King Charles faces battle to win over UK black community

Monday, Sep 26, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II’s death earlier this month prompted a flood of tributes -- but not from everyone. In Britain’s black community, many asked: what had she ever done for us?

The question gave her eldest son and successor, Charles III, an early taste of what he will have to confront as king, with feelings still running high about the toxic legacy of Britain’s colonial past.

At her death, the queen was head of state of 14 countries outside Britain, including nations in the Caribbean exploited by the slave trade. Charles immediately succeeded his mother as their distant head of state but the question of for how long is increasingly being discussed as republican movements gather pace.

Kehinde Andrews, professor of black studies at the University of Birmingham, wrote the day after the queen’s death on September 8 that he did not share the country’s loss. "For the children of the British empire, those of us who were born here and those of us who were born in the 15 nations of the ‘commonwealth’, the Queen is the number one symbol of white supremacy.

"She may have been seen as an institution but for us, she was the manifestation of the institutional racism that we have to encounter on a daily basis," he wrote on the Politico website. Many black Britons no longer want to stay silent about the racism that they see as rooted at the heart of many British institutions.

The subject came to fore in Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests, which saw calls for statues of historical figures linked to slavery to be torn down. During the national mourning period which ended with the queen’s funeral on September 19, protests were held about the death of Chris Kaba, an unarmed black man who was shot dead by police in London. The monarchy itself had previously been drawn into the debate when Charles’s youngest son, Prince Harry, and his mixed-race wife, Meghan, accused the royal family of racism.

That claim saw the queen promise to investigate but prompted an outright rejection from Harry’s brother William. "We are very much not a racist family," he told reporters. Harry and Meghan quit royal life in early 2020 and moved to California, winning many fans among younger people and in the black community for taking on the British establishment.