‘Why I believe one wedding wont fix racism’

Identity: Markle claimed she was proud to be a “strong, confident mixed-race woman”. © Getty
by Ernest Owens

An award-winning multimedia journalist whose work has appeared in The Huffington Post, USA Today, and Al Jazeera. This year he was named the “Emerging Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists.

Some think the interracial marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will improve race relations. But Ernest Owens thinks it will do nothing to stop racism — and may even make things worse.

Oh, America, the home of the brave and the land of the free. We love celebrating our independence from the British and touting the decline of monarchies worldwide. But then along comes a special occasion to short-circuit that hard-won democratic pride — a royal wedding!

Yes, the USA loves a good ol’ jubilant royal wedding. From our obsession with the late Princess Diana to that with the current Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, Americans love reliving modern-day “fairy tales” in pop culture. We wallow in the pageantry, the quaint customs, the bold gowns and over-the-top elegance.

But after Monday’s announcement of the engagement of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle, we might be taking our fandom a little too far. Markle, a divorced biracial American television star, will be the first women of colour to be married to a living heir to the British throne. While that is a remarkable feat, some have inflated its significance.

An interracial royal wedding will be most likely to aggravate, not improve, matters.

“Just by saying, ‘I do,’ Markle will break the mould of colonisation and white supremacy that has defined the British aristocracy,” one local columnist wrote. “When Meghan weds Harry, Britain’s relationship with race will change for ever,” read a Guardian headline. “Can Meghan Markle Save the Monarchy?” a New York Times writer begged. And there have been several humorous reactions to what many are already calling “Britain’s first half-black princess”.

But none of us should be naïve enough to believe that any marital bliss will do much to change centuries of racial discord in the United Kingdom — and modern-day American history proves it.

Remember the year 2008, when this country had elected its first Black president? Remember when he got re-elected in 2012? This major racial realignment of political power was expected to improve race relations in America. It did not. Hate crimes have increased, industrial diversity is still stagnant, and we now have a president who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and casually spouts ethnic slurs in office.

For all its pomp and circumstance, the UK has no better record, and hoping for a diverse heir to the throne will not do a damn thing to solve it.

Let’s not forget that the UK’s rampant xenophobia led to Brexit, and that the country has experienced a rise in racist hate crimes since the vote. That is why I am convinced that an interracial royal wedding will be most likely to aggravate, not improve, matters — especially given that the press started targeting Markle when she began dating Harry.

The hatred of their relationship has been so intense that Kensington Palace had to issue a rare salvo against the press on November 8th 2016 (the same day Trump got elected), criticising rampant “racial undertones” in coverage of the pair.

What all of this reveals is that unbridled racism is something that Americans and the British still have in common. I am happy that I will be able to witness an interracial royal wedding in my lifetime, but I will not pretend that it is anything more than that.

If we as a collective are serious about addressing racism, we cannot rest on symbolism and so-called bold gestures by a single individual, no matter how famous. We must assess our current political climate head on and recognise that these hopeful moments will not carry much weight until we address the big racist elephant in the room.

Until then, enjoy the wedding, but don’t jump too far over the broom.

This piece is reprinted with kind permission from Ernest Owens. The original can be found under Become An Expert.

You Decide

  1. How important is the royal wedding?

Activities

  1. Read the links in Become An Expert. They offer a variety of opinions on the significance of Meghan and Harry’s engagement. Once you have read them, give yourself fifteen minutes to write an answer to this question: “To what extent will the royal wedding benefit the rest of society?”

Word Watch

Princess Diana
The first wife of Prince Charles. Their marriage broke down and they divorced in 1996. The following year Diana was killed in car crash in Paris.
Pageantry
Elaborate display or ceremony.
Colonisation
The process of settling and forcing control over the indigenous people of foreign countries. Britain is mostly known for colonial projects in India, Africa, and North America.
Ku Klux Klan
White supremacist group primarily based in the southern states of the USA.
Xenophobia
Dislike or prejudice against people from other countries.

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