Bravo to Meghan, Oprah and Shola
“The Royal Family is an institution rooted in colonialism, White supremacy and racism. The legacy is right there.”
Shola Mos-Shagbamimu (Good Morning Britain)
“The British slave trade ended in 1807, and slavery in 1833. However, racism would not end with abolition: it was far too valuable. Racism became the handmaiden to the empire. The mythology of race, and White superiority, would become a major ingredient in the establishment of British imperialism. And this template of bigotry and prejudice still permeates British society today.”
Rachel C.Boyle (The Guardian)
Have you not noticed that the worst thing you can call an actual racist today, like some of those who camp out on a daily basis in the comments sections, is racist?
But with the recent revelations that have come out of the interview given by the former Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, to uber interviewer Oprah Winfrey, may I advance the view that we need to focus less on the contemporary, interpersonal expressions of racism and interrogate the historic, systemic and structural manifestations of White supremacy and one of its chief by products — White privilege.
Naturally, all of the above is inextricably tied to Black disadvantage, marginalisation and the persistence of racial disparities of various types even today, as those revelations illustrate at the highest levels of these societies — even our own. This has been the norm for centuries in the Anglo sphere and more broadly throughout the West.
Don’t get me wrong the interpersonal form of casual, yet disturbing expressions of racism and, more precisely, bigotry as expressed to the Duchess’ husband, Harry, concerning the complexion of an unborn child — while the mother was pregnant — can and should engender discussions of these fundamental issues of identity. In an era where White grievance is all the rage on the Right and as stated even in the comments section of this publication, which I will address later, we deserve no less.
However, that is why the views expressed by another Black woman, Shola Mos- Shogbamimu, an author and lawyer, when appearing on Piers Morgan’s Good Morning Britain show lastt week, were so welcome and vitally important. Because they allowed us to move beyond the clearly soap-opera, social-media, “he said; she said” nature to the revelations of the prince and his wife.
Frankly, many of us were never caught up in the hype of a Black woman — in this case the former Ms Markle — marrying into the English/British Royal Family. Nor were we gushing when, at the local level, Boris Johnson, on behalf of the Crown, appointed a Black governor to Bermuda. Neither of those examples for many Black Bermudians represented any sort of coming of age or acceptance of the natives by the so-called “Firm”.
To her credit, Dr Mos-Shogbamimu chose to illustrate the English/British monarchy’s historic role in colonialism, racism, White supremacy and, I might add, imperialism — as did Rachel C. Boyle in The Guardian in her excellent op-ed on the topic. The unfairly maligned Dr Mos-Shogbamkmu, by establishing the historical record, laid bare the family, or Firm’s, complicity in all of the above across time and one not found in the romanticised fictions found in productions such as Victoria and Abdul, The Crown or Bridgeton — or, for that matter, the fare on any Sunday night on Masterpiece Theatre.
And what of the golden fleece they plucked for two-plus centuries in lands far away such as in Africa and India? In the postmodern era, Britain’s actions in Kenya after the Second World War were simply deplorable. Unspeakable. They had no reluctance in establishing concentration camps in the Kenyan highlands in the 1950s, when forced labour akin to slavery, torture and death were served cold to tens of thousands — although less than a decade previously, their victorious soldiers discovered German concentration camps where the most despicable horrors occurred at the end of the war to worldwide outrage. Think about that.
One thing has been constant: the Firm and their kingdom have been infamously brilliant at controlling the global historical narrative — even in Bermuda. It is something that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, has gamely sought to continue of late with his public comments of the ”we are not racist“ variety.
Do you know which country is No 1 all time when it comes to invading territories around the world? You guessed it. And they did it in the name of king and country.
The next time you visit London, especially around the government precincts and in the City itself, one cannot be but awestruck by the grand Georgian buildings, and the sheer amount of wealth that must have been pouring in for centuries from far and wide throughout its empire.
One other thing you will notice when visiting London and I say this with some exaggeration – you will find that you cannot walk more than ten feet in any direction without bumping into some imposing military hero or statue of some imperial statesman all dressed resplendently in military garb wielding a sword.
The two images go together. The former could not exist without the latter. It is upon this that the Royal Families wealth and that of its kingdom and empire were built upon.
Wiliam should now spend less time obsessing over the scarlet letter “R” on he and his family’s backs and interrogate the blood-soaked, shameful history of a kingdom that he is likely to inherit — for many of us the Kingdom of Shame, not glory.
As to the Bermudian-style Piers Morgan, Tucker Carlson types such as “Warwick boy”, “Donny Darko”, “Ohlet” and the five or six others who routinely debase the quality of the comments section with their incendiary commentary, they represent the past not the present or the future. They are an extremely small minority of White men — note I said a small minority — who have nothing better to do than indulge in White grievance politics, much like their American and British ideological cousins, on a near-daily basis. That they can do so with anonymity while exhibiting their coded racism — although they can and do dispense with the code altogether sometimes — is sad in 2021. I suspect with respect to most of them, Black Bermudians — myself not included — would be shocked to find out who they really are.
Is this another example of White privilege in Bermuda? I think so; hands down.
But let me make this clear: white Bermudians such as they are not the new victims of racism at the hands of Black Bermudians, as they routinely, cavalierly and insidiously claim. Being some of the most privileged people on the planet makes that claim laughable. It is also ahistorical. As I have said for decades, only one so-called race, which is a European invention or construct, in Bermuda has been the victim of racism in Bermuda. Clue: they don’t call it “White supremacy” for nothing.
On a positive note we had roughly seven thousand black and white Bermudians who came out some months ago and marched to demonstrate that black lives do matter on behalf of racial justice. Thousands of those people where white, perhaps 30 to 40 per cent who had made a decision to move forward with Bermuda’s black majority and not backwards. So clearly, there is an appetite for change but as usual the devil will be in the details.
So, to “Warwick Boy” “Ohlet” and Phillip Wells’s publicist, “Donny Darko”, and, more importantly, William and Harry, I pose the following questions:
Are you, too, prepared to now join this march for racial justice?
Are you prepared to support the ultimate racial reconciliation effort around the need for reparations for the harm that has been done?
I close with the comments of the University of Exeter’s John P. Cooper, a professor of Arabic studies, who, during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement globally in 2020, wrote the following;
“In contrast to postwar Germany’s soul-searching, Britain has kept up appearances over imperialism — through the monarchy, the Commonwealth and the myths of exploration, benign rule and abolitionism. These mask perpetrations of violence and injustice — slavery included. Because Britain will not face its past, schools do not teach imperialism as Germany does Nazism. Instead, we have the pomp and the statues.”
• Rolfe Commissiong was the Progressive Labour Party MP for Pembroke South East (Constituency 21) between December 2012 and August 2020, and the former chairman of the joint select committee considering the establishment of a living wage