Updated: May 1, 2021
Tahmina R. and Irisa R.
The British Monarchy, not treating brown and black women well? How could they? (gasp!) Real scandal! Keep reading to find out how a usually kind and open-minded family is being not so kind and open-minded.
"The Royals are a family business"
The last week’s media circus around Meghan and Harry proves that we are so comfortable with romanticising the Royal Family because we collectively believe the false narrative that they do not hold any real power. But they are not relics from a bygone era and the specific form of imperialism they promote is as alive today as it was fifty years ago just by virtue of their existence and the existence of the Commonwealth.
Meghan asking Oprah, “it’s a family business right?” is laugh worthy but also very dangerous. It skilfully cleanses the British Monarchy of its colonial past (that it celebrates and perpetuates) by normalising the empire in the only way we could accept in our capitalist age - as a business. It also sought to introduce a new type of language where the Royals are a ‘firm,’ a ‘family,’ an ‘institution’ unto themselves and decidedly separate to the power they wield.
And then beyond that, they sought to distinguish between the institution (bad) and the family (good), explaining: "there's the family, and then there's the people that are running the institution, those are two separate things and it's important to be able to compartmentalise that because the Queen, for example, has always been wonderful to me." The Queen is not just someone’s grandmother. She has signed off on every war (conquest) of her long reign but it’s so important that we see her as an old lady in a pink suit. When she is in fact the matriarch of a trillion dollar imperial project.
The marketing of the Royal family as some kind old fuddy duddy British folk, as a lovely reminder of some past glory needs to end. This is the monarchy, they married their first cousins for five generations so that they didn’t accidentally lose a thread of control over most of the world.
"The Royals are now enlightened"
There was a senior member of the Royal family who expressed concerns about “how dark” Meghan and Harry’s child would be and this - for some reason - was splashed across newspapers like it was some great revelation. If he was born, and they were like “he’s not dark enough,” then we would be surprised. However, the fact that the first person of colour in the Royal family is untitled and denied security is anything but surprising.
White supremacy was one of the biggest exports of the colonial project and it is anything but surprising that the British Royal Family are racist. The British Monarchy and their subjects continue to reap the rewards of free and forced labour of their colonial past. The British actively created the transatlantic slave trade, and when that was no longer socially acceptable, they moved onto a system of indentured labour that operated in a similar way to slavery in everything but the name. Their institutionalised racism should be common knowledge, it is not newsworthy.
"The Royals are now inclusive"
Millions of people tuned in to hear Meghan say: “sixty to seventy percent of the Commonwealth is people of colour... growing up as a person of colour… seeing yourself in a position of power… if you can see it you can be it.”
They drew a connection between being black and existing in the Royal Family, as a form of progress. This supports the worldview that if people of colour, like ourselves, pander or (in this case) curtsy to the vestiges of white power, then we will automatically be taken into their fold and be granted immense wealth, prestige and authority.
It is also harmful to proudly trumpet the fact that sixty to seventy percent of the Commonwealth are “people of colour,” as if they successfully met the diversity quota for their “family business.” The media we consume continues to obsessively use images of their philanthropic trips as inviting people from all corners of the world to the new and enlightened Monarchy. However, the Royal Family justified their crimes with the ideology that Black and Brown people are inherently inferior and in need of being “saved and civilised.” It isn’t some strange coincidence that most of the Commonwealth are people of colour - it is a direct result of their belief in their own white supremacy. There is no power in representation when this is their history and it is offensive to suggest that there ever could be.
The interview ends with Oprah saying, “Thank you for sharing your love story.” The divorcee who saves the prince from his castle is a cute pseudo-feminist play on old fairytales but it is also a very harmful romanticisation and sanitisation of the Royal family and British white supremacy. Harry mentioned in the interview that there were clear “colonial undertones to headlines [that disparaged Meghan]” and that he was upset that no members of his family came to her defence. But there are clear colonial undertones to the very existence of the British Royal family. For them to openly call out colonial rhetoric as wrong or regressive would be extremely ironic since they are in fact, colonisers.
The media coverage on this “tell all interview” along with its constant fascination with the Royal Family needs to change for the simple reason that nothing they ever say will detract from the crimes they have committed.
Note: We did watch the interview and these are all direct quotes.