LONDON — It’s time for Britain to confront its “uncomfortable” history as it relates to colonialism and racism, say Prince Harry and wife Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
“There is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past,” said Harry alongside his wife Meghan, during an online discussion published Monday evening with young Black leaders from across the British Commonwealth, which includes countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
The couple have spoken out on the issue of racism multiple times since the police killing of Black man George Floyd in May, which sparked global protests and soul-searching on issues of race.
The online meeting brought together young people from the Bahamas, U.K. and Australia in a conversation on fairness, justice and equal rights. It was partly a response to the growing Black Lives Matter movement, which began in the U.S. and has swept across the world.
“We’re going to have to be a little uncomfortable right now, because it’s only in pushing through that discomfort that we get to the other side of this,” Harry’s biracial American wife told the group.
Harry, Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson, in 2016 issued a rare rebuke to the British press over a “wave of abuse” his then girlfriend, Meghan Markle was facing — calling out the “racial overtones” in tabloid stories. One commentator had written how Meghan would bring “rich and exotic DNA” to the Windsors.
After a grand fairy tale wedding the Sussexes went on to stun the British establishment in January by choosing to “step back” from royal duties and move to North America with their young son, Archie.
The couple, who now live in Los Angeles, have endured intense and what some deem racist press coverage. The Daily Mail publicized one of its stories about the couple with a tweet reading “from slaves to royalty, Meghan Markle’s upwardly mobile family,” while in 2016, the newspaper suggested that Markle was “(almost) straight outta Compton.”
Meghan is currently suing a British tabloid’s publisher and seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, while the paper’s lawyers argue that Meghan’s royal status makes her family relationships of legitimate public interest.
Meghan has also said she felt “unprotected by the institution” of Britain’s royal family, while in the media spotlight during her pregnancy, according to court documents.
Harry, who last week made headlines when he apologized for “endemic” institutional racism, told the forum that mistakes of the past needed to be acknowledged as the world goes “through this healing process.”
During Monday’s forum, he warned that entrenched biases remain.
“It’s not just in the big moments, it’s in the quiet moments where racism and unconscious bias lies and thrives,” Meghan added after Harry’s comment.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are President and Vice-President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, which hosted the forum and in 2018 launched a network for young leaders across commonwealth countries.
“There is no turning back now, everything is coming to a head,” Harry said. “Solutions exist and change is happening far quicker than it ever has done before.”