If you are a public relations and/or crisis management specialist, and I know you’re out there because I’ve been hearing from a lot of you these days, heads up that you might want to, well, smash your head into your keyboard if you haven’t seen this yet – a story that came out about Prince William and Seyi Obakin, his Black friend, this weekend.
I do not want to qualify Seyi as “Prince Williams’s Black friend”. But this is how Seyi was introduced, this is the identity that Prince Willam and the British royals, in their increasingly embarrassing attempts to show that they are not racist, have now saddled onto him.
Seyi Obakin has known Prince William for more than 10 years, and once slept rough with him. He speaks about their enduring friendship https://t.co/arMj9N7jcM— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) March 20, 2021
Did you cringe so hard that you thought your muscles might never be relaxed ever again? It’s MORTIFYING, isn’t it mortifying?
Everything about this is mortifying. From the photo to the headline – like at this point, if they had said, “LOOK AT ME AND MY BLACK FRIEND, THEREFORE I’M NOT RACIST” it might actually have been an improvement because that way, at least they’re calling it what it is…which is a white person showing us a Black person to defend himself against racism, which is basically NOT doing the work. Because doing the work of confronting racism and being actively anti-racist should not involve labouring people of colour and letting them speak for you, even if they volunteered it, as any anti-racism educator and activist will tell you. An experienced and informed PR professional would tell you that too.
And I say this because I have been shaped by colonialism and white supremacy so I get it. I get the compulsion to want to defend yourself so badly you lose sight of what the end goal should be – and in this case it’s supporting those who experience racism and standing with them in the fight for justice and equality. That’s why reading is important. And actually participating in anti-racism work. One of the first steps to making that happen is to acknowledge that racism is institutional and systemic – and so, where Prince William is concerned, being that he was BORN INTO one of those institutions, and will one day be the head of that institution, spending all this energy centering himself is… not it. William and the British royal family have put more energy the last two weeks into insisting that they, who rank among the OG colonisers, are not racist than repudiating racism!
And now, with so much of William’s focus being on himself, and trying to convince people that he’s not racist…
Is he telling on himself?
Is he the one who was wondering about how un-white Archie would be?
I initially thought it was Prince Charles. But the way William has been out here practically cosplaying Rachel Dolezal, maybe we have to reconsider who it could have been.
If only they, the British royals, could re-f-cking-consider their entire communications strategy on this though because OH MY GOD, how much worse is this going to get?! Are they using this as a case study at business schools on how NOT to run crisis management? How are you asking anyone to curtsey and bow to you when you are THIS BAD at coming correct?
Seyi Obakin is the Chief Executive Officer of Centrepoint, which supports young people supporting homelessness in the UK. He has held this position since 2009 and first joined the organisation in 2003 as finance director. He was born and raised in Nigeria. His wife was born and raised in London and they’ve lived together in the UK since 1995. In a recent interview with Church Times, he said that:
“The standard of education in Nigeria then was very high, but, sadly, not many people knew this. There was a tendency to ignore us or discount us, and we had to prove ourselves all over again.”
I can imagine the misconceptions people have made about Seyi in the UK, and what barriers he’s had to face in his work and through his career. Now Prince William and the British royals have made it so that Seyi’s face is being shared all over the place not to illuminate the varied experiences of people making a difference in the UK but because Prince William wants so badly to convince people that he’s not racist. Awesome anti-racism work there, non?