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John Legend recalls being treated like he ‘didn’t belong’ at college because of his race

Olivia Petter
Getty Images for Gucci

John Legend has opened up about the racism he experienced as a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

Speaking to PEOPLE, the singer explained he felt “like an outsider” on campus.

“I had several interactions with the police where they questioned my right to even be where I was,” Legend recalled, adding that he was “treated like I didn’t belong there because I was black”.

Legend explained that the racism he experienced was tacit, explaining that sometimes police would approach him when he was getting into his car.

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

The “All of Me” singer added that his younger cousin, who is a student at the University of Pennsylvania, is currently dealing with discrimination on campus and he is guiding her through it.

“Someone called the police on her just for existing in a building where the person didn’t think that she belonged,” Legend said.

“She spoke with me about it recently and it reminded of times when that happened to me when I was in college.

“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.”

Legend went on to explain how he sought to educate himself on the history of racism at university.

“We used to go to the library and read about anything we wanted to read about. One of the things I often gravitated towards was reading about civil rights heroes like Dr. King and abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman,” he recalled.

The musician added that there is “so much greatness the comes from black culture”.

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

The Independent has contacted the University of Pennsylvania for comment.

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