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“She’s 83” is trending in UK as people disagree whether old age excuses racism

Queen Elizabeth II’s 83-year-old former lady-in-waiting repeatedly pestered a black British charity boss about where she was “really” from. A Twitter storm ensued.

Lady Hussey, who spent 60 years as the late monarch’s “number one head girl” and is Prince William’s godmother, divided public opinion in the UK after a black visitor complained of “an interrogation” about her heritage on a visit to Buckingham Palace.

Ngozi Fulani, who runs a London-based domestic violence charity Sistah Space, said that “10 minutes after arriving” at the palace for a royal reception on Tuesday (29 November) she was approached by Lady Hussey and repeatedly asked to explain her background.

Fulani said that Lady Hussey also moved her hair to see her name badge before asking questions like “What part of Africa are you from?” and “Where do you really come from?” – even when told she was born British.

Fulani described the encounter as “abuse” to the British media. Following the controversy, Lady Hussey resigned as a lady of the household, a new role that was created for the Queen’s former ladies-in-waiting after her passing and involves duties like helping to host occasions at the palace.

Buckingham Palace said her remarks were “unacceptable,” and a spokesperson for Prince William said “racism has no place in our society.”

The controversy has led to a public debate about racism in the royal family and the British society as a whole, but also saw people clash over whether Lady Hussey’s age should be a factor in the discussion.

One Twitter user, Alan Mayer, replied to Ngozi’s post about her experience by saying: “I hope you are proud of yourself. You’ve managed to get an 83-year-old lady dismissed. It’s probably all she lived for and you’ve taken that away from her.”

The phrase “she’s 83” and #shes83 started trending on the British Twitter, as more people came to express their opinions. Someone under the handle Done Juan tweeted: “The black woman could’ve just said I’m of African descent but then there wouldn’t be a divisive story.”

Others were not having it, saying age was not an excuse for bigotry, and that the very use of it to justify racism was in turn ageist. “One of the most annoying takes from the whole Ngozi and Hussey incident is that old people are once again assumed to be a homogeneous collection of racists,” Twitter user Maggie said.

Some users took the opportunity to take #shes83 and use it to put focus on Lady Hussey’s peers of the same age.

Tom Scott tweeted a picture of Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, and said: “Today, she wasn't doing casual racism, she was refusing to attend a graduation ceremony at St Andrews University in a show of solidarity for striking staff.”

Others also shared similar posts with pictures of celebrity activists like Jane Fonda, 84, or their own relatives.

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