EastEnders star Gurlaine Kaur Garcha has opened up about a recent experience in which she was verbally racially abused.
The actress, who has played doctor Ash Panesar on the BBC soap since 2019, recounted the experience on her Instagram page, saying that it made her feel "angry, sad, and embarrassed" and added that she was shocked that someone felt so comfortable to approach her this way in public.
"Yesterday I was a victim to verbal racial abuse," Gurlaine wrote on Instagram. "It came from nowhere, I wasn't expecting it, and even though I know racism exists and I could always be victim to it, it was still deeply deeply shocking.
"In a completely unprovoked attack, I was told by a woman to go back home, to return to wherever I've come from, and to stay there. The initial shock was that someone was so comfortable to say this to me in public, not once but several times. It made me feel angry, sad, and embarrassed.
"It upset me, and as a result of being upset, I felt weak."
Gurlaine continued to say that she was "ashamed that [she] wasn't able to just brush it off and continue with [her] day as normal", explaining that the abuse left her feeling upset, sad and frustrated.
"How can someone be allowed to say something so racially driven and then walk away?" she continued. "Why do I then have to deal with all the feelings that come with it? Why do I have to tell myself to stay calm and not to retaliate? And why do I have to be the one left crying?
"It seems so unfair that I am judged by the colour of skin. My thoughts and feelings of fear weren't just about that moment, but about a future where my children, nieces and nephews will have to face the same discrimination and hate.
"My heart sinks that deep down I know this won't be the last time I experience something like this."
The actress continued to say that she initially wasn't going to speak out about the experience, but explained that she realised that "by speaking out it may help someone who has experienced the same, and make them realise they're not alone", before adding that she was "proud" of her culture and her heritage.
"I am proud to be British," Gurlaine said. "I am proud that my grandparents were born in Punjab. I am proud that my parents were born in Kenya. And I am proud to be Sikh.
"I celebrate all these things. I wish others did too."
EastEnders airs on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays on BBC One.
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