TEN YEARS ago, British royalty, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, visited the Caribbean and locals prostrated themselves before them. Local leaders made arrangements for them to play the steel pan and the sacred Rastafarian Nyabinghi drums.
Leslie from Africaspeaks.com wrote an insightful article titled Royal Visit Highlights Lingering Colonialism that brought attention to the dynamics of colonialism in this visit. This article is as relevant today as it was ten years ago when it was written, given the celebratory eruptions at the wedding of Prince Harry and his bride Meghan Markle.
Yet the Caribbean is poorer today for elevating fake royalty to dizzying heights of reverence while neglecting the royalty inherent in the resistant voices of those who have worked hard at being better examples of humanity.
While many people gush over royalty and the “power of love,” for people of the Caribbean and the wider global south, who are still faced with the structures of British coloniality embedded deeply in our society and the world we live in, it is an opportunity to reflect on these issues.
The British empire was held together by violence in two forms. The first one was the military violence that invaded and conquered territories, set up slave plantations and brutally suppressed dissent and revolts.
The second, and perhaps more dangerous form of violence, was the violence of “knowledge” which involved spreading a narrow and ideological system of values, culture and information as if it were the best and only one. Non-European and non-Christian ways of seeing and being were bastardised and destroyed.
Generations of children had to sing God Save the Queen in local schools that instilled British and Christian values in young impressionable minds. Within this British educational system, ideas of white superiority and black inferiority, subservience to colonial authority and demonisation of non-European cultures formed part of the structures that upheld the British colonial empire. This feeds into the global reverence for Britain and her monarchy.
While many people have very romantic images of the British monarchy, it is a racist and violent institution that has presided over a reign of global brutality, that far exceeds that of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and the Butcher of the Congo: King Leopold II of Belgium. Britain dominated the trade and enslavement of Africans, and at the height of its power had colonies around the globe, while boasting that the sun would never set on the British empire.
The British also participated in the genocide of indigenous people in the Americas, Africa, and Australia. While the British were in charge of India, the act of increasing taxes and exporting crops grown by farmers caused a series of famines that resulted in the death of millions of Indians. In one of these, the Bengal Famine, Britain diverted food to its soldiers, and caused the deaths of between three and ten million people.
During the Mau Mau uprising against British rule in Kenya, the Kikuyu people were imprisoned in concentration camps and subjected to torture, executions and sexual abuse.
Yet, despite being the most pervasive colonial power, and with perhaps the most colonial crimes against humanity under its belt, Britain is still able to project an aura of respectability, honour and nobility. This allows it to avoid responsibility for their many atrocities.
How can global south people celebrate the romantic activities of the monarchy when the structures of coloniality are still so much a present part of day-to-day realities? Caribbean thinkers have long pointed out the damaging presence of the colonial jumbie or duppy. Celebrating without considering all of this is tantamount to celebrating colonialism.
Consider this analogy. You are at home one evening and intruders break into your house, kill some members of the family, rape some, and torture some. They steal the valuables and hold some members hostage. What degree of psychological pressure would it take for those members of your house to accept guidance from the intruders on how to be a good person, how to educate your children, and how and who to worship? Or to feel excited about one of the intruders’ impending marriage?
These are the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.
To be continued tomorrow
Ty Salandy is a sociologist and independent journalist. He can be reached at: email@example.com