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The Duchess of Sussex’s feeling of otherness hits home

by
10 March 2021

Her experience of racism and privilege in the British class system is familiar to K. Augustine Tanner-Ihm

Alamy

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the Trooping of the Colour, in June 2019

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the Trooping of the Colour, in June 2019

“BECAUSE when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, . . . like we are actually family.” This was the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, delivering the sermon during the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in St George’s Chapel (News, 19 May 2018).

The memory most people have of the wedding was not how stunning Meghan’s dress was, or the beautiful gospel choir, or even whether Meghan’s father would attend. What the public most remembered was the part of the service which most people forget: the sermon.

It was about the power of love. Bishop Curry preached a whirlwind sermon that reached millions of people worldwide. He spoke of this power of love to transforms people’s hearts and minds, and nations.

In that same ceremony, the young couple did something that all wedding couples do: they made promises to each other in front of many witnesses and, most importantly, God. They vowed to comfort, honour, and protect each other. And, within the Anglican tradition, the liturgy continues to say, “forsaking all others”. This is our theological and practical understanding of marriage.

From now on, Harry and Meghan must put each other first — before each other, before family, and before country. As a Christian community, we expect that those vows will be kept, and the power of love will be displayed by sacrificing everything for the other, as Christ sacrificed himself for us.

 

THE Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan shocked the world with allegations of racism and lack of support during a mental-health crisis. The racism exposed in the interview and by their treatment hits home for many Black people around the world. The reported worry about the colour of baby Archie’s skin reminds us that blackness is not valued. The inference is that our blackness is second-class and not worthy of beauty or, in their case, a crown.

This feeling of otherness is something that hit home for me. Meghan and I were both raised by strong, single black women, both American, both of African-American heritage. We have both attended Northwestern University, and have both given our lives to British institutions — institutions that continue to gaslight and, at times, emotionally abuse us.

I, too, was unaware how difficult the harshness of the British class system would be on my mental health. I, too, have said, “I don’t want to be alive any more.” These are all familiar experiences.

 

CAN the Crown, the Church, and the Commons reverse their colonial outlook? In the interview, Prince Harry talked about how he had to educate himself about unconscious bias, but the most important aspect was being in proximity with Meghan, a woman of colour, which helped him to understand racism and privilege. Meghan’s influence has now been removed from the royal family.

The royal family are real, breathing people. We should continue to pray for them, and that the bonds of privilege and racism will be no more in our historical institutions. We should not live in fear, but in the power of love that changes everything. “Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, . . . like we are actually family.”

 

K. Augustine Tanner is an African-American Anglican doctoral student in Leadership, Culture and Theology at Bakke Graduate University, and has recently completed ordination training at Cranmer Hall, St John’s College, Durham, during which he completed an BA and MA in Theology. He was the winner of the 2020 Theology Slam, and will be on the judging panel of the 2021 Theology Slam final.

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