In celebrating the arrival of October, recognized as Black History Month (BHM) in the UK, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex launched a campaign with the Evening Standard newspaper to recognize a “group of notable leaders whose influence is making a positive and lasting impact on British culture.” To compile this list of “Next Gen Trailblazers,” the royal couple selected influential personalities to further nominate other “members of the black community in Britain whose cause-driven work is creating a lasting legacy for the next generation of Brits.” This inspiring list includes personalities such as Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams, and Booker-prize winning author Bernardine Evaristo.
In a candid article written by them in accompaniment to the list, Harry and Meghan expressed the need to recognize and fix issues of structural racism within the UK.
Announcing the campaign, the couple declared its purpose to be that of “education and awareness.” They claimed that despite this being the third decade of celebrating BHM, there remains need for further progress within British society. In an accompanying video interview, Meghan confessed to being previously unaware of BHM in the UK and pressed upon its significance.
Within the article, the British royals emphasised upon the generational impact of systemic racial inequality. “For as long as structural racism exists, there will be generations of young people of colour who do not start their lives with the same equality of opportunity as their white peers. And for as long as that continues, untapped potential will never get to be realised,” they said.
They also recognized the “importance of representation in all parts of society,” and its impact in encouraging people of colour to pursue lucrative opportunities. In his video interview, Harry quoted an example of not noticing, as a white person, the lack of black dolls at a toy store. He said, “I use that as just one example of where we as white people don’t always have the awareness of what it must be like for someone else of a different coloured skin, of a black skin, to be in the same situation as we are where the world that we know has been created by white people for white people.” He called his awareness of these issues an “awakening” that occurred since his marriage to Meghan, who is bi-racial.
Continuing, Harry claimed that the answer is not in assigning blame, but in thinking of “how we can make it better.” He stated that this is “a really exciting time in British culture and British history, and in world culture,” to be working towards greater equality.
The Duke and Duchess asserted that “representation in positions of power and decision-making is necessary — because that’s how equity and opportunity are translated from words to action.”
They also emphasized upon the need to learn from history, instead of revising it, and concluded on the need to work on the future. “We can define our future as one that is inclusive, as one that is equal, and one that is colourful,” they said.
These statements come at a time of increased racial tensions across the world since the murder of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota, United States. The incident saw a rise in Black Lives Matter protests globally, including in the UK, and ushered in a new era of awareness of global racial inequality.
The BHM campaign and accompanying statements on race by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who resigned from official royal duties in April, are an unprecedented yet timely acknowledgement by members of the British royalty of the racism that makes up Britain’s past and is reflected in its present.