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UK PM speaks on racism, says parents wanted him to speak without an accent to 'fit in'

IANS | February 04, 2024 11:52 AM

LONDON: UK's first Indian-origin PM Rishi Sunak shared his experiences of facing racism as a child, saying his parents sent him for extra drama lessons so that he could "speak properly" without an accent to fit into society.

In an interview with Anushka Asthana of ITV News, Sunak recalled the pain of hearing slurs directed at his younger siblings, adding that racism "stings" and "hurts in a way that other things don't", The Guardian reported.

"You are conscious of being different... It's hard not to be, right, and obviously, I experienced racism as a kid, " he told Asthana who detailed her encounter with the Prime Minister in The Times.

The PM also spoke about the "sting" of racism in July last year when he made a special appearance at the England versus Australia Ashes Test match at Lord's Cricket Ground in London.

Born in Southampton in a Hindu Punjabi family that had migrated from East Africa, the 43-year-old leader said his parents, his mother in particular, were keen for him and his siblings to "fit in and not for it to be, in any way, shape or form, a barrier".

"One of the things my mum was obsessed with was that we didn't speak with accents and we would speak properly, " he said. "So she was keen for us to try to do some extra drama."

Calling any form of racism "simply unacceptable", he also mentioned Britain's reputation among global leaders as a model for racial harmony and equality.

Addressing his first Conservative Party conference as party leader in Manchester in October 2023, Sunak, using his example as proof, said that the UK is not a racist country and that his skin colour is not a "big deal" in the country.

Sunak admitted while speaking to Asthana that he never expected to see an individual from the ethnic minority community becoming Britain's prime minister one day "because you didn't have role models like that... hadn't happened yet".

From lighting diyas on the steps of 10 Downing Street on Diwali to praying at Hindu temples, the Southampton-born leader has shown that he is proud of his Indian roots and Hindu faith, which he says "guides him in every aspect of his life".

Attending a 'Ram Katha' ceremony at the University of Cambridge's Jesus College last year, Sunak said: "Being Prime Minister is a great honour, but it is not an easy job. There are difficult decisions to make, hard choices to confront and our faith gives me courage, strength, and resilience to do the best that I can for our country".

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