One headline, following the announcement of the Royal Wedding wrote ‘Successful Actress Meghan Markle to Wed Former Soldier’. Written with the intent to be contentious, it nonetheless marvellously detracted from the dire headlines filling British media outlets following their engagement.  The hysteria of the Prince marrying a mixed-race divorced American for one small, insignificant article, was wonderfully reoriented to utter shock that a successful actress was marrying a soldier. I almost high-fived ‘joe.co.uk’, the source of this piece, through my phone in delight.

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Throughout British media, declarations were made that this marriage was representative of the Royal Family’s considerable progress and a symbol to the world that Britain lives in a colour-blind society. However, the disparaging reactions following the couple’s announcement, was a sure indication that Britain remains insidiously racist. The significance raised towards the ethnicity of Meghan raises concern for the underlying beliefs that are still inherently present within our society. ‘From slaves to royalty’ one Daily Mail article wrote about Meghan, a clear indication that a psychological link still exists to our corrupt past. The Royal Wedding should not be used as a seal of post-racial Britain. This is not our ‘Obama-moment’. Racism is still alive and its cooking here.

the disparaging reactions, following the couple’s announcement, was a sure indication that Britain remains insidiously racist

Like many things we Brits do, our racism is ‘polite’. It remains subtle and hidden. Paula Akpan, a co-founder of Black Girl Festival, that celebrates black British women, claims British racism tends not to be ‘as openly acknowledged’ when comparing it the U.S. Obvious racism ceases to exist on a large scale and we are all in denial of its presence. British racism is unique. Just like the unique audacity to wear a brooch inspired by slavery to Christmas lunch with your relative’s new mixed-race fiancé. The racism that exists in Britain remains disguised. Our discourse in Britain is a tendency to downplay racial inequalities. The engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has surfaced it, if only partially.

Like many things we Brits do, our racism is ‘polite’. It remains subtle and hidden

Racist comments, in Britain, feel like that of a back-handed compliment. There is seldom use of adversely chauvinistic terms, instead replaced by understated phrases recognising racial differences. Rachel Johnson, sister of Boris Johnson, wrote in The Mail that Markle could bring a ‘rich and exotic DNA’ to the royal family. ‘Exotic’ has lovely connotations, yet its definition is ‘originating from a distant foreign country’. Markle is American, not from an Amazonian tribe as Johnson tries to liken her to here. Certainly, Kate Middleton was not described in this manner. Markle’s race has been the subject of such frequent and cryptic references that surely this is evidence that Britain remains intrinsically racist.  

The royal family, a quintessentially British institution, are seemingly heading towards the 21st century with this marriage, and it is incredibly positive. The monarchy is fundamental to ‘Britishness’ yet have long been the very antithesis of diversity. Until now, all those that could not identify with the royals in race or ethnicity felt exclusion to ‘Britishness’, they were incompatible. Hence, the acceptance of a future Princess with a very different ancestral heritage to her Prince, is a powerful statement for the inclusion of all into British society. Britain’s institutional relationship with race could be gradually improving. It was not along ago that the royals were forced into loveless, strategic marriages that they were once so famous for. This generation are not only marrying who they love but someone whose ethnic heritage is different too. Remarkable!

She has the ability to empower mix-raced women, an icon for diversity and a beacon for future equality.

A positive movement had been made however the inherent racism that overcame the proposal, and has come to represent it, has weakened the progress we had seemingly made. Hopefully Meghan will use her position to empower and represent those in society that felt excluded from ‘Britishness’. She has the ability and appeal to identify with those that the Royal Family struggled to. The new year will see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visiting Reprezent Radio in Brixton, a station that works and supports young people in creative training. Brixton, known for its ethnic diversity and a radio station that predominantly focuses on rap, grime and hip hop is perhaps an indication of Meghan’s future intent. Whilst the Royal Wedding has been overshadowed by racist remarks and unnecessary ethnic associations, Meghan is going to be a wonderful new member of the monarchy. She has the ability to empower mix-raced women, an icon for diversity and a beacon for future equality.

 

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