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Do you remember what they said?
Of course, Buckingham Palace was “saddened” to learn of the “concerning” allegations of racism leveled at it by Meghan Markle when she spoke to Oprah Winfrey. But the kicker — the real poke in the eye — came in the first five words of the next sentence: “While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed in private.”
In short, it was a royal seal-embossed way of saying they thought she was a flat-out liar. And that was the mild stuff.
In much of the British media, particularly the tabloid press, there was a full pile-on to the now 41-year-old Markle, even as she shared experiences of depression, helplessness and suicidal thoughts that echoed the comments of her late mother-in-law 30 years earlier.
Markle was attacked as a “gold-digger”, someone seeking “division” and sowing “destruction”. The Daily Mail helpfully rounded up some of nastiest highlights under the headline “‘Vengeful, self-absorbed and attention-seeking’: Fleet Street reacts to Harry and Meghan’s ‘deeply destructive’ interview with Oprah”. Piers Morgan said he “didn’t believe a word” of the Oprah interview, stormed off a television set, and quit his job.
Among many, however — particularly Britons of colour, and people in the Commonwealth — there was sadness expressed about what Markle had experienced, and very little surprise. “This is a country that doesn’t want to have an honest conversation about race,” historian David Olusoga, who presented the TV series “Black and British: A Forgotten History,” told the Associated Press.
Now there is further evidence to support what Olusoga — and Markle — said back then. Another racism controversy has rocked the palace, just months after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Lady Susan Hussey, who served as the late Queen’s lady-in-waiting for more than 60 years and is a godmother to William, the Prince of Wales, was forced to resign from her position as a royal aide this week. Hussey reportedly asked Ngozi Fulani, of Sistah Space, Britain’s leading domestic abuse charity for Black women, where she was from. When Fulani said she was from the London neighborhood of Hackney, Hussey apparently responded by saying: “No, what part of Africa are you from?” And, according to Fulani, Hussey would not let it drop, demanding that the born-and-bred British citizen tell her what “nationality” she was.
Fulani says she told Hussey she was British national, whose “parents came here in the 50s”.
“Oh, I knew we’d get there in the end, you’re Caribbean!” Fulani said.
“No, lady,” Fulani wrote on Twitter, of her response. “I am of African heritage, Caribbean descent and British nationality.”
Fulani, who was at Buckingham Place this week for an event hosted by Queen Consort, Camilla, told The Independent: “This is bigger than one individual. It’s institutional racism.”
What are we to think of what happened at the Palace?
Had it been a lone incident, it would have been bad enough. But a report in The Guardian last year documented how little had changed in terms of racial diversity among staff employed at the palace since the 1960s. In a damning exclusive, it detailed how ethnic minorities had been banned from Palace office roles.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Prince William said racism “has no place in our society”. That is clearly not the case. Racism ought not to have a place in our society, but it continues to fester and burn.
It is admirable that Fulani had the courage to speak out about what happened to her at the Palace. Rightfully, the public is outraged. But how many incidents like that don’t get called out, and are not challenged?
And when people do pipe up — when they do speak from the heart, as Markle seemed to be doing when she conducted her interview with Oprah — they’re accused of lying or attention-seeking or “playing the race card”. Let’s hope Piers Morgan and all the others who were so apparently incredulous that racism could be alive and well at the heart of the British establishment will have the decency to offer her an apology.