Race Relations In The UK, According To A British Professor

Jan 23, 2020

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, known more commonly as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, revealed that they would be stepping back from their royal duties earlier this month. That news sent waves through the media — both in the U.K. and the U.S.

Many questioned their decision. People wondered how the married couple would make their own money, and what "stepping back" means.

But what isn’t getting as much attention is the role the media might have played in the couple’s decision. For example, how the media treated Markle, a biracial woman, since her relationship with the royal family began.

Nat Godley is an assistant professor of history at Alverno College who focuses on race and ethnicity in Europe. He is a white British man who grew up with a black British sister and has a black son. He says that has fueled his interest in researching race in a European context. 

He says the British tabloid media probably wasn't ready for a woman as assertive as Markle.

"Even though Kate [the Duchess of Cambridge] had been assertive, [Princess] Diana had been assertive," he says. "But Meghan was maybe a little more assertive. But then compounded by the fact that she is a woman of color, a woman of a different citizenship ... but again especially a woman of color. That kind of opened her up to more criticism and kind of laid out some of the deeper attitudes about race in British culture," Godley explains.

And when it comes to British attitudes about race, he says: "Sadly, I think that, as in the U.S., you're going to see overt expressions of racism almost anywhere, and you're going to see the covert and sometimes even more damaging expressions of racism anywhere as well."

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