Rishi Sunak recalls experiencing racism during childhood

Rishi Sunak said he and his siblings were subjected to racist slurs when young, in a chat with ITV’s deputy political editor Anushka Asthana

UK’s first Hindu PM of Indian origin, Rishi Sunak, says he experienced racism growing up in the country / X (@RishiSunak)

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in a recent interview, reflected on his childhood experiences growing up in Southampton where he did not essentially fit in and looked different than most of the people around him. 

Sunak, who became the first Indian-origin person to be elected as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said his parents took it upon themselves to ensure he fit in and enrolled him in classes where he could learn how to. 

The 43-year-old is also the youngest Prime Minister of the UK in 210 years, and the first Hindu PM of Indian heritage in the UK. 

In an interview with ITV News, Sunak  shared that while he was young, he spoke English with an accent not native to the UK. He further revealed that his parents, Yashvir and Usha, sent him to extra drama lessons hoping he would lose the accent as they did not want their Indian heritage to be “in any way, shape or form, a barrier” for their children. 

Speaking to ITV’s deputy political editor Anushka Asthana, Sunak said, “You are conscious of being different. It’s hard not to be, right, and obviously I experienced racism as a kid." 

The British PM recalled the slurs directed at him and his siblings, adding that racism “stings” and “hurts in a way that other things don’t.” Sunak is positive that his kids will not go through the same experience as him and his family. 

However, according to a 2023 study by experts from the University of Manchester, the University of St Andrews, and King’s College London, more than a third of people from ethnic and religious minority groups in Britain had experienced some form of racist assault indicating that racism is still prevalent in the country.

The full interview, “Rishi Sunak: Up Close – Tonight” will air on ITV1 and ITVX on Thursday at 8:30 pm local time.