Here’s a poser for you.
A black charity leader was at a reception at the royal palace last week. She had a conversation, apparently, with one of the old queen’s buddies. According to the media, it went:
- Where are you from?
- Yes, but where are you really from?
- Yes, but what’s your nationality?
You get my point? The implication is that in this case, the woman was being prodded repeatedly for some “African” origin. There’s the potential for this in the UK. Because of our colonial past, somebody might well appear to be… well, non anglo-saxon, I suppose you’d say… yet could easily be third or fourth generation British.
The charity woman in question has called it racism, and I suppose when somebody badgers you like that, it is.
But I just wonder whether that’s always the case? I’ve certainly asked a (parents were Bangladeshi) woman – more tactfully, I should add, and a long time ago – who did actually tell me. It started a wonderful conversation about her last visit. I was enthralled and we became firm friends for the whole time I was in the job. Far from being racist, I was given a delightful insight into life in another part of the world. In fact that’s why I loved London so much – its superb multiculturalism.
But here’s my provocative question. What do you think? Do you think it’s a permissible question in this day and age? Do you think it matters how the question is phrased?