Rakie Ayola: I was racially abused on the Tube and now I'm calling it out

Credit: The Artist's Partnership

Actor Rakie Ayola has told ITV News how George Floyd's murder prompted her to call out racism, as she shared her own experience of being racially abused.

The performer, recently nominated for a Bafta her performance in Anthony - the film honouring the life of murdered Black Liverpool teenager Anthony Walker - was speaking to ITV News Arts Editor Nina Nannar on Unscripted.

Ayola said the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer was "the shove" people needed to "say, 'I'm done with this'".

A year on from his death, and the global Black Lives Matter protests it sparked, Ayola said: "In my own tiny corner of the world, it’s made me go - ‘you know what, what difference are you making to the world by not speaking up?’

"So now I’m calling it out. I’m not changing the world, I’m changing my tiny, tiny, corner of the world."

Listen to the interview in full on Unscripted

In one example of "out and out" racism she experienced on the tube in London, the 53-year-old told ITV News how she did call out the perpetrator.

Last January, Ayola was waiting to get on a train on the London underground when a woman came to stand close to her.

"Which was odd," Ayola said, "because there were lots of other places to stand - there was hardly anyone on the platform. 

"And I very calmly said: ‘Oh you might need to move to the side so people can get off’. That’s as heated as it was. And she said: ‘Yeah I know I’ve lived here five years’."

As the train pulled in, the woman blocked Ayola from boarding and waved her family on board first before going to board herself.

"She had to move so somebody could get off, and as she moved, I stepped to get on and she came shoulder to shoulder with me so we kind of fell onto the train.

"As we did she went: ‘What are you doing you Black ****, can’t you see the colour of my skin? I’m a European.’"

Ayola described being in disbelief at what she'd been called. On board the train, she went to approach the woman.

"As I walked towards her this young Black guy stood up and said to her: ‘What did you just say?’ So then I knew I hadn’t imagined it."

Ayola gas received a Bafta nomination for her portrayal of Anthony Walker's mother in the story of the murdered Liverpool teenager. Credit: LA Productions/BBC

The people with the woman attempted to apologise, saying she was upset and that her father was in hospital.

"I’m thinking, none of this makes what she just did ok," Ayola said.

As people in the carriage began to notice, Ayola says she became aware that this part of the interaction is all anybody had seen - "so now I’m the aggressor".

"I spoke really calmly, I said: ‘I don’t know you, I don’t think what you’ve achieved with that little outburst.

"Because all you’ve done is make a whole bunch of people on this carriage wish you and I would just **** off.’"

Ayola says the experience stayed with her for a long time, "she gave me so much to think about".

The actor said that was her last experience of "out and out" racism, but shared more examples of the sort of discrimination she had faced as a Black actor.