Remarkably, an exchange which took place between the octogenarian Lady Susan Hussey and one Ngozi Fulani, seems to be at the centre of Britain’s public discourse. At a reception hosted by Queen Camilla under the heading “Violence Against Women and Girls”, Lady Hussey, widow of the indomitable Lord Marmaduke Hussey, erstwhile CEO of Times Newspapers and Chairman of the BBC, asked Ms Fulani, a charity worker in that field, which part of Africa she came from. This is not a question Her Majesty might not have asked out of courtesy, to which the simple answer might have been “I was born in London, but my parents (or grandparents) moved here from Trinidad (or Antigua or Barbados or Jamaica). And my ancestors were from West Africa”.

If I am asked where I come from, I say I’m from Oldham, a decaying industrial town on the fringes of Manchester. If I’m asked where I “really come from”, I’m proud to add that I have not a single drop of English blood in me, that I am half German and half Czech. Strictly speaking I’m actually a quarter Czech, a quarter Austrian, a quarter Silesian and a quarter Saxon, as in from Saxony, albeit three quarters Jewish and a quarter German aristocrat. As my maternal rather than my paternal grandmother was Jewish, I can happily claim to be pretty much the full shilling. Ms Fulani’s forebears were surely trafficked into slavery in the Caribbean. Who it was who might have captured them, dragged them to the coast and sold them is too conveniently rarely discussed, although I of course do know who dragged my maternal grandparents into the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Back in 2007, one of my last acts at Bank of America was to interview second-year students who were applying for a summer internship. I think I saw 16 candidates over two days. There was a generous mix, both in terms of gender and ethnicity. One thing all the youngsters had in common was that they were taking relevant degrees at highly rated universities. One of them, a young lady of Pakistani background and from my own hometown of Oldham was on the docket and what would I not have done to give her a chance? In the event, despite massive academic achievements, in my mind she proved to be utterly unsuitable. At the end of the process, I proposed an offer be made to two candidates who I thought would be a good choice. One was a Swede who was reading ChemEng at Imperial College and the other an Estonian doing a master’s degree in Finance at Warwick. I took the names to HR where the lady in charge of the recruitment process looked at me and perfectly seriously asked “What about minorities?”. That was 2007 and although the answer I gave was even then bold, it would today get me summarily cashiered and dishonourably discharged. It was not rehearsed but just popped out as “There are 1.4bn Chinese and 1.2bn Indians. Who do you think is the minority?” This was, as I say, not a considered reply although there are after all only 10m Swedes and 1m Estonians.

One might get the feeling that poor old Lady Hussey blundered into the controversy. Who can forget the demeanour of Oprah Winfrey as she exhaled her famously dramatically delayed “…they WHAT?” when Meghan Markle related how someone, just an anonymous someone, is said to have wondered of what skin colour her firstborn might be as though nobody, Winfrey included, had ever heard of the work of Gregor Mendel.

It was Sir Ian McKellen, one of our greatest living actors and unremitting activist for gay rights, who is said to have commented on over-the-top gay pride parades, “All we wanted was to be treated as normal. Has the time not come for us to behave as such?”

We must choose. Either we are all the same or we are not. This endless game of choosing to be “diverse” when it suits the victim narrative and not when it doesn’t must stop as it is irretrievably poisoning society. I have always regarded myself as “colour blind”. It was not a matter of pride but a matter of fact although I was recently told that that is no longer good. One has to be “colour aware”. The obsessive debate over race and the beating of the diversity drum appears, in this country at least, to have sharpened the divide – I’m not claiming it does not exist in many quarters – rather than smoothing it over.

Ms Markle and Ms Winfrey appear to have set out to paint Britain in general and our royal family in particular, as “institutionally racist”. Lady Hussey is not likely being either intentionally or unintentionally racist. And even if she were, she is not of the royal family and one doddery old lady should not be held up as a pars pro toto any more than one football hooligan should be taken to represent the entire universe of supporters. She was, so it appears to me, trying to get a straight answer to what should be seen as a perfectly straight, although unfortunately phrased, question when she encountered a woman of colour who was spoiling for a fight. Ms Fulani apparently represents a charity focused on abused Black women and therefore I suppose by definition to the exclusion of all others, be they White, Asian or Latina. Run up the diversity flag!

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