Tag Archives: Prince Harry

Royal Racism

In March of 2021, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (Duchess and Duke of Sussex) were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. They talked about racism within the Royal Family, which contributed to their decision to set out and blaze their own trail. In response, Prince William (Prince Harry’s brother) issued a statement that The Royals are “very much not a racist family.” A friend of Prince Charles’ leaped into the spotlight to announce that his pal (Prince Harry’s father) is not a racist.

Quick recap: Two extremely White British Princes declared themselves and their entire family free of racism. 

Four months later, in July of 2021, Tarrant City (Alabama) Council member Tommy Bryant used the n-word in a council meeting, referring to a female council member, Veronica Freeman. In case further clarification is necessary, Tommy Bryant is White and Veronica Freeman is Black. In the aftermath, although Alabama GOP has suggested that Tommy Bryant resign, he has other plans. He has refused to apologize, and is talking about running for mayor.

Quick recap: An extremely White American man appears to view his own racism as free of racism.

When White people are accused of racism, their knee-jerk reactions are often instant, loud, resounding denials. Although England and the United States both overflow with racism, the massive majority of White folks in both countries seem to view themselves (like Prince William and Prince Charles and Tommy Bryant) as Very-Much-Not-Racists. 

Royal Racism, at core indistinguishable from Commoner Racism, knows no boundaries. Like COVID-19, it crosses oceans, infiltrates continents, spreads through cities, poisons families. Also like COVID-19, it kills. Unlike COVID-19, however, there’s no vaccine. 

So I’m offering an alternative approach. I’m extending an invitation to the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Mr. Tommy Bryant. I’m the princess of nowhere, the duchess of nothing, and a member of no city council. Still, I hope all three of you will take a short walk with me through a different incident of racism.

In 2016, Yale University discovered that a dean of a residential college had posted multiple racist remarks. Yale took a strong stance against racism, the situation was handled and the dean no longer works at the university. Sound straightforward? It’s not. Racism is a complex issue, so let’s 

Pause.

In this moment, I wonder how many readers are assuming that Yale’s obnoxious, racist ex-dean is White. Actually, the racist remarks targeted the White population, and were posted by a woman who is Asian. I’m outraged, as I should be. But I’m also inviting Prince William, Prince Charles and Tommy Bryant to take a moment with me and

Pause 

to think about racism. As a citizen of the United States, I don’t know one person of any heritage — except White — who has never been the target of multiple, even ongoing, actions and words rooted in bigotry. I’m White, and once when I was walking through San Francisco, a man spat on me. Another time, a different man purposefully slammed into me. (I was startled, but unhurt.) Both spoke words I didn’t understand, but later found out were derogatory slurs for “White”. There have been other incidents, but they’re rare enough that they’re not a part of my internal fabric, which makes me extremely privileged.

Privileged or not, this dean’s comments were wrong and harmful. Her mindset was rooted in the same dangerous mentality as all racism —  Us vs. Them, Superior vs. Inferior, Hatred vs. Acceptance, Inclusion vs. Inequality. We all — everyone of every color — need to be aware of the assumptions we carry, and their potential for racism. Still, I want to go beyond my legitimately angry response and

Pause 

because this issue is much larger than I am. My specific brand of outrage is, in itself, a privileged reaction, because this dean and her comments had no power to harm me. However, I don’t want to shrug it off because empathy is a key part of fighting racism. This incident gives me a small taste of what a Black man might feel when he walks down the sidewalk in broad daylight, thinking about his presentation to his company, and suddenly realizes that every White pedestrian is watching him, seemingly with fear. It’s a spoonful of what a Korean-American woman (born and raised in the USA) might feel when a stranger suddenly starts yelling that she’s responsible for the “Chinese Flu.” It’s what a Latino high school student might feel when they tell a friend they scored 800s on their SATs, and later find out a rumor is spreading that they must have cheated, because, well, y’know those Latinos — academic, not so much. It’s what a Middle Eastern college student, an American citizen, might feel when someone sees their backpack (heavy with poetry books) and freezes, as though listening for a ticking bomb.

Yes, this particular instance of anti-White racism was terrible, and I respect my own reaction. At the same time, I have to acknowledge the privilege of having experienced so few incidents in my lifetime as the target of racism. No, it does not make this person’s bigotry okay, and my being White doesn’t make my outrage any less valid. But in order to respect the full impact of racism, if someone ever points out that I’ve made a mistake, I need to listen carefully before I speak. I need to catch myself before I shout my knee-jerk denial, or enlist a friend to shout it for me. I need to remain open to the other person’s perspective, believe their experience, validate them as a full person. I need to own my assumptions, and be willing to recalibrate my mindset, even if it’s painful. 

Before we (Prince Charles, Prince William, Tommy Bryant and I) declare ourselves “very much not a racist,” we need to take a deep breath and 

Pause.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, follows a group friends through a year in a public high school with over forty  languages spoken among the students. This novel was written in gratitude Hollywood High School’s diversity and commitment to equality and inclusion. Amy’s second novel, Tightwire, follows a psych intern through her first year of training, treating a troubled client with a past filled with secrets. This book was written to validate the experience of emotional struggles, to fight the stigma of mental illness, and with deepest respect for the human capacity to heal.

Amy’s Author Page on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under Black Lives Matter, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, racism

Brighten Your Darkest Night

Close your eyes and think of me                                                                                                    And soon I will be there                                                                                                                     To brighten up even your darkest night

“You’ve Got A Friend”                                                                                                               Written by Carole King                                                                                                       Performed by James Taylor 

 

On the morning of Friday May 18, 2018, a shooter entered Santa Fe High School in Texas, leaving many dead, several wounded, countless traumatized. 

That evening, I attended a James Taylor concert. 

The following day, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchanged wedding vows.

However you slice it, whatever your perspective, that was one helluva 36-hour stretch. 

As the Sante Fe High School massacre hit the news, I followed reactions on the internet. I was deeply disturbed. A large number referred to school shootings —  the dead, the wounded, the gutted families, the torn communities — as our “new normal.” 

Several hours later, I watched James Taylor take the stage. James is a curiously compelling presence — curious because he radiates a quiet energy instead of the crackling voltage typical of the rock and roll era. He’s upfront about his struggles with addiction and mental illness, relating a story of being in such “a bad way” that his father rented a car and drove from a different state to find him. At another point in the concert, he described hanging out with The Beatles, admitting that he doesn’t remember the occasion “but I’m told I had a good time.” The audience laughed sympathetically, but James clearly wasn’t trying to recapture or glorify his younger days. He conveyed a message that we’ve all travelled a long and strange journey, that we’ve all survived pain and loss, that we’re all grateful to be here today. When he sang, his pain and his resiliency were palpable, standing shoulder to shoulder.

The Royal Wedding coverage was in full swing when I awoke on Saturday morning. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have established themselves as role models for surviving adversity, giving to others, bringing a fresh vitality to the monarchy. Both have overcome tremendous personal obstacles. They reached deep within to find a different path forward — first separately, now together. Like James Taylor, they radiate hope in a troubled world.

Through the concert and the royal wedding, I thought about Santa Fe High School. Too many lives in too many schools have been shattered. In the face of our president’s unchecked belligerence, our citizens are responding in kind, lashing against each other. It’s hard to keep a clear head in the face of one massacre after another. It’s hard to think rationally when our country’s administration insists on a relentless political bar fight. It’s disorienting when we’ve reached the point where a school shooting is considered any kind of normal, new or otherwise. My homeland has lost its way in a “darkest night.”

James Taylor, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are no strangers to darkness, so I’m following their example. I will look my country’s “darkest night” straight in the eye. I will never normalize a school shooting. I will not recalibrate “normal’ to accommodate an ongoing upheaval. When I feel overwhelmed or exhausted, I’ll replay James Taylor’s voice in my head and remember how much he has overcome. I’ll think of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the inspiration I felt as they clasped hands. I’ll step forward to meet the darkness, trusting that in time, with great effort, the United States will rediscover the source of its own brightness.

____

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, #NeverAgain, racial equality and parenting. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

Amy’s Author Page — check out her novels and latest blog posts      https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under James Taylor Concert, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Royal Wedding, Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe Shooting, Uncategorized