The birth of the first mixed race baby into the royal family has already resurrected some dangerous stereotypes about race.
A brief look at social media reveals that the arrival of the anxiously awaited offspring of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has brought with it, the not- so- hidden rudiments of racism.
When Meghan conceived, be not deceived speculations abounded like short range missiles in Nazi Germany during World War II. After all, the expected baby was going to be the first, yes the first Anglo-American member of the Royal family.
For the Black diaspora, in the United Kingdom, United States and especially but not exclusively Jamaica, the impending birth stirred an excitement, causing to surface unresolved issues surrounding the mysterious death of Harry’s mother Princess Diana in 1997.
Nonetheless Archie Harrison, (as he is called) is eligible for American citizenship should his parents desire it. Through his biracial mother, he has African American heritage.
With a black mother and white father, Meghan’s ethnicity has never been far away from discussions about her relationship with Harry, grandson of the Queen. In late 2016, when Harry first announced that he was dating Megan Markle, he issued a rare rebuke to the press, totally condemning the racial undertones of written articles.
One commentator had written how Meghan would bring “rich and exotic DNA” to the Windsors. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, editorial writer Carla Hall who is also biracial poses the question: “Will Meghan Markle and Prince Harry raise their baby to be black?” Carla writes – and these are her quotes, “Baby Sussex, as he’s called for the moment… needs to know about what it means to be a black person in the world today. Of course… there is no one black experience — except, perhaps, a cop stopping you because you look like a suspect. And yes, it will be interesting to see Baby Sussex pulled over by a cop who asks, “Hey, black guy, where did you get that motorcade?” What about sidestepping the colour issue and raising the child to be a decent and upright citizen.
Or better still, skip the hang-up and call him white. Such an inquiry certainly alludes to the fact that there are consequences raised on which side of the colour bar a child is raised.
Over at CNN John Blake asks, “How Black will the Royal baby be?” British broadcaster Danny Baker a highly successful and even “brilliant” British radio host was fired by BBC Radio 5 following allegations of racism over a tweet about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s newborn son, Archie, that featured a picture of a chimpanzee. The since- deleted tweet showed a Black and white picture of a well-dressed couple next to a suited chimpanzee with the caption: “Royal baby leaves the hospital”.
His bosses were not all pleased. In fact, they were appalled at his intemperate salute at the new royal arrival. Baker should have gotten a clue from the very fact that the marriage of Harry and Meghan in 2018 attracted more global attention and, I contend, caused more excitement than any other since Prince Charles and Diana tied the knot in 1981.
In a New York Times essay, Lizzie Skurnick, writer and daughter of a black mother and white Jewish father, posed a similar question to Hall’s: “Will he have kinky hair?” Either way, she notes, she’ll love #BabySussex, as his parents hashtagged their son on Instagram, and hopes that he will be equally proud of his kinky hair as she is of hers.
Arguably, the plethora of questions about the bloodline and identity of a baby who is seventh in line to a throne with no power in a country the size of Oregon certainly has echoes of a sad yet well-known past.
Why are we still so race obsessed, although we keep trying to delude ourselves that racism is not a big issue, and we are living in a post racial era? What the arrival of the baby has done is given us, simple commoners, the opportunity to reveal among other things our ignorance about race.
According to historians, race -the modern day conception of black and white people was created solely to justify the global slave trade. “The need to morally justify enslaving other human beings pushed Europeans to invent a mythical biological racial ‘essence’ of inferiority for African-descendent people. In the ancient world people noticed skin color differences.
We have no idea how much of Archie’s black genes will affect how he will look.
Americans have been conditioned by the “one drop rule”, a social and legal principle of racial classification that was historically prominent in the United States in the 20th century. It contended that any person with even one ancestor of African ancestry (“one drop” of black blood) is considered black, Negro or coloured. Baby Archie could be part black but look quite white. However, how a child sees himself or herself can be challenged on an almost daily basis by a voracious world that only wants to see one racial or cultural heritage at a time through the distorting lens of stereotypes. Old stereotypes and ugly stereotypes die hard.
Sadly, let us not delude ourselves any further the arrival of this biracial baby is in no way to be viewed as indicative of any improvement in racial equality. Racism is so historic and so deep-rooted , that we tend to look at things, anything and everything.
Looking beyond the current storms of impending wars, trade wars, Brexit, Fix It, walls and Border Security, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex along with their newborn son, Archie Harrison, offer the world a real never before view and symbolism of love and peace across racial and international lines. Love from the heart and colour playing no part.
Baby Sussex will soon learn that he is royal when photographers incessantly and unceasingly snap his picture at events/public appearances, etc. As regards his colour, I am guessing that one day he will ask his parents the question: Am I black? The answer: Yes, you are. Hopefully, if he did not get it from looking at his light-skinned mother, then he needs only look at his maternal grandmother who resides in Los Angeles. Such a question and its ultimate response is important as mixed-race Americans have become an increasing category, especially for children and teens who inevitably have questions about themselves, their background, their heritage and how to put up with sometimes annoying “What are you?” questions from their peers.
Conclusively, living while royal will mean more to Baby Archie’s identity development than living while Black. He will certainly have an extraordinarily privileged life, but how private it will be, one will eventually see. Anything and everything that this child does from childhood and adulthood will be scrutinised to the nth degree.
The birth certainly heralds the beginning of a new era for the Royal Family. The world is watching to see how well they craft this. It has been rumoured that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to spend substantial time in Africa. The best is wished wherever his privileged life takes him. Although racism may not be as bad as it was years ago, there is still a lot of distance to be covered.
Hopefully, he will eventually live in a post racial world.
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