exploit, to be deceitful, to disregard norms and laws, to be impulsive and reckless and most important to lack guilt, remorse, and empathy.
These are subtle psychopaths, she warns, they don’t stab and they’re often intelligent and charming. But they do not have developed consciences. The American Psychological Association calls it a chronic disposition to disregard the rights of others. Recognise anyone from that description?
I warn that they walk amongst us and we are all, whatever our age, in danger of being used to help them build their image.
Be careful out there.
If you are keen to try out that loaded question that caused all the fuss on me at any future shindig where we may meet the answer would probably be: “Ek is vannie Kaap”. I could also reply I’m a Jo’burger but it’s difficult to not be proud of being a born Capetonian.
If my questioner were Floyd Shivambu would it all take on a different tone?
Would I leap to stress my South African roots going back at least 202 years?
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR
If you like what you have just read, support the Daily Friend