Why I believe Prince William got it badly wrong about racism in Britain writes ESTHER KRAKUE
The Duke of Cambridge has always been one of the more lovable and grounded members of the Royal Family. So I can understand why, now that he’s 40, he feels an increasing need to speak out about topics that matter to him, rather than just cutting ribbons, muttering platitudes and smiling for the cameras.
But this week, William made a marked departure from the usual royal script, launching sweeping statements about race relations. And I believe this was a misjudgment.
When he unveiled a monument at London’s Waterloo Station to celebrate the Windrush generation – Caribbean migrants who arrived in Britain mainly in the 1950s and 1960s – William referred to the scandal that also took the name of the famous boat carrying the first load of migrants to these shores.
Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge pictured with Baroness Floella Benjamin (right), Windrush passengers Alford Gardner (center) and John Richards (fourth left) and children in front of the National Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station in London
ESTHER KRAKUE writes: “What does William, one of the most privileged white men in the world, know about the ‘discrimination’ faced by black people living in Britain today?”
The Windrush scandal, as you recall, came to light in 2017 and saw many of those same Caribbean migrants – who by then had become long-term British residents – wrongfully detained, deported or threatened with deportation by the Home Office.
On Wednesday, the future king declared: “Discrimination will remain an all-too-familiar experience for black men and women in Britain in 2022.” He added: ‘The future they [the Windrush migrants] sought and earned has yet to happen.’
This struck the wrong chord for several reasons.
The first and most obvious: what does William, one of the most privileged white men in the world, know about the ‘discrimination’ faced by black people living in Britain today?
Undoubtedly, his heart is in the right place, and I’m sure he’s scarred by the memory of his recent tondove tour of the Caribbean, where he and his wife paraded in an open-top Land Rover in a scene that’s becoming commonplace. described as having a ‘colonial’ undertone. (William said the tour provided “an opportunity for reflection.”)
But second – and much more concerning to me – are the implications of what he said.
As a Ghanaian-Brit – I am proud to hold the nationality of both countries – I find it infuriating when well-meaning people lump together the experiences of all ‘black men and women’, as William did, with those same words.
We black people are not a homogeneous mass. People who have come to Britain from Africa, like me when I was 14, have a very different history and culture than those who have traveled from the Caribbean.
The Windrush scandal came to light in 2017 and saw many Caribbean migrants wrongfully detained, deported or threatened with deportation by the Interior Ministry
William shakes hands with British Minister of Housing and Levelling, Michael Gove
In addition, my background and views can be quite different from those of someone who is from Nigeria or Kenya, let alone someone from Barbados or Grenada. Different generations face different problems, and few of them are purely due to ‘discrimination’.
Statistics show, for example, that African migrants to Britain are less likely to own their own home than Caribbean migrants. Is this ‘racism’ or ‘discrimination’?
No. It’s partly because Caribbean immigrants—that is, the Windrush generation—were typically older than African immigrants, and therefore had more time to build their nest eggs, raise their children, and so on. Little attention is paid to this situation because it does not fit the ‘progressive’ mantra that Britain is somehow systemically racist.
Or, since William inevitably brought up the subject when he unveiled the new monument, let’s take the Windrush scandal. The Interior Ministry’s failures in that shameful saga are well documented, and they were rightly outraged by the nation.
But that mockery of human dignity was not symptomatic of the views of most Britons.
Linking the two, as William seemed to do, is misleading and unfair.
Of course there is still some racism in Britain. I’ve been through my own part of it, as have my friends and family.
But the fact remains that, as polls show, Britain is one of the most tolerant countries on Earth. Moreover, much of the racism that exists in this country does not come from white Britons, but often from people of other ethnicities.
William and Catherine attended the unveiling of the monument in London earlier this week
This is something liberals and the left usually feel far too embarrassed to point out.
So William has to be careful about submerging his oar in this particularly tricky watermill. His grandmother has spent a lifetime diligently standing above the political struggle.
On Wednesday, as William delivered his controversial speech, the Queen limited herself to sending her “heartiest wishes on this historic occasion” and praised the “deep contribution” of the Windrush generation to this country. That’s the proper way for a royal to handle this subject. I’m afraid William, I’m afraid, is becoming more and more like his father, who over the years has intervened in a range of causes that piqued his interest, clarifying his vision on topics from organic farming to contemporary architecture. And that brings me to perhaps the worst aspect of William’s comments.
While the Duke has suggested that the head of the Commonwealth may not automatically be a member of the British Royal Family in the future, he now seems poised to inherit his father’s mantle, who will take on the role when the Queen gives up.
The Commonwealth is the Queen’s greatest legacy: the peaceful transfer of colonial rule into a group of independent nations that share a common history, language, culture, and more. In fact, it has been so successful that other countries have pushed to join in — including Mozambique in 1995 and Rwanda in 2009, where Prince Charles visited this week.
Millions of people around the world will have listened to William’s words. They will readily accept his suggestion that Britain remains a place where black people are victims of racism on an ‘all too well-known’ basis.
William made a marked departure from the usual royal script and began making sweeping statements about race relations. And I believe this was a misjudgment, writes ESTHER KRAKUE
By portraying Britain as a racist country, William was able to undo much of his grandmother’s good work by zealously nurturing the Commonwealth, writes ESTHER KRAKUE
Such exaggerated language will be meat and drink for both Republicans and those who, for whatever reason, wish to sever ties with Britain and instead chat with other powers, such as China.
By portraying Britain as a racist country, William was able to undo much of his grandmother’s good work by zealously nurturing the Commonwealth. Which countries with predominantly black populations would want to join a club run by the head of state of a systematically racist country?
And how can Britain legitimately demand that other countries respect human rights if we are known racists ourselves? It is a gift to governments that systematically apply discrimination and persecution.
William might have wanted to appear modern and relevant with his comments — as well as to atone for his own recent missteps in the Caribbean. But he clearly did not understand that the conversation on this topic has changed.
More and more people of all political lines recognize that divisiveness does nothing to fight anti-racism.
The Black Lives Matter movement did much to worsen race relations with its divisive message. Meanwhile, acronyms like Bame — Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnicity — are downright offensive, meaning anyone of non-European ethnicity can be lumped together.
Needless to say, cutting the ribbon isn’t the place to tackle these complex issues or condense them into sound bites.
William should instead use his powerful role to bring his future subjects together — and, like his beloved grandmother, talk about what unites us, rather than what separates us.