Royalty Racist? Really?

Shock, horror! There is racism among the royals. I know sarcasm is the laziest form of humor, but is there something about a hereditary white monarchy that we don’t yet understand?

In what’s being called a “hand grenade” interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex let rip about the misery they’d endured as the royal family’s first mixed-race couple and alleged that someone — not Queen Elizabeth or her husband — even questioned the likely skin tone of their yet-to-be born baby.

Now the who-said-what-to-whom racism chase has started. This was always going to be a clickbait cash cow for commercial media, and so it has been. Even as much of the world tried to mark International Women’s Day, March 8th, the media closed in on one woman, Queen Elizabeth, and her entourage.

A palace under pressure and a game of high-profile “gotcha” is good for clickbait and ratings, but it doesn’t help us understand racism.

In the context of the Divine Right of Kings, the “who-said-what-to-Harry and Meghan” question is most certainly missing the white supremacist forest for the trees.

In fact, the whole Meghan vs the Monarchy episode is only worth talking about because of the way it illustrates just what we as a society have been doing wrong when it comes to talking about racism.

Understood as a personal attitude problem, the utterly unscientific assertion that human beings are different on account of their skin tone is a nasty phenomenon that we uproot by upbraiding individuals. There’s no excuse for racist words or acts in our multicultural society, we mostly agree.

But looking at racism as a personal problem, we miss the bigger picture, which in this case is a twelve-hundred year-old system by which a single family holds unaccountable power over the United Kingdom’s parliament, its military and its church. That includes Scotland, Wales and a hunk of Ireland. The Queen is also titular head of 14 other countries, including many Caribbean and Pacific islands.

When the British Empire was at its height, the Crown ruled lucratively over 412 million people across one quarter of the globe. There’s nothing democratic, secular or multi-cultural about that.

So, while Queen Elizabeth the person may be off the hook for asking about Archie’s complexion, the monarchy’s not off the hook for colonialism or white supremacy.

And while we’re talking about systems, for International Women’s Day, UNICEF reported that ten million additional child marriages of girls of color may occur before the end of the decade, threatening years of progress. Did you see that headline anywhere.

Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media.