Britain was feverishly preparing to witness the wedding of the century on April 29. Well, almost all of Britain. The fly in the ointment was the extremist group, Muslims Against the Crusades, who were planning to protest in the area to draw some attention to themselves. One can safely assume that publicity was their main aim because the Crusades went a long time ago in history and, as one cannot go back in time to right any wrongs, this one could not expect much public support. Nevertheless, it is a symbol of the invisibility of minorities in the UK that they felt they had to use this significant day in order to be heard.
The Royal wedding meant very little to the country’s 10% minority ethnic communities – most of whom stayed away from it . If one wants to see the state of British society at significant moments like these, how “white” it is, the Royal Wedding was a very clear example. British minorities were simply invisible. They knew that it will be swiftly back to the usual invisibility immediately the ceremony was over. Back to being an all-white Britain where power and resources are concerned, but an all black one wherever ‘problems’ and ‘victims’ are highlighted.
One of the reasons why I admire America so much is that, though it is a long way from real racial parity, minorities are well represented in all spheres of life, and are continually visible where it matters to provide much needed role models. Look at the television medium there on any day and there will be a diversity of presenters and opinions. Here in the UK, the media as a whole tells the sorry state of being a minority in Britain.
The BBC, for example, announced its team for covering the Royal Wedding, which it busily promoted for the big day and, look as hard as one could, there was not a single minority ethnic face among the line-up. Worse still, none were interviewed on the day either and none was asked an opinion as an ‘expert’. The stark message was that this was a celebration for white Britons, and some foreigners. Minority Brits had no voice. Yet every household in the country, whether black or white, has to pay a fee for its television licence; money that ensures continual jobs for majority members while minorities are denied their share of the cake.
The clear message is that such important times – national economic debates, political and Royal events – are all exclusively white affairs, because minorities are not really British in every sense of the term and are not affected by such things. They were on the wrong side of the colonial divide: the ones who were governed, not the rulers. That superior attitude still permeates the places which matter, breeding and fuelling exclusion on a massive scale, regardless of the fine words and intentions around it.
Some time ago, some British blacks coined the sentence: “There is no Black in the Union Jack” flag. On issues of state and politics, those words really come alive in their truth. The uncomfortable elephant in the room regarding minorities and the white majority is that a black person would never be considered suitable as a wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend for any member of the Royal Family, but that Family, hypocritically, loves to stress the importance of the Commonwealth to the British monarchy. The message to minorities appear to be: We love your company to help prop us up and give us some kudos, as long as you keep your distance.
British politicians, and the media, especially when there are benefits to be had from it, love to boast about our multicultural society. The truth is that there are two societies, in a covert vein – one which contains the power brokers and people of influence of one particular colour (white), and the powerless, invisible ones on the periphery of the action, those blessed with a different colour (black), who will be strangely absent from the celebrations, being safely kept a good distance away until it is safe for them to be allowed out again.
That is the reality of being Black in Britain today: one of exclusion and invisibility, especially at such times when they really should be involved to ensure unity, harmony and mutual respect – to be part of the routine in every sense – in this wonderful country.