The Duchess of Sussex has said being complacent about racism makes “people complicit”.
On Wednesday 1 July, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry took part in a video call organised by the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, which formed one of the network’s weekly sessions set up in response to the growing Black Lives Matter movement.
The call saw the couple speak with young leaders from their home in Los Angeles about fairness, justice and equal rights.
Harry and Meghan were joined by Chrisann Jarrett, co-founder of We Belong, which is led by young people who migrated to the UK, Alicia Wallace, director of Equality Bahamas, Mike Omoniyi, founder of The Common Sense Network and Abdullahi Alim, who leads the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers.
During the conversation, Meghan spoke openly about racism and how people need to acknowledge the role they are playing in dismantling it, saying: “It’s not even in the big moments, it’s in the quiet moments where racism and unconscious bias lies and it’s those nuances that makes it confusing for a lot of people to understand the role they play in that, either passively or actively.
“In people’s complacency they’re complicit and that I think is the shift that we’re seeing, to go ‘it’s not enough to just be a bystander’ and say ‘well it wasn’t me’, and that is what I think has very much manifested in what you’re feeling from people’s outpouring surrounding the murder of George Floyd. It wasn’t that this wasn’t always happening, it’s that it’s come to a head at a time when people have just said ‘enough’.”
The duchess also spoke about the importance of equality and how people will need to push through an “uncomfortable” phase to reach it, saying: “We’re going to have to be a little uncomfortable right now, because it’s only in pushing through that discomfort that we get to the other side of this and find the place where a high tide raises all ships.
“Equality does not put anyone on the back foot, it puts us all on the same footing, which is a fundamental human right.”
Harry, who last week outlined his personal commitment to tackling institutional racism, added that that past wrongs needed to be acknowledged across the Commonwealth in order to move forward.
“There is no turning back now, everything is coming to a head,” he said. “When you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past.
“So many people have done such an incredible job of acknowledging the past and trying to right those wrongs, but I think we all acknowledge there is so much more still to do.
“It’s not going to be easy and in some cases it’s not going to be comfortable, but it needs to be done, because, guess what, everybody benefits.”
The royal went on to addresses the issue of unconscious bias and shared his own perspective, saying: “We can’t deny or ignore the fact that all of us have been educated to see the world differently,” he said.
“However, once you start to realise that there is that bias there, then you need to acknowledge it, you need to do the work to become more aware...so that you can help stand up for something that is so wrong and should not be acceptable in our society today.”
Meghan added: “It’s like growing pains. Growing pains are painful, the process is painful and it has been for a long time but through that immense pain, what we can have tremendous in, is that there will be growth.”
After the Sussexes stepped down from their roles as a senior working royals, Harry had to leave his role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. However, he and Meghan retained their posts as president and vice-president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
Harry told those taking part in the video that “change is needed and it’s coming.“
He added: “The optimism and the hope that we get is from listening and speaking to people like you, because there is no turning back now, everything is coming to a head.
“Solutions exist and change is happening far quicker than it ever has done before.”
Last month, Meghan spoke out over the death of George Floyd during a virtual address to graduating students at her former high school, Immaculate Heart, in Los Angeles.
During the five-minute-long speech, Meghan described recent events in the US as “absolutely devastating”.
“I wasn’t sure what I could say to you,” the 38-year-old said before going on to reference Mr Floyd along with other victims of police brutality. “I wanted to say the right thing. I realised the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing because George Floyd’s life mattered and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered and Philando Castile’s life mattered and Tamir Rice’s life mattered.”
The duchess also referred to the lives of “so many other people” whose names we don’t know.