Let’s get the obvious out of the way—we know the British monarchy is a racist institution. The U.K.’s royal family owes most of its riches (which currently amounts to over $28 billion, according to Forbes) to enslaving Africans and colonizing half of the world—including my home country, Jamaica, and, at one point, the nation that would go on to be the United States of America.
I guess you could say the British are the OG racists. Meghan’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey over the weekend has leveled continuing aftershocks, as The Root’s Tonja Renée Stidhum has been expertly chronicling. Prince William, whom some suspect to be the culprit behind the disturbing conversations senior members of the Royal family brought to Prince Harry sharing their “concern” about how dark he and Meghan’s child would be, added the latest parry on Thursday.
Funnily enough, almost everything that mainstream British society has done since getting wind that Meghan would be speaking plainly to Winfrey about her experiences across the Atlantic has bolstered any thinking person’s belief in the veracity of her story. It’s all been equal parts disturbing and crazy-making: from Piers Morgan continuing his crusade against the woman, even to the point of denying the truth of her suicidal ideation, to British editors denying their stories have exhibited racism—even in the face of ridiculous stories likening the Duchess to a “gangster” who comes “straight outta Compton”—and now William’s denial.
But it’s not hard to conceive that someone in Buckingham Palace would have come to Harry in bigoted horror about the potential shade of his son’s skin, when a member of the family first welcomed Meghan into the fold while literally wearing on her lapel a massive piece of jewelry depicting a dark-skinned, enslaved African.
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That same member of the family, Princess Michael of Kent, once told a reporter, “The English take the breeding of their horses and dogs more seriously than they do their children. God forbid that the wrong drop of blood should get into their labrador. But their children marry everywhere.”
It’s not hard to believe that similar attitudes exist at the highest ranks of the British royal family—who descend from monarchs who enriched themselves with the blood of millions of humans traded across the Atlantic, not to mention stolen jewels and all sorts of other exploited resources from nations in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia.
After robbing the world’s Black and brown nations of their human and natural resources, the U.K. deigned to allow its darker colonies to have independence—a process starting as late as the 1950s and running up until 1980, when Zimbabwe was let out from under Britain’s thumb after 90 years of racist segregation, exploitation and ruthlessly violent control. As independence movements ramped up speed, “Her Majesty’s government” deftly embarked on literally burning the records of its depravity against people of color around the world—including purported documentation of the abuse, torture and massacre representatives of the crown carried out in places like Kenya and Singapore.
It casts a darkly ironic light on Thursday’s remarks by Nigel Farage, the architect of the ironically isolationist movement Brexit, that “nobody in the world, in history, has done more for people of color than the British royal family.” To bolster the monarchy’s anti-racism credentials, Farage pointed to the fact that the Queen and her family regularly tours Britain’s former colonies to be feted and fanned by Black and brown people.
That’s because the British monarchy still remains at the top of nations like my homeland of Jamaica, where the Queen is constitutionally the head of state. Ceremonial or otherwise, it’s far past time for Jamaica to sever the ties that still codify it as inferior to its former overseers. Majority-Black countries in the region like Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago and, most recently, Barbados have all taken the critical step towards self-respect. Citizens of African nations in the Commonwealth—i.e. former subjects of the British empire—have also come out with their own concerns about the kind of institutional discrimination Meghan spoke to in her interview.
The answer is to finally break free from a relationship rooted in colonialism and anti-Blackness. The step has been shown to be long overdue—if only to make it harder for our ancestors’ stolen bodies and looted lands to be used as a rhetorical defense by Britons pretending to be incapable of racism.