Archive for the ‘racial equality’ Tag

That Interview

‘Oprah with Meghan & Harry’ (ITV 8/3/21 Harpo Productions)

I watched the interview in the same room as I watched the Bill Grundy interview with the Sex Pistols. It was one of those landmark TV interviews that come along only every few years. Of course the Diana Panorama with Martin Bashir in 1995 (An Interview with HRH The Princess of Wales) was another such interview, of which Oprah’s is a direct descendent. 

The best piece I’ve read about it was this one by historian David Olusoga in The Guardian – he singles out the wedding of Harry & Meghan and the London 2012 Olympic Games (for which I worked as a volunteer in the media operation, specifically the website – the best summer of my adult life) as two great opportunities to take Britain forwards, two moments when the country projected itself as “effortlessly global and at ease with its multiculturalism” and then argues that the monarchy, Establishment and country have failed to live up to this vision. Frankly the world is better left to the likes of Danny Boyle (creator of the brilliant 2012 Opening Ceremony) when it comes to realising visions.

london 2012 olympics rings

Oprah’s dropped jaw above was in response to the point Meghan Markle made in the interview about race: 

Meghan: “In those months when I was pregnant … we have in tandem the conversation of ‘He won’t be given security. He’s not going to be given a title.’ and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”

Oprah: “Who is having that conversation?”

Meghan: “That was relayed to me from Harry from conversations that family had with him.”
 
It’s the main thing that was picked up from the interview, underscored by Oprah’s jaw-dropping. It is quite a nuanced discussion point, particularly with the limited context. However the broad brush effect is to paint the monarchy and by extension the country as imperial racists to the global audience.
 
So it is important to put some perspective around this. Trevor Phillips, former chairman of the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC), head of the Commission for Racial Equality 2003-2006, deputy chairman of the board of the National Equality Standard, and director of Pepper Productions, did this effectively in a piece in The Times this week.
 
Oprah, who made her name acting in the The Color Purple, would be more aware than most of the fact that she lives in a country essentially built on slavery and genocide. As Islington-born Phillips puts it:
 
“Britain now stands in the dock internationally as a breeding ground for casual racial bigotry. Brits will see some irony here. Most of the finger pointing comes from the United Staes, a country where young black men are frequently gunned down by white police officers; where black families on average have one tenth of the wealth of white households; and where, outside work, people of different colours seldom mix.”
 
He reminds us that:
  • people of colour are more likely to report racial harassment in every other EU country (apart from Malta)
  • rates are twice as high in Ireland, Germany and Italy
  • UK has more people of colour in high ministerial office than the whole of the EU put together
  • The current Cabinet includes Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak & Alok Sharma (making up over 17%) among its number, Sunak being strongly fancied as the next Prime Minister.
Trevor Phillips & his partner Helen Veale of Outline Productions
David Olusoga
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