Prince William and Kate Middleton visited the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in London this week, apparently to show empathy and support in the wake of the madness unleashed by Vladimir Putin. While it’s routine for members of the British royal family to offer their privileged presence during times of sorrow, things took a turn for the worse once Prince William opened his mouth.
Wills offered his condolences to local Ukrainians before adding his assessment of how his beloved constituents are handling the crisis: “It’s really horrifying. The news every day, it’s just, it’s almost unfathomable. For our generation, it’s very alien to see this happen in Europe. We’re all right behind you. We’re thinking about you. We feel so useless.”
Those words hit me like a thunderbolt.
I am a Nigerian-American. I was born in the States because my parents and others in their generation were forced to seek better opportunities abroad due to British colonialism and the resulting Nigerian Civil War. I moved back to my terrorized homeland of Nigeria, a former British colony, when I was 8 years old.
Nigeria never recovered from the greed and brutality of its colonizers, who used Christianity as their most lethal weapon. In their demonic pursuit of white power, British soldiers devised a scheme to hack a bountiful landscape bursting with natural resources—oil, gas, crops—to serve the needs of the western world for, seemingly, eternity. This explains how the lights stay on in London 60 years after Nigeria became independent of Britain, while Lagos struggles to provide basic amenities for long-suffering residents.
The Nigeria I know today is still buried under the rubble of what can’t be restored, forcing the desperate and starving to risk their lives in search of survivable options. This war has been waged against Nigeria for centuries, but sometimes if feels as if nobody cares because the victims aren’t blonde-haired and blue-eyed with western allies on their side.
I cannot turn a blind eye to the past.
Based on the response to Prince William’s remarks, I’m not alone in my anger and resentment. It’s reassuring to witness such a swift backlash to a profoundly dense statement, a statement that contains all the evidence that the British royal family is still failing to contend with its long history of oppression against former colonies, many of which are currently dying slow, miserable deaths. You know you’ve royally messed up when a revered member of America’s version of a royal family, Bernice King, the dedicated daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., takes the time to call you out in defiance in a now-deleted tweet:
“Horrific comment. European people ran roughshod over the continent of Africa, pillaging communities, raping women, enslaving human beings, colonizing for profit and power, stealing resources, causing generational devastation. And European nations continue to harm Africa.”
As King argued, Prince William’s assessment of war can’t be tolerated in light of the atrocities that were committed in his kingdom’s colonies to fulfill the obligations of white supremacy. But the future monarch, who is slated to ascend the throne at some point in his lifetime, will undoubtedly maintain his denial of Britain’s race problem.
Remember when Prince William attempted to sweep away the messiness of that captivating sit-down interview hosted by none other than Oprah Winfrey, featuring younger brother Prince Harry and a shell-shocked Meghan Markle? The revelations heard around the world included testimonies that members of “The Firm” had a hard time processing Prince Harry’s choice to marry a woman of color, and how that choice would impact the skin color of their unborn child. Not long after the televised tell-all, an army of reporters caught Prince William and his Duchess strolling into a local school, and that’s when we got a defining moment.
When asked about the accusations of racism being levied against Britain’s most exalted institution, the prince boldly rejected the claims: “We’re very much not a racist family.”
Prince William is either weirdly oblivious to his tainted legacy or willfully against the idea of publicly acknowledging what most of the world deems as fact.
Nor was Prince William’s Ukraine comment the first time that the 39-year-old royal has aimed his inherent bigotry towards Black and brown territories, specifically those that were massacred by white invaders who stole riches and gems in order to gift them to European-based museums, as well as the British royal family. While giving a speech at the Tusk Conservation Awards last year, Prince William passionately spoke about preserving the dignity of nature without the damaging interference of human beings. It didn’t take long for him to put his royal foot in his mouth with ungracious comments about Africa’s stance on maintaining the health of wildlife.
“The increasing pressure on Africa’s wildlife and wild spaces as a result of human population presents a huge challenge for conservationists, as it does the world over,” he said.
That statement immediately attracted an avalanche of criticism that showcased the frustration of people, like me, who have been cursed beyond repair by the white man. Who has time to care for wildlife when villages in the Niger Delta are sinking because oil companies based in the western world are enabling illegal oil rigging? When former colonies were forced to embrace white culture and language to ensure the seamless transfer of power to their captors? When Black bodies are stuck in this infinite hell?
It’s apparently easy for Prince William to recognize the pain and suffering of white victims in Ukraine as “alien” while conveniently ignoring the centuries of trauma that are still etched all over former colonies, from Nigeria to India, whose victims don’t elicit the level of concern that’s directed to more romanticized areas of the world. Their bloody war is still raging, making it all the more disheartening and even triggering to hear the British royal family callously dismiss the criminality of British colonialism. They have no interest in reflecting on their scorned past with regret. They make no promise to atone for unforgivable acts of violence.
The history they’ve been telling is not the same as the history I know.