What’s race got to do with it?

Explosive tell-all: A family in Liverpool, northwest England, watching Oprah interviewing Meghan. — AFP

AN explosive statement, a prolonged pause and the utterance of the word “what?”. Television is made of moments like this – replete with a tinge of surprise, heightened drama and collective gasps from the audience. It was one of the most memorable scenes on TV in recent history.

No, this is not an episode from a made-for-TV drama or a scene from a hit series on Netflix, it is in fact an interview conducted by one of the most famous hosts in the western world – the diva of all divas – Oprah Winfrey.

Meghan Markle told Oprah when she was pregnant that there were “several conversations” within the royal family about how dark the skin of her baby might be.

It was one of the many shocking revelations in the exclusive interview with Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. The interview was as exciting as it was devastating. It was in fact the interview of the decade. Nothing will come close to the no-holds-barred session with Oprah. It was a bombshell that will be remembered for many years to come.

We always knew that Buckingham Palace has always been white, but an insinuation that the child whose father is the grandson of the Queen of England would not be white enough is disgusting, to say the least. Meghan also revealed that the baby would not be given a royal title and police protection. Harry confirmed the conversations did happen but like his wife, he was reluctant to reveal the person or persons involved.

“I think that would be damning to them, ” says Meghan when pressed by Oprah. Her confession is damning enough for the palace anyway.

Prince Harry married Meghan on May 19,2018. Since Harry is fifth in line to the throne, the Successions to the Crown Act stipulates he has to get royal consent to marry. The Queen gave her permission in March that year. Rachael Meghan Markle is the first mixed-race member of the British royal family. Her mother is black.

What has race got to do with it? We assumed the British royals are familiar with the “Others”. After all, British imperialism stretches across half the known world, most of the countries under the British rule were inhabited by non-whites. Yet it took them at least 11 centuries to welcome a person of colour to the family.

The debate about skin colour was the one issue that dominated the airwaves, print and social media in the aftermath of the interview.

In the United States especially, now hunkered down with conversations on race relations, the issue provoked a heated debate. Don Lemon of CNN concludes, “racism is racism. Doesn’t matter whether you live in a shack or a palace.”

Lemon went on to say that the royal family has been refusing to stand up for Prince Harry simply because “he was married to a black woman, had a black child.”

Prince Harry should have known the pressure faced by “outsiders” married to the royal household. His late mother Diana, Princess of Wales, was married to Prince Charles on July 29,1981. It was supposed to be a marriage made in heaven. But they separated officially 15 years later. She sounded her unhappiness many times, even toying with the idea of suicide.

The world was not surprised when her daughter-in-law made the confession about her own unhappiness.

Diana bared her soul in an interview with Martin Bashir on BBC1 on Nov 20,1995. She was candid, even admitting to her adultery, palace conspiracy, her mental health and the future of the monarchy.

But Meghan decided to confront the issue head-on hardly three years into her marriage. And, like Diana, she too bared her soul.

Both shared something in common, being hounded by the tabloids.

Meghan should have been better prepared for the intrusive press for she is an actress, but even she was shocked by the level of attacks on her.

Earl Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother, famously accused the tabloids of having blood on their hands when she died in Paris.

Meghan endured bad press from the day rumours about her relationship with Prince Harry surfaced.

Like Diana, the attacks from the press and lack of support from Buckingham Palace, which Meghan labelled “The Firm”, took its toll on her.

The Palace was quick to come out with a statement on behalf of the Queen.

Prince Harry, the Duchess and their child, Archie, “will always be much-loved family members, ” said the statement. It also stated that the issue of race was “concerning” and “will be taken seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”

To millions around the globe watching the interview, it is about time for the British royals to do so.

Johan Jaaffar was a journalist, editor and for some years, chairman of a media company, and is passionate about all things literature and the arts. And a diehard rugby fan. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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