The debate over the future of the Commonwealth and Britain’s relations with its former colonies has been fueled by allegations of racism within the Royal Family following a television interview this month with Prince Harry and of his American wife, Meghan, by media mogul Oprah Winfrey.
The couple said an unidentified royals asked about the skin color of their son, Archie, before he was born. Meghan’s mother is black and her father is white.
The prince and his wife broke official royal duties last year, citing the need to escape press intrusion amid claims that negative media coverage of Meghan was racially motivated.
The Commonwealth is made up of 54 countries, most of them former British colonies, headed by Queen Elizabeth II.
Barbados, one of the many members of the Caribbean Commonwealth, had already planned to remove the Queen from her post as head of state later this year. Former Barbados Ambassador to Britain Guy Hewitt, who is now a pastor in Florida, told VOA the interview raised questions about Britain’s relations with the peoples of the Commonwealth of Nations.
“Sadly, the interview – and I would say the previous split that took place – showed that the royals still don’t fully understand diversity and literally don’t know how to embrace it,” Hewitt told VOA. “Especially for a younger generation, Harry and Meghan symbolized this hope for a new way to be royal.”
In 2018, news emerged that Britain had falsely denied citizenship rights to migrants from the Caribbean colonies who arrived after WWII – the Windrush Generation, named after the Empire Wind Rush ship that took them across the Atlantic.
Migrants who had the right to stay were forcibly expelled. Others have been denied health care and state benefits. Anthony Bryan, 62, was almost deported to his native Jamaica in 2015, half a century after arriving in Britain. Authorities told him he was in Britain illegally when he applied for a passport to go on vacation.
“It broke something,” Bryan said. “It shattered the trust I thought I had with the British.”
This sense of injustice, fueled by the Black Lives Matter movement, fuels a narrative that Britain is disconnected. Harry and Meghan’s racism allegations confirm these suspicions, Hewitt said.
“The Commonwealth is invaluable to small states and developing countries,” he said. “However, it must be able to prove that it is still relevant by being responsive to the needs and sensitive to the aspirations of people in the field. [global] south, ”he said.
Reacting to the TV interview with Harry and Meghan, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a Republican who wants to sever ties with the royal family, reiterated his call for Australia to abandon the British monarch to the head of state.
Canada’s Leader of the Political Opposition, Jagmeet Singh, told reporters: “I do not see the advantage of the monarchy in the lives of Canadians.
“No mutual benefit”
The Queen last visited Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the Commonwealth, in 2003. Allegations of racism within the royal family come as a shock, said Idayat Hassan, head of the Center for Democracy and development in Abuja, in a recent interview with VOA.
“It raises a lot of questions that maybe again this relationship is not of mutual benefit,” she said. “This relationship has not transcended what it was during colonial times.”
Hassan said many Nigerians believe Harry and Meghan’s wedding marks a new chapter.
“Maybe we live in a fantasy world too much,” she told VOA. “Nowadays we think the race is not real and that the world has actually evolved – has evolved in ways, far, far away. But somehow, again, we find that race is still a factor. “
In a statement after the interview, the royal family said they were dealing with Harry and Meghan’s claims in private and “memories may vary”.
The Queen and Prince Charles, who is next to the throne, have praised the Commonwealth in recent days and hailed its collective strength.
“On Commonwealth Day, I remember once again that the essence of the Commonwealth is its remarkable diversity – a family of some 2.4 billion people from 54 nations across six continents whose traditions, knowledge and talents offer an incomparable wealth of ideas and perspectives on the world we share, ”Prince Charles said on March 8 during a ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
“As we recover from all that we have endured and continue to endure during this pandemic, we have an unprecedented opportunity to change course by harnessing the extraordinary potential of our Commonwealth family. We are uniquely positioned to show the way, so let’s be the boldest of the daring, and set an example to the world, ”added Charles.
Disputed allegations of racism
Supporters of the royal family reject claims that the institution is racist. Commentator Penny Junor has covered the Royal Family for 40 years in broadcast and print media. She said, “It’s a family that I would say, you know, it’s a family that’s closely tied to the Commonwealth. I have never seen anything like racism.
The debate shows that there are deeper historical issues that need to be addressed in Britain, Hewitt said.
“What may be needed in the UK is to speak the truth, unbox a very long oppressive and racist colonial history and start to accept and come to terms with what that means in the 21st century,” he said. declared.
Hewitt said the debate over the future of the Commonwealth would likely intensify when the British crown passed to Charles.