Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are the President and Vice President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust. “The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust is a growing network of young changemakers across the Commonwealth. A platform where smart ideas and insights are shared, to show that change can be brought about by anyone, anywhere. A place that sparks optimism and inspiration, where more and more people feel motivated and confident to step up and take positive action.”
On July 1, Harry and Meghan joined Chrisann Jarrett, co-CEO of We Belong; Alicia Wallace, director of Equality Bahamas; Mike Omoniyi, founder and CEO of The Common Sense Network; and Abdullahi Alim who leads the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers network of emerging young leaders in Africa and the Middle East”, four young young leaders from the QCT, for a “conversation on fairness, justice and equal rights as part of an ongoing series of youth-led discussions”. Specifically they talked about racism and unconscious bias, about breaking out of the conditioning that so many of us carry inside ourselves because western society has been shaped by white supremacy. As shared on the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust website, “in response to the growing Black Lives Matter movement, QCT has been running a weekly discussion with young people looking at various forms of injustice on the experiences of young people today”.
As someone who grew up with the most extreme white privilege, Harry contributed to the discussion by addressing history, specifically as it relates to the Commonwealth since, again, he is the President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
"When you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past. So many people have done such an incredible job of acknowledging the past and trying to right those wrongs, but I think we all acknowledge there is so much more still to do. It's not going to be easy and in some cases it's not going to be comfortable but it needs to be done, because guess what: Everybody benefits."
He is speaking about colonisation and the uncomfortable fact that many countries in the Commonwealth are part of the Commonwealth because England colonised them. What he’s saying here is that in order to make change, in order to push for a world that is truly equal, a world that isn’t racist, it’s important to start by identifying where all the injustice began, when the oppression began. For those who have been oppressed, this validation is meaningful and can be healing, and receiving it from someone like Harry who comes from people who had a direct hand in that oppression is significant.
That’s why Harry was there – to honour the experiences of that particular audience, an audience of young Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour, and declare himself a partner in their push for change. All that should matter is that they clearly appreciated it and that they can see that as a partner, as a white extremely privileged man, he’s willing to put himself in a position of discomfort, recognising that his origin and very identity as an heir to the British throne have made him complicit and complacent. Isn’t that what you want out of an ally? Black and Indigenous people have been out here for generations telling the rest of the world, and that also includes other people of colour, like me, that racism is real, that it is institutional. Part of the problem is that the status quo refused to acknowledge it. Because if you don’t acknowledge its existence, you don’t have to fix it. The only way to actually make progress is for more people who’ve been wrong, who’ve been resistant, to own up to it. Otherwise, if everybody was perfect, we wouldn’t still be in this f-cksh-t.
So how do you think this is going over with the British media? There’s a lot of white fragility in the headlines and reaction right now. They’re criticising Harry for his “attack” on the Commonwealth and “picking a fight” with the Queen. They’re saying he “took a swipe” at the Commonwealth and could risk angering the Queen. Apparently stating facts and history is being perceived as delivering an emotional punch to Her Majesty, an elderly woman. Because she loves the Commonwealth so much. But you can love the Commonwealth, and Harry wouldn’t be President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust if he didn’t care about it, while also understanding the reality of its beginnings – both things can be true. In fact, both things *should* be true if improvement is to happen. But this is why white fragility is such a barrier to improvement and change. Harry was actually trying to center the feelings of the marginalised. The British media is trying to center the Queen’s feelings but, really, they’re centering white feelings. And the subtext from that is dog whistling to all the people, and they’re out there, we know they are, who think Prince Harry is a race traitor, dangerous rhetoric that’s used by white supremacists to perpetuate violence.
Prince Harry comes from a family of colonisers. After weeks and weeks of civil unrest, with BIPOC voices raised against injustice and inequality, demanding their humanity be respected, demanding opportunity and fairness, no one in his family has spoken up in support of Black Lives Matter because of “politics”. This is not politics. It’s basic human rights. If his advocacy of basic human rights means he’s betrayed his family, what does it say about his family that they haven’t vocalised their support of basic human rights? What does it say about the people who insist that the British royal family should abstain from standing up for basic human rights?