I have to confess that I’m with Lewis Carrol who thought that royals were only another topic of desultry conversation:
The time has come, the Walrus said
to talk of many things
of ships and shoes and sealing wax
and cabbages and kings ……
He puts the kings at the end of the line after the fascinating topic of cabbages.
The UK Media have been congratulating themselves, the nation and the newly engaged couple, Harry and Meghan, for proving how tolerant we Brits have become in that we can consider one of our royals marrying a divorced woman, of mixed heritage, who is an actress! Golly gosh, we are so modern; we hate incomers enough to vote for Brexit, yet our big hearts are open to this very special, mixed heritage newcomer. Indeed we are so sensitive we don’t even want to mention the mixed heritage bit too often, for after all, it’s not as she’s black, heavens no, coloured, yes, but in the nice shade you’d want to be after your holidays.
By mixed hertitage naturally we mean she’s got some Afro in her, unlike us who are pure…well pure something or other, Aryan maybe, or is that a Nazi word, well, let’s just call it Anglo- Saxon, pure Anglo-Saxon, that’s us. Except, that rather forgets the Picts and the Celts who were here before the A-S’s, and the Normans who came afterwards, not to mention the Vikings with their rape and pillage, plus the black slaves who have been here for four centuries at least, plus the numerous official and unofficial mixed heritage partnerships from all corners of our beneficial Empire, plus of course the fact that all human beings are descended from the original homo sapiens from Africa. Yes, that’s how “pure”we are.
Being a master race however, the possessors of an empire on which, as I was taught at primary school, the sun never set, we reckoned that some mixed heritages were acceptable and could be forgotten, while others were unaccpetable because they were inferior, meaning OK as servants but not as husbands or wives. And we didn’t actually call them people of mixed heritage, we had a large and interesting vocabulary to describe them:
coconut, coloured, coon, creole, dusky, fuzzy-wuzzy, gollywog, half-breed, mongrel, mulatto, octoroon, quadroon, and many more.
No newspaper was celebrating Prince Harry’s engagement to a mulatto, for example; even normally racist red tops avoided that sort of language. It’s worth looking at that word as an example of our past thinking. We borrowed it from Latin America where it means a lttle mule. Indeed the simple word mule was also used to describe people of mixed heritage. The idea is that a mule is the offspring of a horse and a donkey, a freak of nature which produces a useful beast of burden. That’s how our ancestors thought, most of them, until comparatively recent times. The question is whether our attitudes have improved or merely our vocabulary.
My best guess is that many of those who are celebrating this royal engagement are the very same people who feel anxious about our native traditions being eroded by a “tidal wave” of immigrants, forgetting that as far as eroding such traditions is concerned, we Brits are in the Premiership. Where are the native traditions of Gibraltar, for example, or the Falklands? The polite language we use about race remains evidence of our inherent racism, which still wishes to categorise some of the people whom we perceive as different from ourselves, as of multiple or mixed hertitage, when in fact every single human being has multiple heritage.
One of the great benefits of the human genome study is to show how much of our genetic identity is shared, not only with all other members of the species homo sapiens, but also other hominids like Neanderthals, and with the great apes, and even the fruit fly. Take the eye as an example. Eyes developed from about 540 million years ago, in a variety of species, first of all as a simple mechanism for detecting light, then as a means of sensing food or prey. It is possible that eyes were lost and re-invented a number of times in the course of evolution. Human eyes are sophisticated but cannot see the infra red end of light spectrum which is visible to some insects. A golden eagle’s eyes can clearly see a mouse from a height of several hundred feet. An octopus’s eyes unlike ours, have no blind spot. All human eyes are the same and have the ability to see colour.
It’s ironical that an organ which reveals how much we share with many other species in the house of life, and with all our brothers and sisters, should be used to detect a difference in skin colour that is made the basis of division and enmity. Jesus said that if our eye was sound our whole body would be sound, but if it was afflicted with moral darkness, we would be blind indeed.
He taught that we all belong to the one source or father, who also exercises his care over the birds and the plants. We share living space with other members of the family of this planet, and the greater living space we call the house of God, in whom we live and move and have our being. The most important education we can all receive is the factual evidence about our place in evolution and the moral evidence about the equality of the creatures that share the one house of life, which is God’s creation.
Two decent young people have got together; let’s celebrate that. But don’t lets give ourselves unearned points for racial equality.