Harry and Meghan call to end racism with new campaign
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have called for Britain to grasp an opportunity for change as they warned that young people of colour will be held back “as long as structural racism exists”.
In an exclusive interview with the Evening Standard to mark the start of Black History Month, Prince Harry also spoke of jis wish for white people in the UK to have a better understanding of what life is like for those “of a different coloured skin”. Speaking from their home in California, the couple said they were “doing well” after a year that saw them step down as senior royals, quit Britain and start a new life with their 17-month-old son Archie on the other side of the world.
They revealed — with the Evening Standard — their list of BHM NextGen Trailblazers, recognised for challenging prejudice and their positive contribution to British society. The people were nominated by high-profile figures from the BAME community, including England and British Lions rugby star Maro Itoje, Vogue editor Edward Enninful, Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams, and Booker prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo, who have inspired Harry and Meghan with their actions.
Harry, 36, who is sixth in line to the throne, described his own “awakening” to the lack of opportunities for people from the BAME communities since he met his biracial wife. The duke said: “Because I wasn’t aware of so many of the issues and so many of the problems within the UK and also globally as well. I thought I did but I didn’t.”
He added: “You know, when you go in to a shop with your children and you only see white dolls, do you even think: ‘That’s weird, there is not a black doll there?’ And 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 added: “It is not about pointing the finger, it is not about blame. I will be the first person to say, again, this is about learning. And about how we can make it better. I think it is a really exciting time in British culture and British history, and in world culture. This is a real moment that we should be grasping and actually celebrating. Because no one else has managed to do this before us.”
The publication of the list comes at a pivotal moment for race relations around the world after the killing of George Floyd by white US police officers in Minneapolis in May.
The brutal death triggered a wave of sometimes violent protests in many countries, including Britain, that at one stage threatened to engulf America in racial conflict and saw President Trump stage a notorious photo call at a church near the White House.
Asked about her views on the Black Lives Matters protests, the duchess admitted they had been “inflammatory for a lot of people”.
She added: “But when there is just peaceful protest and when there is the intention of just wanting community and just wanting the recognition of equality, then that is a beautiful thing. While it has been challenging for a lot of people certainly having to make this reckoning of historical significance that has got people to the place that they are, that is uncomfortable for people. We recognise that. It is uncomfortable for us.”
The couple have faced a storm since they dramatically resigned from royal life in January. Harry accepted in the interview that their views “may seem controversial”.
In recent weeks the couple have been accused of interfering in the US presidential election by urging Americans to vote and Meghan suffered another setback in her court battle with the publisher of the Mail On Sunday.
The duke described Black History Month — an annual series of cultural events to promote the black community’s contribution to society — as “a wonderful celebration”.
The couple were sitting on a beige sofa in front of a wall of drawings of birds’ nests in the nine-bedroom house they bought in June. The Nest Studies prints are by Californian Barloga Studios and cost $360 each. Meghan wore a camel-
hued long-sleeved asymmetrical top with brown leather trousers, while Harry was dressed in a navy blue collared shirt and dark grey trousers. At one point their beagle Guy jumped on the sofa and Harry affectionately held out the dog’s droopy ears.
Meghan said she was enjoying life as a family of three with their son Archie in America: “We are doing well. [Archie] is so good. We are very lucky with our little one. He is just so busy, he is all over the place. He keeps us on our toes. We are just so lucky.”
The couple have written an article for the Standard in which they repeated their plea for a more equal society. They said: “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.”
Harry said that even in London “celebrated as one of the most diverse cities in the world, if you actually get out on to the streets and talk to people, it doesn’t feel as diverse as it actually is.
“Therefore, now is the best time for us to be able to use our platform and you use your platform as well so we can actually start a conversation and introduce people to the black community that are making a massive difference within their own communities and across the UK as a whole as well.”
Asked how the couple chose the figures to nominate the trailblazers, Meghan said: “An incredible example is Baroness Lawrence. Everything she has done in memory of her son [Stephen] is creating legacy across the UK in what it means to really push for the change that is necessary.”
Harry also weighed in on the row over the recent Black Lives Matter themed dance routine by Britain’s Got Talent judge Ashley Banjo’s troupe Diversity, which triggered a deluge of complaints.
He said: “We spoke to Ashley Banjo a few weeks ago, straight after the Britain’s Got Talent situation. And that in itself, I am sure even me talking about it will be controversial, but the reality of it is he and his team of guys put on the most amazing display.
“We had such a good chat with Ashley. He was really strong, he felt great about it, but at the same time he was concerned because of the reaction. It was a real surprise that there was what? 1,100 complaints after the show and then three days of hype it became 20 or 25,000. I am very glad Ofcom made the decision that they did but that in itself kind of proves how much this conversation needs to continue.”
Asked by the Standard whether it was difficult not being able to return to the UK to help the causes close to their hearts, Harry said: “Everything has been through video, everything has been in a room, somewhere. Actually it doesn’t matter where in the world we have been, we have stayed in touch with and supported the organisations as much as humanly possible.”
Meghan said: “Everyone has been accustomed to what it means to be distanced. The impact of that, whether it is across the Pond or across town, you are still for the most part through a computer screen.
“We have all had to adapt to how we can have the most impact as possible within the constraints of what has happening with Covid-19. Like all of you, we are doing the best that we can and hoping that our passion and our commitment is still felt as it certainly hasn’t wavered.”