Meghan Markle said royal family members had 'concerns' over Archie's skin color before he was born. People from Commonwealth countries are disappointed - but not surprised.
Meghan Markle said that some royal family members had "concerns" about Archie's skin color.
Commonwealth citizens told Insider they were disappointed by the remarks but not surprised.
The British royal family has been accused of turning a blind eye to its racist past.
Facing mounting pressure to respond to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's shocking sit down with Oprah, brother Prince William told reporters Thursday that the royals are "not a racist family."
But the rebuke from the second in line to the thrown did little to calm the growing outrage from Black Brits, and those living within the Queen's Commonwealth Trust - a political association representing the former colonial empire.
"We've been saying that institutionalized racism is a problem. We've been saying it for a very long time," said Renee Alleyne of London.
For the 2.4 billion nationals of the Commonwealth's 54 countries, the revelations invoke a painful legacy of British imperialism throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific.
The highly-anticipated interview brought the racial reckoning straight to the front doors of Buckingham Palace, with Harry and wife Meghan Markle revealing they left the United Kingdom after royal family members failed to protect them from racism and harassment.
The Queen tried softening the ensuing blow back with an address to member states for the association's annual celebration known as Commonwealth Day, but viewers still focused on the eyebrow-raising comments made about the royal couple's young son.
Former and current members of Commonwealth countries spoke with Insider about the impact of those alleged remarks.
People of color and Commonwealth citizens told Insider they weren't surprised
In the interview Markle alleged that a family member had expressed "concerns" to Prince Harry about how dark Archie's skin color would be.
"Colorism is a painful reality," said Sekiya Dorsett, a filmmaker living in New York. "As adults, we are faced with its reality. But for a baby - before its birth - to be faced with that reality is beyond painful."
Dorsett grew up in the Bahamas, among the 16 mostly Caribbean countries that still consider Queen Elizabeth its head of state. She recalled stories of "iconic waving and school kids screaming with glee" from older generations who revered the Queen - a tone she said had shifted in recent years.
Founded in 1949, the modern Commonwealth includes nations like Nigeria, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand, and South Africa. However, the Queen, and the British royal family as a whole, never acknowledged its historic role in the Transatlantic slave trade and colonization that created this multinational coalition.
-Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) March 8, 2021
Ivy Prosper, a journalist and TV host in Ghana, noted that while Black expats living in the country weren't surprised, for locals the comments where no less hurtful.
"I think the shocker for a lot of people was that it came from the Monarchy," Prosper said."It came from an institution that people thought would not say things like that."
Calling the royal family a "bastion of white supremacy," Adeyela Albury Bennett, CEO of the Alabama-based nonprofit, Women in Training, argued Markle's treatment by the royal family should surprise no one.
"What [the royals are] doing is their nature," she said. "They have maintained a system of white supremacy through colonization, through slavery, the whole concept of becoming wealthy nations with the Commonwealth."
The Bahamas-raised non-profit officer recalled a childhood in Nassau where the royals were admired, relaying she cried following Princess Diana's death in 1997. Still, the anger permeated family and friend groups chats as word of the comments spread.
Bennett wrote in response to the interview that while the crown's rejection of a biracial American in Markle is expected, "for [Queen] Elizabeth to also reject her own grandson and great grandson" means that "racism, apparently is thicker than blood."
The Commonwealth has been accused of reinforcing colonialism - and some countries have already severed ties
Outcry spread from WhatsApp chats to parliaments, with Commonwealth leaders including former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Canadian politician Michael Connolly, calling for countries to leave or abolish the association altogether.
-Michael Connolly (@NDPMikeC) March 8, 2021
Global newspaper, News America Now, implored Caribbean nations to drop the Queen as head of state in an op-ed Monday, defections that would follow Barbados, which announced in September it would remove Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and officially become a republic.
"I do think that it would be a good idea for Commonwealth countries to do their best to cut the ties as much as they can," said Prosper. "I don't really see a purpose for them still having strong ties with the monarchy."
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry acknowledged the "uncomfortable" past of the Commonwealth
Prince Harry and Markle last spoke out about racism and the Commonwealth in 2015 while serving as president and vice-president of the association. Back then Harry argued "there is no way that [the Commonwealth] can move forward unless [it] acknowledge[d] the past."
Since then, many touted Markle's reign as a potential symbol for the Commonwealth's reconciliation and healing.
But while the royal family acknowledged the couple's allegations, officials responded in a statement that the controversy would "be addressed by the family in private". Now Commonwealth countries with mostly Black and brown residents facing the generational consequences of British colonialism are left to grapple with reverberating shock.
Dorsett called for a "truth and reconciliation commission across the Commonwealth," as well as reparations as compensation for colonized countries of the Commonwealth. That effort began in 2013 when 14 Caribbean nations sued the United Kingdom, France and Netherlands. But Dorsett isn't holding her breath.
"How do we expect an entity or country that has not apologized for its racist and colonial past to be a place of change," Dorsett asked, pointing to the Commonwealth's predominately Black and brown residents who still face the economic fallout of colonialism.
With what she called "safe statements that never directly take culpability," Dorsett argued accountability may not be on the horizon so long as a monarchy rules over Britain - even if only symbolically.
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