Vicious treatment of Meghan and Harry exposes a deeply racist UK

Vicious treatment of Meghan and Harry exposes a deeply racist UK
Comment: Coverage of Meghan and Harry shows that when it comes to racism, the media remains woefully unable to conduct a reasonable, and informed debate, writes Malia Bouattia.
6 min read
24 Jan, 2020
'Racism is deeply woven into the fabric of this country' writes Bouattia [Getty]
We left 2019 in a deeply depressing state, hoping the new year would bring renewal and reflection. Hoping that despite rampant racism, xenophobia and poverty, we would manage nonetheless to fight for basic human rights and respect for one another.

The victory of Boris Johnson - the friend of the far-right everywhere - might bring about a remobilisation of opposition to hate, oppression, or even civil disobedience against a political system supported by the billionaires who benefit from it.

Now, just a few weeks into 2020, it is still too early to write off the renewal of struggle, but we are already witnessing one of the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in the world, being rocked by racism.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have chosen to "step back" as senior members of the royal family, and have announced that they will become financially independent.

In a candid interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex about their treatment by the British media, it became clear to the public as well as the institutions running the British state, that the attacks were taking their toll. 

Yet, the gross racism and misogyny that Meghan has been subjected to continue, and clearly made the couple feel they had no other choice.

Given nothing much had been done by the royal family - at least publicly - to address Markle's targeting, surely, we saw this coming?

Such a failure of basic support should be put squarely at the door of the institutional racism that is so deeply woven into the fabric of this country, its government and its Palace.

Such a failure of basic support should be put squarely at the door of the institutional racism

It should come as no surprise, given the unending torrent of racist bigotry that streams from the royals, not least from Philip himself, or indeed Harry in his youth. 

Yet, there are still endless debates and discussions going on across the British press, over "what this is really about"!

The British establishment is apparently so hell bent on refusing to address racism, it would rather delegitimise and pick at the complaints of those suffering the brunt of this hate, than actually recognise that there is a centuries old crisis.

In fact, we have had to sit through countless "analyses" of the prince's decision, without hearing a smidgen of introspection or critical analysis on race relations in the UK.

The recent debacle involving Laurence Fox, who appeared on the BBC's 'Question Time', dismissing claims that Meghan Markle was a victim of racism without challenge from his fellow panelists, demonstrates that when it comes to racism, the media remains woefully unable to conduct a reasonable, and informed debate.

For those who do face hate on a daily basis, the feeling engenders is one of hopelessness and rage.

It might seem odd to spend so much time and energy discussing the fate of two royals - members of an institution that by all modern standards should not exist. But if even the Duchess of Sussex, in all her power and privilege found the racism so unbearable that she and her family were forced out of the Palace, what hope is there for the rest of us?

The Grenfell inquiry, the Windrush scandal, the Shamima Begum case, the 2019 general election. Reflecting on just a handful of events over the last year, I am struck by the relentless nature of the violence meted out against migrants and people of colour in contemporary Britain.

Read more: This isn't about Brexit: Rejecting Tory Britain

It is all too clear that there is a lot of work to be done and that the struggle is far from over. We are facing a moment of backlash against the gains of the last few decades, and it is in our ability to defend them collectively that they will be salvaged or destroyed.

While I would argue that the experiences of the Duchess of Sussex were to be expected, given the nature of the royal institution - which is that of imperial havoc, wars, racism, theft, slavery, blood spilt across the Global South, and even within its own borders - her story serves as an important reminder, to liberals in particular.

It is those who were quick to celebrate Meghan's marriage to Harry as a sign of tolerance and equality in Britain, while simultaneously supporting the depoliticization of Black life in the UK, who should take this moment to reflect on the shortcomings of their politics.

It is once more the craven push for representation and black faces in high places, which has undermined and side-lined concerns about institutions and structures so central to the struggle for liberation.

What is important for our efforts now, however, is not justice for the Duchess. She will probably carry the scars of her experiences for the rest of her life and for that, many of us extend our sympathies and solidarity. But contrary to those far less fortunate, she will have the support of powerful and influential people around the world, wealth, and access to platforms that reach millions as she addresses the issues she has faced and moves on.

It is all too clear that there is a lot of work to be done, and that the struggle is far from over

The same, of course, cannot be said for all the black and brown political activists, facing the brunt of media witch-hunts, being named and shamed for daring to fight against colonialism, racism and capitalism.

Nor can the masses of people of colour, migrants, women, LGBT, disabled, and working-class folks who are targeted because of toxic, hate-filled headlines and policies hope to find solace in massive wealth. We have nothing but each other, our convictions, and the collective institutions of resistance that we build through struggle.

Many around us are suffering from the outcome of right-wing policies and structural oppression in this country. There is a growing sense of hopelessness that things are never going to change. The defeat of Labour in the last election made this worse, as does the onslaught of our cravenly right-wing media and political establishment.

Yet, others around the world are showing the way forward. From the streets and workplaces of France to those in India, millions are fighting back, building mass alliances from below, and pushing back against the growing wave of economic and political reaction.

You and I will never be able to hide in the comfort of personal wealth, charity work, and jet set luxury. Neither should we want to. You and I can build, with countless others, the kind of mass movement that is needed to birth society anew. Let us make 2020 the year that we make it happen.

Malia Bouattia is an activist, a former president of the National Union of Students, and co-founder of the Students not Suspects/Educators not Informants Network.

Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.