Of course the royal family is a racist institution

The royalty was built on the back of empire, of course it's a racist institution
6 min read
11 Mar, 2021
Comment: It's unsurprising Meghan experienced the racism she did, given Britain's long history of empire, colonialism and capitalism, writes Siana Bangura.
The Royal Family at Buckingham Palace in 2018 [Getty]
I like to think of myself as a pretty balanced person, overall; comfortable with the fact that multiple things can be true at once. 

So I am comfortable asserting that while watching Meghan and Harry's interview with Oprah only strengthened my resolve that the royal family and all related elitist antiquated and colonial institutions should be abolished, I also could empathise with Meghan's experiences of being a racialised woman in a world of whiteness.

Let's be clear - Meghan herself has said she identifies as bi-racial, but she does have an unambiguously Black mother. But although Meghan is bi-racial, and almost white-passing in certain light, she too can still be hit with raging anti-Blackness. And indeed, she has been, to the point of despair and mental health crisis.

So while I understand that Meghan and Harry are in the super-rich upper echelons and need no sympathy from a Socialist like me, it can also be true that Meghan's money has not insulated her from experiencing racism. Nor has it insulated her from gaslighting by the British public, the British press, or her own (white) father. 

We - as in those of us who know racism and its offspring, colourism intimately - know that it was certainly anti-Blackness that pushed her out, and anti-Blackness that underpins the widespread vitriol she has experienced from the British public, the British press, and from her biggest fan (sarcasm intended), the vile, fragile-egoed bully that is Piers Morgan. 

Meghan's money has not insulated her from gaslighting by the British public, the British press, or her own (white) father

We can also hold true that yes, the Royal Family's controlling and disturbing behaviour was emotionally abusive and gaslighting; and yes, Harry remains deeply traumatised from what he witnessed his mother endure from the press - with no protection from "The Firm". But remember, this is the same Harry who got dressed up as a Nazi in his youth for fancy dress, served in Afghanistan, and claims it's only since being with Meghan that he began to "see" racism.

In this sense, Harry is typical of those who will only admit to "seeing" colour when they have personal relationships with Black people and people of colour. Before that, it's often the kumbuya narrative of "we are all one race, the human race" - all the while benefiting from white supremacy and denying that is the case.

Even after the uprisings in the wake of the murder of George Floyd last year, and the second wave of the Black Lives Matter movement, with folks claiming to be "doing the work" - just like Harry apparently - here we are: Still dismissing racism as "casual", still telling Black people what is and isn't racist, and still making excuses for white people bullying babies such as Archie, be it by calling him a "chimp" or by having "concerns" over "how dark" he will be.

And while Meghan should be applauded for speaking so bravely about her own mental health battles, it is also true that to enter an institution such as the Royal Family and not do your research first, seems quite remarkable. I understand the Royal Family are seen as more part of celebrity culture abroad - Meghan said as much in the interview - and the reverence towards them that hardcore royalists on this side of the pond feel simply does not translate.

Read more: In America, Meghan Markle’s interview elicits shock, sympathy over claims of anti-Black racism

But even we peasants might do a quick google or Facebook search on future love interests, especially if they are famous! 

The naivety, which Meghan herself admits to, is echoed in the constant reference to "representation" and the "pride of the Commonwealth" narrative. Meghan noted she told the Royal Family she was here to "serve", much like the people and the land of the Commonwealth who served Britain by force for hundreds of years. 

Just as Kamala Harris' track record in law enforcement raises legitimate questions over what kind of victory her vice presidency really is, having a brown girl in the royal ring is a pathetic thing to celebrate. I said as much in 2018 on the panel show, The Meghan Markle Effect

Neoliberal representation politics will see us die with Pride flags, Black Lives Matter placards and #GirlBoss quotes in our hands, and nothing else. We must ask if Black and brown girls, contrary to what Meghan says, should really aspire to join the ranks of colonialists, upholding imperialist systems of oppression?

We must ask if Black and brown girls, contrary to what Meghan says, should really aspire to join the ranks of colonialists?

Shouldn't we be focusing our attention on tearing those systems down? Shouldn't we loudly criticise the irony of there being such a thing as a "Commonwealth" set of countries? Shouldn't those of us truly committed to a vision of social justice be demanding more than that? 

Along with the institution of the Royal Family - part of a system of unelected "officials" along with the House of Lords - we must abolish the class system that underpins it and decolonise our education systems so that they tell the stories of what actually happened to Black and brown peoples, and what Britain's true role in exporting racism, extreme violence and brutality all over the world has been.

And even if Socialism isn't your cup of tea, shouldn't we denounce the notion of "purity of bloodline", of serving people supposedly reigning over us through Divine Right?

Naive or not, the racism that is rife in Britain should not be on Meghan's shoulders to carry

Shouldn't we also be calling for a truly free press? One that isn't intertwined with the royals, schmoozing at the Palace and doing favours such as sweeping scandal under the carpet?  

In the interview, Harry himself confirmed that members of the British press frequented the palace for parties and gatherings - so how can we be surprised that those running, funding, and writing for those publications would do all they can to protect the Royal Family, while throwing an outsider like Meghan Markle (and Princess Diana) under the bus?

One of the starkest revelations from the Meghan and Harry interview was how close this institution drove someone like Meghan Markle to the brink. Naive or not, the racism that is rife in Britain should not be on Meghan's shoulders to carry.  The racism in Britain has everything to do with Britain, empire, colonialism and capitalism, which are baked into the very DNA of the Royal Family.

If you watched the interview and felt "shocked" or "surprised" you've not been paying any attention. The Royal Family is literally built on and off the backs of Black and brown people. The optics of Prince William and Kate being carried by brown bodies in Tuvalu in 2012 make me wince and speak volumes. Of course it's a racist institution.



Siana Bangura is a writer, producer, performer and community organiser hailing from South East London. She is the producer of '1500 & Counting', a documentary film investigating deaths in custody and police brutality in the UK, and the founder of Courageous Films. She also campaigns against the arms trade and her work aims to move voices from the margins to the centre.

Find her on Instagram: @sianaarrgh

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@alaraby.co.uk

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.