Trigger Warning: This article will contain triggering and distressing content relating to colonialism and racism.
A link has been provided below for where you can seek support. If you have been affected by anything within this article, I would strongly encourage you to reach out. You are not alone. https://help.open.ac.uk/mental-health-support
Queen Elizabeth’s death has left me with a feeling I cannot explain. It has been a few days since she passed away, and I have seen other minorities express the confusing feelings they also have surrounding her death. The death of not just anyone, but a monarch who was the Head of State of multiple countries and lived through/oversaw the horrors subjected to the citizens.
The feeling is one you cannot describe. Generational trauma is a feeling you cannot describe.
Since she has passed away, I have witnessed multiple people, both personally and online, telling others what they should not feel, particularly towards ethnic minorities. Our feelings have been deemed disrespectful and rude. They have been policed.
Essentially, we are told to cater to white people’s feelings when Queen Elizabeth’s death has brought up trauma and feelings we had suppressed within us. Seeing constant praise for a figure who is a symbol of pain and hurt can naturally bring up a lot of feelings – the trauma of our ancestors who were tortured and brutalised under British rule. Trauma which for many, still exists today. Is this not something we should be upset about? Can we not express our feelings about someone who was responsible for the horrors which unfolded on those before us?
There are so many ways in which the monarchy has benefited from colonialism and slavery. Too many to count, let alone comprehend. To put it simply, here are Five ways the Monarchy have benefited from colonialism and slavery.
Britain’s colonialism and slavery date back to Elizabeth I and its effects are still present today. Sir Walter Raleigh was given the right to ‘explore’ the world. Since the 1500s multiple countries have been colonised in the pursuit of ‘exploring new worlds’ or ‘civilising’ nations.
Reminder that Queen Elizabeth is not a remnant of colonial times. She was an active participant in colonialism. She actively tried to stop independence movements & she tried to keep newly independent colonies from leaving the commonwealth. The evil she did was enough.
Kenya’s fight for independence from British rule (during Elizabeth II’s reign) resulted in many Kenyans being tortured by British Officials. The events which occurred over 50 years ago are still remembered by Kenyans today.
Three Kenyans nine years ago spoke in court of both their own experiences and what they witnessed at the hands of the British. These people still suffer mentally and physically from what they went through decades ago. This was a significant step for Kenyans to openly talk about what they went through at the hands of the British. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to relive it in court.
As you can imagine, the Platinum Jubliee was not a time of celebration for Kenyans. On the Platinum Jubliee, DW News shared a video of Muthoni, a Kenyan woman. Muthoni was tortured by British Officials as they sought after her husband, who was fighting against the British. Muthoni was later put into a camp where she had to live in inhumane conditions.
As many people already know, the Global South were not the only countries to suffer at the hands of the British. Ireland is another country which has been colonised by the British. The mass famines (which were due to the British exporting food from Ireland to England) still have an impact on Irish people today. They were also discriminated against. I am sure even before Queen Elizabeth II passed away, many people were aware of lighthearted jokes about the Irish disliking the British. These ‘jokes’ may seem lighthearted, but the history behind these jokes is dark and bloody.
Furthermore, victims of colonisation, racism and other forms of bigotry are told that it is ‘not a good time to talk about this’ when we do speak up. There is never a wrong time to talk about oppression or colonisation. The pain still exists no matter what happened or when it happened. The trauma of our history is still there and lives through us generationally. We learn our past from hearing stories from our elders, reading books and watching documentaries.
The Welsh Underground Network has also released a statement on Queen Elizabeth’s death.
There are many, many sources I had saved to share and talk about within this article, however going through them, I realise the mountain of information I have saved is too much to share in a single article.
The point of this article is to highlight how the monarchy may not be as ‘exceptional’ or ‘inspiring’ as many claim them to be. One reason why many people are not aware of this side of history is due to the fact it is not in the school curriculum, or at least was not when many people reading this attended school. I remember being at school myself and learning about the British Empire and how they created a lot of ‘good change’ in places such as India. I walked away from lessons believing this was the truth. It was only as I was growing up that I learnt that the truth was something else. We have grown up learning about British history the way the British officials want it to be portrayed. Many countries which were colonised learn more about British history than they do of their own country’s history. They have been taught to identify with the monarchy and to praise and respect them.
Major events such as Queen Elizabeth’s death will cause more thoughts, feelings and conversations to circle around, and some people may not mourn the Queen’s death and that is okay.
Queen Elizabeth had the chance to create change in places such as Kenya, Ireland, Australia, the Caribbean and many more. She had the opportunity to challenge and acknowledge the racism of the monarchy and its past. It is not something which should continue to stay hidden and unspoken.
There are a lot of disputes about Queen Elizabeth’s reign and what she was/was not in charge of. Some also say that Elizabeth II’s reign was an era of ‘decolonisation.’ However as shown through this article, this was also very flawed.
Most recently, Barbados removed Elizabeth II as their Head of State in 2021. The past year has also seen ties with Jamaica and Elizabeth II on the verge of severing. The racism Meghan Markle has received over the past few years is also evidence of how things still need to change.
In the next few weeks, possibly months, there will be a lot of emotions for various reasons. Conversations and even arguments may arise. But I ask that you do not police the opinions and feelings of victims of colonisation. We have a lot of feelings about the monarchy and British powers for many, many reasons. Instead, listen to what is being said and do not take things personally.
I will leave this article with a few more sources and useful forms of information which I have not spoken about but would like to highlight:
As mentioned previously, there is so much information I can share. So much that I saved to share. So many articles, posts and videos. So many important voices. I would highly encourage you to also research and educate yourself on history you may not have been taught.
Change and Awareness Officer, Community Cohesion
Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic Committee