You are currently viewing Charles III will have a lot to do to (re)conquer the black British community: “I do not mourn the Queen”

Charles III will have a lot to do to (re)conquer the black British community: “I do not mourn the Queen”

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“What has Queen Elizabeth done for the black community?”. Dissonant voice in an ocean of tributes, this tweet is not anecdotal: Charles III is expected at the turn to face the colonialist past of a monarchy accused of racism.

Amid global tributes to the British Empire-born sovereign, criticism quickly surfaced on social media, going so far as to celebrate her passing, including mentioning colonization. At her death, the sovereign remained head of state of 14 kingdoms in addition to the United Kingdom, including Caribbean countries where republican temptations are strong.

“I do not mourn the queen”, dared Kehinde Andrews, professor of “Black studies” at the University of Birmingham, in a forum on the Politico site. “She may have been perceived as an institution. But for us, she was the embodiment of the institutional racism that we encounter on a daily basis.”

“New Assignment”

Many black Britons no longer want to silence the racism they believe is rooted in the heart of British institutions. The subject has been on the surface since the demonstrations of the Black Lives Matter movement, marked by calls to unbolt the statues of historical personalities linked to slavery.

In the midst of national mourning following the death of the queen, dozens of people demonstrated in London after the death of Chris Kaba, an unarmed black youth killed by a policeman.

The monarchy found itself directly drawn into the racism debate during a March 2021 interview with Prince Harry, Charles’s youngest son, and his mixed-race wife Meghan. The couple had claimed that a member of the royal family – whom they had not named – had worried about the color of the skin of their son Archie, who was born in 2019.

Prince William, heir to the throne, reacted strongly: “We are not a racist family at all”.

The Queen said she took the accusations “very seriously”, adding that the matter would be settled “in private”.

From his first speech as king, Charles made a point of saying his “love” for Harry and Meghan, an outstretched hand to the couple whose break with the monarchy had been seen by some as a missed opportunity.

For Patrick Vernon, British historian of Jamaican origin and co-author of the book “100 Great Black Britons”, if “the Queen has never considered issues around race and discrimination (…) the king has a new mission”.

“It’s about demonstrating not only to the black community, but also to others, that he will be different from the queen,” he told AFP.

He points out that Charles has given in the last two years “several speeches on the contribution of black people in Britain in the armed forces, the economy, etc”.

Colonial hints

The question is all the more significant as the British sovereign also heads the Commonwealth, an association cherished by Elizabeth II comprising 56 countries, most of them former British colonies.

Most of its 2.4 billion inhabitants are not white and “60% of them are under the age of 29”, underlines in the Guardian David Olusoga, author of the book “Blacks and Britons: A Forgotten History”.

Reflecting on Prince William and Kate’s “catastrophic” Caribbean tour in March, he notes a “change of consciousness” about colonialism that had until now “not been understood at Buckingham Palace”.

Some images of the princely trip were shocking, like this parade, in military uniform for him and an immaculate dress for her, both standing aboard the same Land Rover used 50 years earlier by Elizabeth.

William had been asked to apologize for the UK’s slave past and has since expressed his “eternal gratitude” to the Windrush generation, those tens of thousands of Caribbean immigrants, mainly from Jamaica, who came to help rebuild the Kingdom United after World War II, subsequently disenfranchised or even expelled.

Regarding Charles III, Ashok Viswanathan, deputy director of the NGO Operation Black Vote, believes that the work carried out within his first charitable organization, the Prince’s Trust, which since 1976 has helped more than a million disadvantaged young people, particularly from diversity, “speaks for itself”.

To win over black Britons and especially young people, the king “will have to foster this relationship in his new role”, he believes.

It was in the name of this “behind the scenes” commitment against discrimination that, still a prince, Charles was invited in September as honorary editor-in-chief of a special issue for the 40th anniversary of The Voice, the magazine of African and Caribbean community in the UK.

Faced with outcry from some of its readers, the publication then called on the monarchy to apologize for the “horrors of colonialism”.