Britain is still struggling with its colonial past - GulfToday

Britain is still struggling with its colonial past


Prince Harry, Meghan Markle

Noah Anthony Enahoro, The Independent

The reaction of many, especially certain sections of the press, to Netflix’s Harry and Meghan documentary, shows us something about Britain. It shows us that Britain is a nation still struggling with its imperial and colonial past, and its response to racism. Meghan Markle’s presence in the royal family made her yet another victim of Britain’s refusal to change. Yes, Meghan is an experienced actor, and Harry has lived his entire life in the spotlight. They both know how to perform. However, it would take a stone-hearted person to attribute everything they said and claimed to attention seeking or misplaced resentment.

In the docuseries, they’ve made some serious accusations about the state of the royal family, the press, and the nation as a whole. We have a duty to consider whether their claims are true.  One of the most striking things Meghan said was that race only became an issue for her once she was linked to Prince Harry. Here was a successful mixed-race actress in America, a country with well-known race issues, saying it was worse for her in the UK than in the US.

Headlines saying she was “straight outta Compton” (those who know the song by NWA will know what I’m talking about), or linking her and her mother with drugs and terrorism, or painting her as an “angry Black woman” and constantly highlighting that her ancestors were enslaved all go to prove the undeniably racist outlook displayed by the popular press.

Politeness prevents me from mentioning what she was called numerous times on social media. Just remember there was a picture circulating on Twitter of a couple holding a chimp, comparing that chimp to Meghan and Harry’s new-born child.

The journey that Harry admits he’s made from being someone with “unconscious bias” to being an anti-racist shows that anybody can change. The reaction to their relationship by some members of the Palace, sections of the media and many members of the public show that the journey Harry has been on still needs to made by those I’ve just mentioned.

Afua Hirsch, journalist and author, attributed the backlash against Meghan Markle to the media being a “white, patriarchal media establishment”. Research shows the 0.2 per cent of journalists in the UK are Black. To be blunt, many editors and journalists are of a certain outlook, and view Black people in a way that reflects Britain’s colonial and imperial past.

The question isn’t whether we like Harry and Meghan or whether we support the existence of the royal family – to make this the focus misses the point and shows we are not listening to what they are saying. Similarly, to just say there are “whingeing” is to ignore the destructive effects of racism yet again and minimise the pain felt by the victims of it.

Dr Aletha Maybank of the American Medical Association recently stated that racism is a health issue “that takes a toll on people of colour and contributes to the development of other chronic diseases”, and that structural racism causes emotional and mental harm. It’s little wonder that Meghan found herself expressing the view that all of this would go away if she wasn’t here.  

Doria Ragland, Meghan Markle’s mother, told us that the nature of the constant press was “picking away at her [Meghan’s] spirit”. It has long been apparent that the humanity of Black women is often undermined or even stripped away, especially if they are in the public eye, because they suffer both racial and gender discrimination. The big takeaway from watching this documentary is that Harry and Meghan are communicating something of fundamental importance to the future of the United Kingdom. They have opened a can of worms that should not be closed until its contents has been thoroughly dealt with.

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