Mixed-Race Britain Shows Us Why Black History Matters
The introduction of Meghan Markle to the Royal Family shows us why it’s so important to put Black history on the curriculum.
Previously published on Thoughts from the Criminology Team [edited]
The race debate around Meghan Markle brought its own irony. However, with the recent Black Lives Matter protests, it shows why we should always be reflecting on our history, especially that of the elite. The Royal Family is a historically white institution; yet, in light of this, I think it needs to be acknowledged that Meghan Markle is not the first royal of colour, but is part of a longer, subtler history of Black and biracial aristocracy in Britain.
When Meghan joined, it was lorded progress. Yet, is diversity progress if non-normative figures are being sent into already hostile environments? Is Britain a racist country? “Definitely, 100%” said Stormzy. Meghan coming from a country that is overtly racist in the tint of Jim Crow Laws, ICE and ALEC, to a country that’s more insidious yet still overt… this brand of racism from the UK media was almost colonial, simply without the violence. From comments on her “exotic DNA” to descriptions of her being “(almost) straight outta Compton”, as well as comparing her newborn son to a chimpanzee.
But Meghan wasn’t the first Black or biracial person to gain a pass into the British elite. German princess (Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz), who then became Queen of England on marrying King George III in 1761 came before. Historian Mario de Valdes y Cocom thinks she was of the direct line from a Black Portuguese royal family, Alfonso III and his mistress, Ourana, a Moor. In addition, in the BBC docuseries Black and British and the book of the same name, historian David Olusoga talks about a slave turned bare-knuckle boxer by the name of Bill Richmond. In Richmond Unchained, historian and Richmond’s biographer Luke Williams discusses Richmond’s pioneering achievements in boxing, winning 17 of 19 professional fights but also being a…