SSince Meghan and Harry’s interview last Sunday, questions have been raised about the royal family. More specifically, is the family racist? Many viewers were surprised when the Duchess of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey that a family member had discussed her mixed-race son’s skin tone and that they had expressed their “concerns.”
On Thursday, Prince William flatly denied it. “We are not a racist family,” he told reporters. His response was not surprising and what one would expect.
In fact, even though the disclosure debates seemed to be going on everywhere, was I surprised? Honestly no. I knew as a mixed-race woman that these kinds of family conversations would have happened. Why? Because they always do.
As I got older, people constantly discussed how I looked and added their assumptions, assumptions, and opinions about my skin tone. My own white mother, when she was carrying me, was repeatedly asked if she was “worried” about “how dark” I would be. I have been regularly told: “Yes, but no Look black “, or” I never would have said you were black, you just look exotic. “
People believe they have the right to speak out about their skin tone, question their heritage, and then voice their opinions on whether it fits with their perceived narrative of you. It has happened since I was a little boy. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that this conversation happened within the royal family.
However, to get a full answer on race and royalty, we have to look much further back than last Sunday. The institution of the monarchy dates back centuries, and we cannot ignore the royal family’s connections to historical racism, and indeed slavery. Countless British monarchs have played a pivotal role in establishing a society that has justified white supremacy and racial inequality.
In the 1770s, when the government had to overcome for the first time the dilemma of governing a territory with “natives”, Racism was firmly established in Britain, sustained and reinforced by the nation’s key role in the transatlantic slave trade. This trade it had been pioneered, established and granted royal patronage during the reign of Elizabeth I, and would be adopted by James I and Charles I.
The British slave trade ended in 1807 and slavery in 1833. However, racism would not end with abolition: it was too valuable. Racism became the servant of the empire. The mythology of race and white superiority would become an important ingredient in the establishment of British imperialism. And this historical template of bigotry and prejudice still permeates British society today.
I can attest to this after the reaction to my interaction with actor Laurence Fox on the BBC’s Question Time in January last year. Discussing the media’s treatment of Meghan Markle, he denied that racism was a problem and claimed that the UK was “the most tolerant and charming country in Europe.” He then went on to say that discussions about racism were “starting to get boring” and, in fact, he labeled me a racist for pointing out his privilege as a white male.
After this exchange was widely shared on social media, I was bombarded with hateful messages, making me acutely aware of how deeply ingrained racism is in British society, and what a daunting task it is to challenge it. However, I believe that we should all be a part of this effort, and after the events of this week, the royal family is in a position to give a potentially defining response. This could be the beginning of a rebranding of the monarchy and a genuine development of its understanding of the society it represents.
For meaningful dialogue about racism to occur, you must move away from the tradition of not giving interviews and be seen as a contribution to the conversation. It should be seen as an active dismantling of the structures of racism with a more genuine and ongoing commitment to diverse communities.
There is no denying the positive impact of the Prince’s Trust, which works with young people ages 11-30 to “build their confidence and start a career.” But this should be just the beginning. The role of the family should extend far beyond actual charity sponsorship and attendance at high-profile events.
If Britain wants to have a truly non-racist monarchy, individual family members must confront their past and recognize that it is an integral ingredient of who they are. It is time for them to identify racism as an obscene and corrosive social construct. They must clearly recognize that it is a characteristic of the British society they represent.
The first step? Acknowledge the existence of racism within your own family, and identify the clear racism in the comments made to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Only then can they begin to say that the monarchy is on its way to becoming truly non-racist.
Rachel Boyle is Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University, and researches racism and ethnicity.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism