Roughly a year after the Royal Family very publicly hired a diversity, equity, and inclusion czar, following allegations of racism, those trainings don’t seem to have been particularly effective.
During a Wednesday visit to the Ukrainian Cultural Center in London, Prince William, accompanied by his wife Kate Middleton, addressed volunteers who were helping provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians amid the ongoing, devastating Russian invasion. In his remarks, the Duke of Cambridge reportedly expressed shock about the war in Ukraine, and war in Europe in general, while calling war and bloodshed normal in Africa and Asia.
“It’s very alien to see this in Europe. We are all behind you,” William said, adding that he wished he could do more to help Ukrainians and feels “so useless.”
William’s deeply cringey comments are transparently informed by a Western media ecosystem that’s devoted 24/7 coverage to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, while simultaneously shrugging off war, mass suffering, and all kinds of atrocities in predominantly Black and brown countries as inevitable and, therefore, unimportant. Just yesterday, Israeli troops demolished the homes of Palestinians in the West Bank, to virtual silence from western media. The U.S. has notably dropped at least 337,000 bombs and missiles over countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria since 2004.
But William, who just last year proclaimed that his family is “very much not a racist family,” shouldn’t be given a pass as just another ignorant, Western spectator. His blasé reference to war and mass death in supposedly faceless, nameless countries in Africa and Asia is uniquely problematic given England’s legacy as, at one point, the greatest colonizing superpower in the world—a legacy it has done little if anything at all to correct for beyond hire a “diversity czar” who clearly isn’t working out.
Much of the violence and destabilization in nonwhite countries today is a direct consequence of historical colonization and ongoing economic imperialism from the West. The Royal Family’s wealth was not-so-secretly accumulated through invasion, looting, and colonization of nonwhite countries, as well as mass enslavement of Black and brown people, and to this day, England continues to ignore ongoing demands for reparations from formerly colonized countries. Meanwhile, the impacts of British imperialism persist all around us: It was just last November that Barbados finally removed the Queen of England as its head of state and became a republic. And for his own part, William put his foot in his mouth just months ago on race and foreign affairs by blaming climate change on the supposedly increasing human population across Africa.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be outraged by the crisis in Ukraine or that media shouldn’t be covering it as the urgent issue it is. Rather, we should be critical of the dehumanizing double standards perpetuated by comments like William’s, which regard war in majority-white countries as “very alien,” while dismissing war in nonwhite countries as just another Wednesday. Certainly, the last people who should be making light of tragedy and loss of human life in countries of predominantly people of color are members of Britain’s Royal Family.