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Thursday, Jul 29, 2021

We can't focus on which royal said what - the institution needs investigating

We can't focus on which royal said what - the institution needs investigating

As soon as news of Meghan and Harry’s televised sit-down with Oprah Winfrey was confirmed, there was immediate and intense speculation over the possible content of the interview, and the revelations that would soon come to light.

Now, after weeks of waiting and thousands of headlines, the two-hour special has aired and the hype hasn’t disappointed.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex lifted the lid on the reasons why they left their positions as senior, working members of the Royal Family as well as revisiting some of the most publicised claims about them made in the press.

A point that has particularly stoked conversation following the broadcast is that, while Meghan was pregnant with their son Archie, the couple were told that their unborn child wouldn’t receive a title nor security, while an unnamed member of the family voiced ‘concerns’ about how dark their child – the product of an interracial relationship – would be.

Unsurprisingly, this line has led to the widespread theorising of exactly who was responsible for the comment – the use of the word ‘concern’ implying that the darkness of the child’s skin would be a negative factor.

While, for some, uncovering the identity of the family member involved feels like an important mystery to solve, something that is more worthy of attention is the fact that this was a query in the first place.

Though pinning the blame to a name has captured public curiosity, with Winfrey confirming on Monday that the comments didn’t come from The Queen or Prince Philip, perhaps not knowing who the culprit is isn’t such a bad thing, as without it, it provokes a necessary interrogation of the way that race is handled by the institution as a whole.

Racism and prejudice are rarely isolated occurrences, nor are they confined to one singular event from an individual.

To hear that there were worries within the family over the complexion of an unborn child is shocking only if you haven’t paid attention: the precedent for unsavoury behaviour when it comes to matters of race has been an issue in the Royal Family not only in the past few years but long before Meghan and Archie were a part of it.

Through the atrocities of the British Empire, the monarchy is responsible for the destabilisation of many countries, the majority of whom are home to Black and brown people.

Celebrated in contemporary times as a global union of 54 of the formerly-colonised countries, under the title of ‘The Commonwealth’, the places that suffered under British invasion and rule are still recovering from the effects today, with few examples of serious acknowledgement of the harm caused.

With this as a baseline issue, it’s unsurprising that the integration of the family hasn’t gone as harmoniously as Prince Harry and Meghan would have hoped.

At this point, there are few limits as to what some outlets will say about Meghan and Harry

The interview laid bare several other questionable instances in recent years – many relating to the institution’s failure to provide public and private support for Meghan in the face of scathing attacks in the media.

Another notable moment saw Meghan denying claims that she made Kate, Duchess of Cambridge cry in the days before her May 2018 wedding, over a matter relating to flower girl dresses. According to Meghan, the reverse occurred: it was Kate who brought her to tears.

Unfortunately, a few months after the wedding, many media outlets and commentators ran with the story of the new Duchess wielding her power to upset Kate, continuing the damaging narrative of Black women and women of colour being labelled ‘aggressive’ and ‘a bully’ in comparison to their white counterparts.

I can’t help but think, how difficult would it have been for The Palace to address what was going on and help put an end to these allegations?

Prejudice thrives when it is part of a system of complicity, with those who have a stake in upholding the status quo staying silent, rather than speaking out against the wrongs they have witnessed.

Because of the refusal to address the racially-fuelled treatment of the media, head-on, the Royal Family has been integral to creating this harmful relationship between the Sussexes and British media.

At this point, there are few limits as to what some outlets will say about Meghan and Harry, because when faced with the worst commentary on them, these remarks have been allowed to spread for millions to read and form opinions from.

By not publicly standing up for their members of colour, the monarchy has allowed the common discourse around the Sussexes to become, in Harry’s words, the ‘toxic environment’ of ‘control and fear’ that they’ve tried to escape.

It has resulted in TV hosts weakly attempting to reason that the comment on Archie’s skin tone was merely a case of ‘casual racism’ as if that would make it more acceptable.

It has led to another broadcaster racing to his morning television post to rubbish Meghan’s admission that she was suicidal as a result of her experience as a working royal, claiming he didn’t believe she was telling the truth.

It’s worth noting that both Harry and Meghan emphatically declared that they would have continued to be a part of the Royal Family had they been supported. If they’d been protected, they’d still be happy to uphold the values of the monarchy, which some take serious issue with.

Alas, this was not to be – so now, there is a real opportunity for the monarchy to reckon with their responsibility for the unfortunate way that this chain of events has played out.

Like all institutions, the Royal Family is not perfect and should be subject to scrutiny in order to try to make things better. No good comes from turning away from a difficult matter when it’s clear that others are in pain – especially when you have the power to help.

Silence in the face of injustice is being part of the problem. Regardless of who exactly was concerned over a baby’s skin colour, the Royal Family as a whole is long overdue for some reflection on where they’ve gone wrong.


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