So, the start of 2020 has been an interesting one; only fourteen days in and there’s enough calamity rampant in the media to sustain us for an entire decade. There is one story that doesn’t seem to be subsiding, however, and that is the abrupt exit of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from their royal duties. More interestingly about this story is that it has created a debate in the media about whether or not Britain is a racist country.
On Good Morning Britain, Afuah Hirsch, writer and political activist, got into a very heated debate with Piers Morgan about the racism Meghan Markle has received from the media. Morgan’s denial that racism plays no part in the Duke and Duchess’s decision to leave the UK is, quite frankly, naïve and misguided. For an upper-class white man, who I can only assume has had every privilege in life, to say that racism in the UK does not exist is not surprising. For people like Morgan, racism is a two-dimensional thing that if not overtly suggested, does not exist. People like Hirsch, Markle and myself, as women of colour, know differently and understand that just because you didn’t call someone a ‘nigger’, does not mean that there is not a racial narrative that is influencing the way you perceive that person.
An amusing part of the debate was when Hirsch referenced that Morgan unnecessarily highlighted that Meghan grew up in Crenshaw, a district in South LA known for gang violence. He went on to reference the 2015 F. Gary Gray film Straight Outta Compton to back up his point in mentioning the gang background of her town. Susanne Reid, Morgan’s co-host highlighted how using that example itself is problematic. In true Morgan fashion, he talked over her, probably in hopes that the conversation would shift and he wouldn’t have to address it – which is what happened.
Britain has a problematic history. The British empire, as Hirsch mentioned, was built on the backs of black people made out to be savages. Not to mention Britain’s most recent history where pro-Brexit got a reputation for meaning anti-immigrant and how could anyone forget the 2018 Windrush Scandal under former PM Theresa May. To think that such a legacy has subsided overnight and that the remnants of what was does not still harm black people today, is where the problem lies. British society is built with white people in mind. Although we live in a time where the divide is not as apparent, to deny it exists is what has every black person, nay every person of colour, screaming about white privilege. White privilege has nothing to do with the amount of money in your wallet or the school that you attended. Fact is because you’re white, the cards are stacked more in your favour; a concept many misunderstand and therefore disregard.
Just take a look at the comments of any tweet posted by a black person being vocal about their opinion on the matter. Before you know it, out from under their bridge, they appear racist comment after racist comment after derogatory comment. The only way to begin to combat the engrained racism of British society is first to admit it exists.
Whether you’re a royal, a political activist or a little girl who was welcomed into her new town with a brick to the back of her head at age five, racism in Britain is not a myth. And it is only going to get worse when people like Piers’ Morgan refuse to use their platforms to acknowledge that the problem exists and to have an informed, open, honest conversations, where he allows the other person to speak.