The fallout from Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Oprah interview has been swift and brutal for the royal family. It’s been less than a week since Monday’s bombshell sit-down with the queen of all media, and based on online chatter it would appear that, while many are divided over the revelations, it’s undoubtedly dealt the House of Windsor a crushing blow to their reputation.
On Thursday, when Prince William was stopped by a reporter during a visit to a school in east London and asked whether the royals were “a racist family”, the second-in-line to the throne responded with a curt: “We’re very much not a racist family.”
Well, consider us very much skeptical, Will. Although the British Empire crumbled following both World Wars, there’s no denying that a colonial mindset has persisted across the pond. Want receipts?
Here are just a few times the royal family had their bias and racism showing
How about Prince Philip’s history of outright racism in his 99 years on this planet? In 2002, on a tour of Australia, he asked an Aboriginal if they were “still throwing spears.” In the 1980s he famously told British students studying abroad in China that they’ll get “slitty eyes” if they stay too long.
These are only two examples. There are many more – and they’ve all been playfully brushed off in British tabloids and society as royal gaffes and goofs. A dialogue along the lines of: Oh, there goes that silly Philip spouting off again – but remember all the good he’s done for the monarchy? Except he hasn’t. He’s just simply gotten away with casual racism for decades.
Upon meeting Markle for the first time at a royal Christmas party in 2017, Princess Michael of Kent (wife of Prince Michael of Kent, the queen’s first cousin) thought it appropriate to wear a blackamoor brooch, which features images of slavery. Fetishizes it, in fact. Surprise, surprise: many defended the princess, saying she was ignorant of its racial undertones. We find it hard to believe a royal wouldn’t have some knowledge about the jewellery they chose to wear.
When Archie was born in May 2019 and first introduced to the world, a BBC 5 presenter likened the newborn to a chimpanzee in a viral tweet that got him (rightfully) sacked from his job. It was an appalling moment that was met with radio silence from the royal family. Although the royals have certain rules around responding to the media, it’s only in a political context. This was about the great-grandson of the queen herself. If they could release a statement about the Oprah interview (that cold, vague “recollections may vary” press release), it’s safe to assume they could at the very least pipe up and defend the newest member of their family from racist attacks.
Then there’s Prince Andrew, uncle to William and Harry, who is too busy hiding behind his white privilege (not to mention Mummy) as he dodges the FBI inquiries into his ties with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
But sure, William. Your family is “very much” not racist. The foundations on which your institution is built (colonialism) begs to differ. As for the senior member of the family who expressed “concerns” over the colour of Archie’s skin? We may never know for certain who uttered that appalling question, but Harry narrowed the list down considerably when he revealed, via Oprah, that it was most definitely not his grandparents, the queen and Philip. Could it have been a future king or two?
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Harry and Megan are the change we want to see
It’s clear that the royal family has a lot of skeletons in their massive, gold-framed closets. Meghan and Harry unloaded a lot of facts onto the general public, although you could tell most of their answers were still censored. There’s always talk about how the royals need to move into the 21st century, yet they do nothing to actually make that happen. A new member will join the family (Diana, Kate, Meghan) and that pressure of modernizing The Firm will land squarely on their shoulders. But when they “step out of line” (Diana, Meghan), the family reverts back to their old ways and closes the door. Now, Harry is on the other side of that door too.
That same reporter followed up his question to William about racism with an inquiry as to whether he’s talked to his brother since the interview with Oprah. “I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I will do,” said the future king.
Considering all of Britain is currently having a long overdue conversation about its imperial past, we’re taking William’s response with a grain of salt. Systemic racism starts from the top. The royal family needs to do better, but it’s unlikely that they will.
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