Loose Women’s panelist Charlene White has told how she suffered shocking racism at fee-paying primary school and her heartache as her mum bravely battled bowel cancer and juggled managing a young family
Loose Women’s panelist Charlene White told how she suffered racial bullying as ‘the only black girl’ in her primary school in a Life Before segment on her the show.
Charlene, who is best known for being a ITV newsreader, told of the challenges growing up in East London as a immigrant family and her strong work ethic which later saw her making history in 2014 by becoming the first ever black female presenter to front the News at Ten.
The broadcaster, 41, held back tears as she recalled: “My dad has got an amazing mathematical mind, but at no point was he given the opportunity to be able to do anything with that. Caribbeans came here to help rebuild the country, but they weren’t thought of very highly in most circumstances.
“We lived across the road from a family and the neighbour across the road was very angry.”
Charlene said despite initially settling in her ‘incredibly mixed’ primary school, her parents moved her to public school from the age of seven to avoid challenges her own mother had experienced in the state system.
Sadly, it was here where Charlene experienced her first racial bullying ‘as the only black girl in the school’ adding: “Within the first week, there was a girl that said, ‘You need to go back to where you came from’ and there was another girl that said, ‘You shouldn’t be here because you look like poo.’”
Fellow panelist Jane Moore asked how she handled that at such a young age and Charlene said: “It’s something I’d never experienced before. I didn’t really understand why they were saying that. I’d never been told I was different, I just thought I was like everybody else.”
But she said her parents ‘hit the roof’ when she told them and they marched into school to demand action was taken.
Leaving her school days behind her she was inspired to consider journalism after watching Trevor McDonald on TV.
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
She promptly snapped up the chance to join the Guardian on work experience and and a placement at the New York Post followed. She was writing published articles at 18 and described how one of her favourite assignments was doing what Samantha Jones did in Sex and the City when she jumped on the back of a fire truck to speak to a fireman.
She then worked at Radio Extra and Meridian, and was then offered a full time job at Meridian.
But it was Charlene’s loss of her mother when she was just 21, and starting out in her journalism career which has had a profound affect on her life ever since.
She told how her Jamaican-born mum bravely battled bowel cancer throughout her teenage years and continued to keep things as normal as possible despite hospital treatment.
She explained: “Now I’m a mum, I know why she did that. She tried to make things normal, but the pain she must have been in and on top of that never trying to let us know she was in pain must have been huge.”
She is now a patron of Bowel Cancer UK and wants to encourage people to let go of shame and squeamishness that can prevent potentially life-saving conversations.