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By Morak Babajide-Alabi
Let’s be frank. “Ngozi Fulani” (if you have not heard about her, check the UK news website) has no point in the trending racial abuse claim against Lady Susan Hussey. ‘Ngozi’ (an obvious foreign name) was asked a straightforward question about where she was from and she took offence to this. This is a question asked immigrants with foreign-sounding names every day and should not have surprised ‘Ngozi.’
It is easy to get offended by the question thinking the person who asked was placing you in a box. But I have come to realise that curiosity, rather than racism, informs this question, most times.
‘Ngozi’s’ case is peculiar. Here is a woman who was dressed strangely, with an outrageous hairstyle and foreign-sounding names. Any sane individual in the setting she was in (a royal event) will be interested in knowing which culture she represented. I know it was not a cultural event, but you don’t come to an event dressed like a masquerade and expect the people around you not to ask questions.
I am certain Susan Hussey did not mean any harm. But unfortunately, she met a ‘Ngozi’ who was all ears and eyes out for anything that will attract attention to her charity organisation.
‘Ngozi’ squandered the opportunity to put Nigeria and the Igbo tribe (and the Fulani tribe) in the consciousness of Lady Susan and many others. She should have educated Lady Susan about the beautiful culture of the Igbos, Fulanis and Nigeria (in general). Let us assume she got the hint that Susan was out to racially abuse her, ‘Ngozi’ could have played the mature one here and put Susan in her place.
Black people encounter racism daily. At work, on the streets, on buses, trains, stores, etc. Many UK companies, organisations and government departments are fundamentally institutionally racist. These racial abuses are unprovoked. Some are subtle while many are “in your face.” Many intelligent migrants with ethnic names cannot get good jobs because some employers are uncomfortable with their names. Some fail at interviews because of their accents. So many are not promoted to roles of authority in companies because the management cannot cope with their accents and feel this may impact their productivity. Many more instances.
I would have gone all the way with ‘Ngozi’ if she had shown up at that event in corporate attire, with a well-maintained hairstyle and Susan cross-examined her about where she came from. That question, probably, would have been out of place. I would have carried placards and demanded a public apology from Susan and the Palace. But it was not the case.
As a Nigerian, if she had been introduced to me as ‘Ngozi Fulani’ at any event in the UK (dressed as she was,) I would have curiously wanted to know more about her. I will query the combination of Ngozi and Fulani. I would ask where she came from in Nigeria. Because you have a combination of names from two Nigerian tribes. I am black and Nigerian. So, would I be accused of racism?
You can’t show up at an event in costumes and ‘culture-loaded’ names and expect people to wholly accept the fact that you are from East London or Manchester or wherever. People are inquisitive and would like to know which tribe has gorgeous (or horrible) costumes. African names have meanings and ‘Ngozi’ could have told Susan the meanings.
Does ‘Ngozi’ appreciate her history? Was she startled of exposing her cultural ignorance? Was she terrified of being exposed to appropriating a name and culture she knows nothing about? The media rounds she has done to portray an ‘injustice’ done to her (by the conversation) have overshadowed the supposedly good works of her charity.
I think the Palace acted too hastily in advising Lady Susan Hussey to step down. I am not defending her. I do not know her history with black people. I do not know if she is racist or not. But I formed this opinion based on what transpired between her and ‘Ngozi.’ I am proud to say I signed the petition to reinstate her.
This is a personal opinion and does not represent any institution or corporate organisation.
Picture: Credit to Sky News UK.