Exploring the Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Initiative of the British Monarchy
I have always had a disdain for celebrity culture. Even in my early teens, I would throw around the fact that even Beyonce poops. The imagery alone never failed to create a silence I relished in.
“Their power relies on the collective interest we give them,” I would constantly emphasize.
Imagine if we all collectively stopped caring about the Kardashians. No more likes, no more views, just the block option from that one Black Mirror episode. Imagine if we, as humans, could overcome our obsession with futility and collectively agree on something. We would be unstoppable. Ending the monarchy is no different.
I didn't care for the royal wedding, the headlines or that infamous Oprah interview with the Duchess of Sussex. Although I will admit the memes were of quality. Still, everything I have learned about the royals, I have learned against my will.
When Duchess Meghan Markle’s social justice warrior public relations arc inserted itself on my Twitter timeline, it just didn't sit well with me. I never doubted that her experience with the royals was anything short of, well, slaveish. Yet every single narrative, whether in the form of tweets, headlines or reels, seemed to exist as a dichotomy.
Markle was either a victim or an assailant, a devil or an angel, the whistleblower or the silenced. Yet, to me, she came across as an opportunist who got in over her head by marrying into colonialism. Was she not aware of who her husband was? Could she have not simply been an opportunist until her ambitions didn't serve her anymore?
It wasn't until her podcast, Archetypes, came out that I could finally formulate the reason for my lack of enthusiasm for Markle: she reminds me of colourism in its most glaring and unequivocal original presentation.
“As you move along the colour spectrum, the darker you are, the less important, beautiful, viable or all of those things that society has imposed upon based on that notion of [white] supremacy,” explained Dr. Joy DeGruy, a social work researcher and personal hero of mine. “The anti-Blackness started with the idea of the Blacker you are, the less human you are, so Black people then become not fully human beings, so everyone's distancing themselves from that,” she added in the same Good Morning America interview.
The history of colourism dates back to slavery. Enslaved women violated, raped and impregnated by their master would birth children whose humanity was almost recognized due to their proximity to whiteness. These children would get to work indoors, doing more domestic work rather than field work—hence the term “house slave”—and would sometimes obtain a basic education that further elevated their status within the hierarchical organization of slavery. They would then be sent back home to rule and whip their own mothers and kin as a way to disown their own racial identity. They would literally slap the Black off of everyone, including themselves.
Looking at Markle is like looking at a house slave. Watching her story unfold on my timeline was like looking at a house slave get the education a field darkie like me couldn't have dared dream to have. And her podcast is the whip used to put the rest of us field slaves in line with the master's agenda. Not due to its content or guests, but to the very nature and context of its existence.
As I listened to her and Mariah Carey speak about their experiences, I was content with the humility and self-awareness that was present in their exchange. But I couldn't shake the notion that I was listening to a talented multimillionaire and an equally rich actress married to blood money. Both successful, in part, due to their proximity to whiteness. I couldn't shake the reality of amplifying more rich Black folks. I just couldn't relate to them, despite admiring their talent and resilience. I simply cannot trust them to honour the intersectionality of the experiences we allegedly share.
I was watching a house slave smile and wave at me from the house. Shouting about injustice from the rooftop, whip in hand still fresh with blood. The field is too unbearable an environment for me to focus on anything but the rhythm of the blood drops dripping at the hand of privilege.
I also couldn't help but laugh at the panic on the face of the masters who had reluctantly let her in. It was ever so reminiscent of all the empty Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity initiatives promised to us, but never delivered by institutions and conglomerates all over the world. And the resulting dissatisfaction of all the slaves in the system, whether they lived inside or outside the house.
This is because the equity aspect of EDI is the one that requires an intersectional, decolonial and anti-racist lens. It is the aspect that looks at the macroscale and systemic issues. This needed anti-oppressive consideration is why equity is often forgotten or replaced with a false notion of equality, which undermines divergence and co-existing oppressions, otherwise known as intersectionality. Equity was the aspect that forced Markle to reappropriate her blackness.
Diversity is only the tokenism aspect of collaboration. It does not require inclusiveness, but merely the theoretical principle of not being exclusionary. Diversity is what allowed Markle into the palace.
Inclusivity is about intention. “We can’t find people of colour but we would hire them if we could find them,” is a familiar rhetoric that exemplifies intention when it comes to things like an equitable hiring policy, for instance. It is where you get points for participation despite how little work you have put into your performance. Inclusivity is what allowed Markle to gain visibility.
But equity is the only place where Markle could have hoped to find true job satisfaction.
Equity is the part that requires you to ask your employees of colour if they are happy. It requires you to scrutinize the distribution of resources and to face biases of its allocation. It is taking a long, hard look at our systems and reforming them in every way that is not conducive to the better. Few people want to do that. Few people are willing to be told of the racism they must address, especially not the royal family.
Like a persistent cough that goes on too long and that we've attributed to allergies for the four changing seasons, the idea of getting the diagnosis of racism and facing it head on seems more terrifying than merely denying its existence. And just like colourism, EDI is a form of internal affliction that re-heirarchizes society on the false premise of inherent, rather than constructed, differences. EDI is addressing symptoms rather than the root cause of oppression.
EDI is stuck in the liminal space between what it is and what it could become. And so is Meghan Markle.
Markle’s targeted demographic seemingly shares in her novel subjugation to racial violence. She has become the proverbial diversity hire—the honorary house slave. Suddenly, injustice is no longer a sad theoretical concept Markle could send thoughts and prayers to, but a reality to be experienced first hand on the daily. I am sorry for anyone that goes through it, royal title or not. But to allocate Markle as much care as I do for those, like me, who spent their lives on the fields is simply too much to ask. My compassion is otherwise occupied.
Fundamentally, the rich have no incentive to resolve problems they profit or benefit from, and plenty of incentive to not do so.
Nevertheless, Markle's case raises important questions. Can EDI ever truly work in a context where colourism and other colonial mindsets remain dominant? Can someone who married into and benefits from the reiteration and celebration of colonialism adequately value the importance of its abolishment? Are their voices the ones to center when speaking about the Black experience and its many injustices?
Is healing the system truly possible from inside its house?