Anti-racism campaigners are calling for the royals to lose their exemption under race equality law and be “brought into line with the rest of the public sector” following Meghan and Harry’s racism allegations.
The Equality Act, introduced in 2010, protects people from discrimination within the workplace and across wider society.
All organisations within the public sector have a legal obligation to adhere to this legislation, from the government and charities to major companies and political parties. However, the royal household, which is funded by the taxpayer through the sovereign grant, is exempt from those rules.
Patrick Vernon OBE, a prominent equalities campaigner, told The Independent that this needs to change.
“We need to consider changing race equality legislation to ensure that royal family and also private members’ clubs are brought in line with the rest of society so that the Equality and Human Rights Commission could investigate the allegations raised by Meghan and Harry in the Oprah interview or at least undertake an independent review on race equality,” he said.
“It was quite clear from hearing Meghan that she had at least had three protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act where she experienced discrimination as a pregnant, mixed-race woman with mental health problems. If Meghan was working for the NHS or the Met Police, she would have the right to take forward action.
“It feeds to wider discourse around white fragility and the to need to include Afriphobia as another ground for discrimination, which pertains to people of African descent and heritage. We recognise antisemitism and Islamophobia – but society and major institutions do not acknowledge anti-blackness, which is a major factor in how black people are discriminated against in the workplace, receiving healthcare, at school and the criminal justice system.”
Stand Up To Racism, a campaign group comprising thousands of memberships across the UK, echoed Mr Vernon’s sentiments.
“There must be no immunity from race relations legislation for the monarchy; it’s crucial legislation that gives a legal duty to public bodies to actively promote anti-racism,” Sabby Dhalu, Stand Up To Racism co-convenor, told The Independent.
Winfrey was visibly shocked when the Sussexes recounted how a family member – not the Queen or Duke of Edinburgh – raised concerns about how dark their son Archie’s skin tone might be before he was born.
A statement from Buckingham Palace released on Tuesday said: “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.”
Dhalu described the monarchy’s statement as “disappointing” and said it needed a robust condemnation of racism and to stress the importance of supporting mental health.
“There must be a formal and public investigation by Buckingham Palace into the allegations of racism questioning the skin colour of the children of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Allegations of racism in the royal family are not a private family matter.”
In response to the other aspect of racism, the treatment of Meghan Markle by the mainstream media and press, the other co-convenor of Stand Up To Racism, Weyman Bennett, said: “This whole issue illustrates the importance of eradicating racism in wider society. The mainstream media fuels racism, from the demonisation of a black member of the royal family, Muslim, Jewish, Asian, Chinese communities and refugees, to undermining taking the knee and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Racism at the top leads to violent racist attacks on the ground.”
Black Lives Matter UK said that the monarchy is “historically rooted in colonialism and white supremacy” and recent concerns raised only reflect this.
“The treatment of Meghan Markle is only further evidence that black people in Britain cannot escape racism, even if they are situated in the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful institutions,” a spokesperson told The Independent.
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