John Legend Recalls Racism When He Was At University: ‘They Questioned My Right’ To Be There

John Legend is opening up about his experiences with racism.

In support of the National Day of Racial Healing, the award-winning singer spoke to People about the struggles he faced in his career due to the colour of his skin.

“I’m in a position of privilege and celebrity and all these other things, so there’s a lot of doors that open for me that aren’t open for other people,” Legend told the publication. “People recognize me and treat me a certain way because they recognize me. I’m clear that my life now is not the experience of the average black man. I’m fully aware of that.”

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He explained that the worst times for him was when he was at the University of Pennsylvania.

“One of the things that I noticed the most at college was how, if people don’t know you’re a student, they treat you like an outsider around campus,” he added. “I had several interactions with the police where they questioned my right to even be where I was, to get in my own car … so that was where I felt it the most — in west Philadelphia around the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, being treated like I didn’t belong there because I was black.”

“No one ever says it,” he noted. “But it’s obvious that they don’t do white students like that and ask for their ID just to get in their own car and question their belonging.”

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And while it has been some time since Legend attended university, his younger cousin is there now and is dealing with the same issues. “Someone called the police on her just for existing in a building where the person didn’t think that she belonged.

“She spoke with me about it recently and it reminded of times when that happened to me when I was in college,” he continued. “It’s not unique to UPenn. You see these stories all over the internet, and people experience them all the time. Black people and other people of colour have to prove that they belong in circumstances that other people don’t.”

But it is his culture that makes Legend the artist he is today.

“I wouldn’t be the artist I am if I weren’t black. I wouldn’t have the experiences I have, wouldn’t have the upbringing I have. I wouldn’t trade it,” Legend said.

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