Four decades of prejudice came flooding back as TV presenter Chrystal Rose stood at a Tesco checkout wrongly accused of theft.
The mum of one, who hosted The Chrystal Rose Show in the 1990s, was collecting change from a self-service till when a member of staff intervened.
Chrystal, 58, was reduced to tears as the employee accused her of taking coins left by a previous customer.
Horrified Chrystal was shopping near her home in north- west London when the incident – which she puts down to the colour of her skin – happened.
“While waiting for the change in coins, a female staffer standing next to me said, ‘You used a card… that’s not your money’.
“I thought she was joking. She then physically blocked me from taking my change, waving her hand. She then called security. She was being deadly serious.
Chrystal on the set of Chrystal Rose show in the 90s(Image: REX/Shutterstock)
“How can I, someone who’s respectfully dressed and always polite, go into a store and be accused of stealing my own money? It’s just ridiculous.
“There seemed to be no reason apart from the fact I was black. It just doesn’t stop.”
After an official complaint to Tesco head office, the store found no evidence of racism, and Chrystal says she received £500 compensation.
But she believes the incident is proof of the prejudice lurking in some areas of society.
She added: “My show was on air in 1993. I was the first woman of any nationality to have their own talk show.
“That was absolutely brilliant as I’m black, but since then, we’ve regressed. It feels like we’re going backwards.
“It makes me want to cry, the feeling that there’s nothing I can do about it. I cannot change the colour of my skin – and nor do I want to.
“Victims need to speak out. Others need to support us and tell our stories. One hopes we’ll get to a stage when we’re judged on the content of our character and not the colour of our skin. But it’s taking too long.
“I’ve stayed out of the public eye for decades waiting to see change happen, now I feel it’s time I start speaking out more about the issues I have faced as a black woman in the media. Clearly we need as many voices heard as possible.”
Tesco said: “We do not tolerate racism or abuse. We want everyone to feel welcome.
“We immediately investigated these claims. We didn’t find any evidence of racism but were very sorry to hear Ms Rose was unhappy with her experience.”
Chrystal has plenty of other sad recollections of prejudice over the past 40 years.
She used chat queen Oprah Winfrey as her inspiration and enjoyed record ratings when the Chrystal Rose Show first aired.
As it grew, Chrystal asked to become a producer – but says bosses took control away from her. She says: “I wasn’t allowed to be a decision maker.
“Even though I created the show from scratch, from the subjects to the venue, I was the presenter, the voice, but was silenced behind the scenes. There were a lot of micro-aggressions that I had to endure and I found myself reduced to tears in meetings.
“I smiled through my pain and only continued for my daughter and to be a shining light to anyone watching, especially other people of colour.”
Chrystal quit in 1996, after four series.
She set up a PR and events company and worked for Barack Obama on his 2008 presidential campaign. Her daughter Louise, 40, was in the girl band Precious –and is now an actress.
Chrystal wants to see BAME communities better represented in society – from TV to politics.
“We need more black people in positions of power. We’re not all comedians or singers,” she says.
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