The world is racist
I am generally not interested in the goings-on of the royal family. Sure, I’ve watched decades of weddings and divorces and visits, so it’s not like I don’t know what’s going on. But recent events led me to free up my schedule and I found myself transfixed on Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle's interview with Oprah Winfrey on Mar. 7.
One year ago, as the pandemic lockdown began and Brandeis decided to move to entirely remote learning, I also gasped at events from the news such as “Megxit.” I had high hopes for this generation of royals, and Harry seemed to be living life on his own terms, publicly acknowledging his struggles with depression, his life after his mother’s death and his youthful indiscretions.
Their decision to “step back” from their senior royal duties of traveling the world, breaking ground and signing autographs was coming to an end, and they had decided to relocate to Canada, conveniently still part of the British Commonwealth. This was exciting news. How does one take a break from being a royal while still being royal?
I was not surprised by their decision to step back. From the outset, I had read about Meghan’s difficulties with her father. The thought of a Hollywood actress who was a few years older than Harry surely would not be well-received by the British tabloids. The wedding itself was an ostentatious celebrity spectacle. Then they had a beautiful baby boy named Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, yet I wondered how he would be received by the royal family.
In the interview, Meghan stated that questions were raised during her pregnancy about Archie’s skin color. She also said that shortly after her marriage in 2018, she had asked Buckingham Palace’s Human Resources department for help when she had suicidal thoughts after tabloids published racist, sexist and false stories about her. No resources were made available to her.
The royal family was silent and slow with their response to the interview. After the event aired, Oprah revealed on Good Morning America that Harry said that neither Queen Elizabeth II nor Prince Phillip had made comments regarding Archie’s skin color. So, who was it? Despite the bad timing of the interview airing shortly after the hospitalization of Prince Phillip and the one-year anniversary of the ongoing pandemic, Oprah conducted the interview before Mar. 7. On Thursday, Mar. 11, Prince William said, “We are very much not a racist family.” Meanwhile the palace had issued earlier a rather subdued statement about taking the allegations “very seriously” and conducting an “internal investigation.”
Since when is it up to the perpetrator to decide what is and is not racist? It should be up to the recipient of said statement. If it felt like racism, it probably was racist. Meghan herself is biracial, as is Archie, her child. The palace saw her as Black and she is In nearly every article I read, Meghan is always described as biracial. Why is Harry never described as white? To me, that in itself is racist.
The United States was once a colony of England. We have had our own reckonings with race, and we continue as a country to struggle with the meaning of whiteness and how race has played such an important part in our successes and in our failures. Given that many of our white ancestors came from England, I can’t see how England could possibly not be racist, including members of the royal family. Prince William’s comment seems disingenuous at best and a lie at worst. One cannot be anti-racist until one confronts one’s own racist past and present.
The United States cannot be alone in having a race problem and learning to embrace a multicultural world. We didn’t colonize the whole world. We had help from England, France and the Netherlands, to name a few. In other parts of the world, other nations played roles in perpetuating racism against many other ethnicities.
If we as a country are experiencing our time of reckoning, I say that the entire world needs a racial reckoning too.