The racist chatter had been so ugly, that her sweet prince had to issue an unusual statement, defending his then-girlfriend against the appalling attacks in traditional and social media. Prince Harry, one of the world’s most eligible bachelors, was dating a mixed-race actress, a commoner best known for her work on the telly. And people weren’t having it.
Yet, on Saturday, Meghan Markle, a light-skinned black American woman with a normal, if slightly messy family, joined an abnormal and supremely messy British one, in a star-studded wedding-event that went without a hitch.
Never mind the temporary shooing away of the homeless for a partly taxpayer-funded party, never mind the very idea of calcifying power through exclusive lineage, never mind retrograde class-conscious elites affronted by the thought of an upstart mongrel now playing the part of a Duchess in real life.
The British monarchy is clearly in transition. Perhaps looking to atone for its past treatment of other royal brides, perhaps looking to maintain power in a society that can’t seem to decide if it even needs royalty anymore, or perhaps to simply evolve into something…more.
The latter point is going to take a bit of work, as The Grio reminds us. For one thing, consider its long history as a slave-supporting colonial power, perhaps best measured by the trillions of dollars in unpaid labor, unjust economic enrichment, and pain and suffering it would owe in an alternate universe.
It’s just one element of history yet to be properly addressed. In fact, when Britain abolished slavery in 1833, they compensated some 46,000 slave owners the modern-day equivalent of US$23 billion, the largest bailout in British history until 2009.
But to her fans, Markle was royalty precisely because she walked into that complex history and addressed some fresh, and unapologetically black, facts of her own.
One was her elegant mother, Doria Ragland, who sat alone, a million miles from home, an unexpected embed in an utterly foreign culture. Wearing Oscar de la Renta, locs, and a nose ring, the single mother, yoga teacher, social worker, and descendant of slaves watched her only child join a monarchy already in progress, already progressing.
Another was the remarkable Kingdom Choir, led by Karen Gibson who sang a version of Stand By Me, an anthem of love and racial solidarity so powerful, that it surely moved Ben E. King from his perch in heaven.
But for many, the moment belonged to The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, and the first African American to lead the church.
Curry has a long history of preaching an inclusive faith, and modern times have not dimmed his fire.
To explain his controversial decision to join a 2017 amicus brief in support of Virginia high schooler Gavin Grimm’s suit to use the bathroom that corresponded to his gender identity, he shared his overarching philosophy. “The Episcopal Church welcomes all persons: young and old, liberal and conservative, high-church and low-church, cisgender and transgender children of God,” he wrote. “While we differ on some matters there is, as the old spiritual says, ‘plenty good room’ for us all.”
Curry made plenty of room on Saturday, for God, Jesus, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the healing power of love.
“I’m talking about some power, real power. Power to change the world. If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s antebellum south who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform,” he said, making all of Black Twitter sit up in unison. “They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity, it’s one that says there’s a balm in Gilead. A healing balm, something that can makes things right.”
As hard as it may be to believe that institutions can change, it’s worth contemplating the mysteries that make change possible. There’s plenty good room, after all, if we’re prepared to share it.
While I don’t expect any leaked footage of the Queen doing the wobble at the reception, she made room on Saturday, and she did it in front of the world.
The newly married Duke and Duchess made room for each other’s cultures. Whether they wanted to or not, the guests made room, along with everyone who watched the proceedings with surprised delight (me) or a justifiable suspicion (also me). Even if your reasons are still murky, making room always makes a mark.
With love at the center, we are equals; a healing balm to make things right, eventually.
But for now, a blueprint to survive these newly inclusive baby steps. “When love is the way… we actually treat each other,” Curry said, throwing an elbow on the pulpit with a smile, “well…like we’re actually family.”
|The Fortune 500 is here! For men, evidently|
|There is so much insight to be gleaned in the 500 data, that it’s unfortunate that this benchmark is going the wrong way. After reaching an all-time high of 32 in 2017, reports Valentina Zaraya, the number of female Fortune 500 chiefs has slid back down to 24. That’s a one-year decline of 25%. One bright spot is Joey Wat, the still newish CEO of China’s largest restaurant group. You can learn more about how a big gamble she took in the mid-2000s helped cement her path to the C-Suite here.|
|How corporate America is fostering dialog about race|
|Longtime raceAhead readers have been following this trend for two years now, and it’s interesting to see how these dialog efforts are faring. Many of the candid conversations began in the aftermath of the police shootings during the summer of 2016, with companies like Accenture, PwC, and Nationwide Insurance hosting lightly structured and frank conversations with employees about what they were experiencing in their lives. For other companies, the sessions were one-offs, but consultants like Nicole Sanchez, CEO of Vaya Consulting, say that she’s been approached to help design candid conversations about race more times “in the last six months than I probably did in the previous 25 years.”|
|Creating a more diverse Capitol Hill|
|It’s more of a priority for some, sure, but behind every lawmaker with a diverse staff there’s an office director who actually made it happen. Meet two: Jennifer DeCasper, chief of staff for Sen. Tim Scott [R-SC] and Hope Goins, staff director for Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee, who reports to Rep. Bennie Thompson [D-Miss]. Both work for black representatives and both look at diversity as bigger than a checklist. “[W]e have to have diversity in faith, people’s beliefs, viewpoints, education, socioeconomic status, disabilities — we have military veterans — and all of that brings a load of wealth to the table,” says DeCasper.|
|Meet the Kapor Impact Award winners for 2018|
|While a seven minute video about people you don’t know might sound less than appealing, in this case, it’s soul-affirming. These are the Kapor Center Impact Award winners for 2018, people who are diversifying the tech sector in measurable ways. For one, it’s a joy to see so many different humans tackling issues of inequality in such different ways. “Imagine if the Black Panthers had a tech program,” says Idalin Bobe from Techactivist.org. “Not many opportunities are presented to people living in poverty,” particularly those that give them modern tools to create their own solutions. Click through for inspiration and to expand your conference binders.|
The Woke Leader
|Research: When groups are more diverse, people are less likely to “go along with the crowd”|
|It’s bigger than just group-think, or letting the one bad idea to come out of a meeting get a budget and a timeline attached to it. While the original research this new study is based on comes from the 1950s, the confirming evidence feels more vital in a modern age. Individuals within a group tend to “agree” with the majority position, even when the conclusion is clearly wrong. But this version of the research found that racially diverse groups reduced homogeneity across the board, specifically, “white participants in racially diverse groups were significantly less likely to conform to a clearly inferior decision compared to white participants in all-white groups.”|
|Cities are segregated by design|
|Housing segregation and discrimination have shaped the lives of people in the country for decades – since 1934, to be exact – when maps drawn up by the government-sponsored Home Owner’s Loan Corporation tried to identify neighborhoods most likely to default on a brand new product called a 30-year mortgage. This invention of the New Deal also invented “red-lining” or the identification of neighborhoods with credit-risky “foreigners,” “low-class whites,” and “Negroes.” This excellent, seven-minute video, narrated by NPR’s Gene Demby, draws a straight line between the Depression-era discriminatory lending to the creation of ghettos, environmental racism, poor schools, over-aggressive policing and the unique phenomenon of Martin Luther King Boulevards.|
|All the black truth fit to print|
|When I first started the race beat, I began by reading two books on the history of race reportage in America. The first is Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement, by Simeon Booker. Booker describes an extraordinary 65-year journey as the first, and largely thwarted, black reporter at the Washington Post – then to his indispensable role as the DC bureau chief for Jet Magazine, the centerpiece of the Negro press. He was the reporter who covered Emmett Till’s murder and funeral, the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock; he even disguised himself as an itinerant preacher to avoid being detained or lynched when reporting down South. He saw, and faithfully recorded, it all; a potent reminder how recent the history really is. (More on this topic tomorrow.)|