I am thinking about baby Archie. I am thinking about his chubby cheeks and wispy hair and how, if you put him and Diana’s babies in a line-up, you might not be able to tell them apart. I am thinking about how blissfully oblivious he is right now, toddling along the beach, pointing at objects and using his big words, blowing kisses to his sister through his mother’s belly.
He has no idea that he’s at the centre of a global scandal, supposedly the ‘Worst Royal Crisis in 85 Years’ (actual newspaper headline). Worse than Boris lying to the Queen to force the suspension of Parliament. Worse than Archie’s granddad cheating on his blushing bride with a married woman. Worse apparently than his perspiration-challenged great uncle’s dealings with a billionaire sex offender.
I’m not his mum, but as a mother and a human being, I wish I could preserve Archie from discovering any of this one day. I wish we could spare all our children the destructive and pervasive effects of White supremacy and racism.
A Right Royal Crisis
And what is this crisis that threatens to tear the monarchy apart? Mostly, it boils down to an accusation of a racist comment within the palace walls. From a senior royal — although not the Queen or Prince Philip, we’ve been assured. ‘That only leaves two options, it’s either Prince William or Prince Charles,’ the pundits gasp. ‘But they’ve made it seem like the entire Royal Family is racist.’
It’s an absolute shocker. How very dare Meghan and Harry.
Can everyone please stop pretending to be shocked by racism? The Royal Family is racist. There, I said it. I’m not pointing fingers (sweat thee not, Prince Philip), I’m calling out the institution. The slippery thing about racism is that it feels deeply personal and it cuts to the bone if you’re on the receiving end. But it’s not really personal. It’s not really about you or me, but a system that was created centuries ago to uphold money, power and superiority.
The Legacy of Empire
Fact: the Royal Family was at the helm of the same Empire that cruised around the world ruling the waves and conquering the ‘savages’. It’s why my native language is English, even though I come from a country with more than 300 indigenous tongues.
It’s why my mum, born before Nigerian Independence, used to sing along with fervour every time ‘God Save the Queen’ played on telly. From the Crown Jewels to the gold of her throne to the sugar in the Queen’s cup of tea (alright, I’m inventing here, I don’t know if Her Majesty takes sugar), the Royal Family is sitting on a legacy of global subjugation, pillaging and slave trading wealth. Is this news to you? Here’s a link if you need more.
One reason people in Britain get so worked up around race is that our education system has pulled a fast one on us. The school curriculum is woefully inadequate on teaching Black British history, colonialism, or any kind of race literacy. We lack a common language to have the type of informed discussions that can move us forward as a society.
This is why I advocate starting the conversations at home with your own children and to keep educating yourself too.
We Need To Talk About It
In Bringing Up Race, I quoted the spoken word poet Guante who famously said ‘White supremacy isn’t the shark, it’s the water’. Right now, royal watchers are so busy gawping at the shark fin inching closer and closer, they don’t realise we’re already in troubled waters.
We’ve been in trouble for a long time. That sinking feeling isn’t about Meghan and Harry or the Royal clan, it’s about what this means for the rest of us. As a Black woman, this stuff hurts more on the surface. But racism damages everyone, no matter your complexion. It’s a blight on our humanity. And unless people recognise that the stakes are just as high for EVERY ONE OF US, the only way is down.
Long before Meghan, Harry and Baby Archie became a family of three, I speculated with friends and family about their future babies. Would their kids turn out darker and how would the royals cope? A part of me still hopes Archie’s hair sprouts into a glorious Afro.
The difference between my speculation and the royal family member’s ‘concern’ is that mine is about embracing his Black heritage and theirs is about exclusion. The key difference is that I’m a stranger and they are blood relatives.
Imagine learning that your own family member won’t fully claim you because of the colour of your skin. Sadly this is the reality for countless children of mixed heritage whose relatives express ‘concern’, openly or in private, about them ‘muddying up’ the bloodline. It’s a travesty because it’s not really personal. Nobody is born thinking this way. From childhood, we are conditioned into a system that says your skin tone means you matter more than me.
The true crisis here is that we cannot shield our children from this unfolding saga. And what they’re learning is that you can be the child of a prince, born from a fairytale marriage, a member of the most powerful family in the world and you will not be protected from racism. You will not be protected. Your mother can be driven to the brink of suicide and she will not be protected. Nobody is looking out for you. It’s not personal but it cuts to the bone.
The messages our children pick up about race from the world around us can shape them forever. The good news is that you can teach them something different, raise your child to challenge and to choose a better path.
What To Say to the Children
If your kids have questions about what’s happening with Meghan, Harry and Baby Archie, here are some more positive lessons you can pass on:
Whatever happens in a family is private business, but racism must always be called out because it’s bigger than one family. It’s about every single one of us. We must all do better.
Talking about race and racism isn’t the problem. The problem is that we don’t talk about it enough. We need to talk about it to understand it and try to change things for the greater good.
Bullies are everywhere but they never win in the end. Because a bully’s worst enemy is himself.
Never feel ashamed about asking for help. It is one of the bravest things you can do.
If somebody asks for help, do what you can to help them. Even if you’re cross with them for whatever reason, be kind and do the right thing. If you ever need help, no matter how things are between us, I will do my best to help you.
Real life isn’t a fairytale. Look how the prince and his duchess rescued each other. In the real world, we rescue each other.
If people say mean or bigoted or racist things about you, don’t let it drag you down with them. Hold your head high and be more you. The world needs more you.
Remember that you are never alone. I am here. There are many who will stand with you. And there is a long line of people before you who have survived and resisted and thrived and you will too.
Your skin is beautiful. I love your face. You have joy and magic inside you and your life matters. Your life matters. Your life matters.
Bringing Up Race: How to Raise a Kind Child in a Prejudiced World is on Amazon UK, Bookshop, Waterstones, Roving Heights Bookshop and other good bookshops. It’s available in hardback, ebook and audiobook. Pre-order for USA and Canada at Amazon.com (release date May 4, 2021)