When two royal footmen, clad in black, walked to the front gate of Buckingham Palace and affixed a black-lined notice on plain white paper to the gate, the world was officially notified what many already suspected: that Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II – had died.

Her death marks the end of what’s being called the Second Elizabethan Age. Elizabeth occupied the throne for 70 years, the longest in British history, a steadying force, a comforting symbol of continuity and stability. The beloved Queen is what The New York Times describing her as “the one constant in an inconstant world.”

What surprises me most since the queen’s death is the stinging clashes on social media between people who love the crown and/or the woman and those who, like me, are indifferent, refusing to whitewash history and seeking to hold the British crown and the government answerable for centuries of theft and slavery.

My Facebook post ruffled more than a few feathers:

“Queen Elizabeth is gone.

I’m watching coverage now. It’s interesting to hear the comments from people on some of these networks. I guess my perspective is different as a Black man and Pan Africanist.

The queen was the head of a multi-billion-pound colonial settler mafia outfit that plundered the world, subjugated people, killed and neutralized those who wouldn’t bend or bow and sucked out as much of their labor and resources they could to the benefit of Britain.

I do not mourn her.”

I grew up in England, the real England – not the fairy tale, fantasy version so skillfully spoon-fed to people around the world. My Jamaican parents were members of the Windrush Generation and I was born and raised in the North London boroughs of Tottenham and Islington. They were among the tens of thousands of West Indians, Africans and Indians invited to Britain – at their own expense – to make their way to the heart of the British Empire and help rebuild it after the second World War.

My parents landed in England in the early 1950s. They boarded ships and spent two weeks on a voyage to the unknown, ending up in a country nothing like the island nation they had left behind. They were lured by the prospect of making more money and a chance to construct a better life. Dad, an employee at British Railway, integrated the all-white institution and mom was a talented, fabulous seamstress. They recall meeting a dull, grey country – cold and dank – with most of the Brits as frigid and chilly as the weather. They endured visceral racial hostility openly expressed, doors slammed in their faces when they sought jobs and accommodations and disheartening signs: “No Blacks, No Irish, No dogs.”   

Life was hard, worsened by post-war shortages, England’s rigid class lines and the scrappy, rough and tumble way of life in London and the UK far removed from the wealth, pageantry and accoutrements of royalty. My siblings and I caught hell, fighting white kids inside and out of school and getting little if any help from the white priests, nuns and teachers who ignored the attacks. 

People asked us to show them our tails and called us “gollywog, sambo, savage and nigger.” I remember being told frequently by my geography teacher, Mr. Messer, that Black people had never made contributions of any significance in the history of the world.

What I learned has fueled my anger and disgust with England, the monarchy and their role in building and sustaining their own brand of corrosive, bigoted and xenophobic colonialism, their belief in their inherent superiority and the disruption of the indigenous and native people they conquered, controlled and exploited from Africa to India to Ireland, Cyprus, Fiji and the Caribbean.

Uju Anya, a Carnegie Mellon Nigerian-born associate professor, ignited a massive firestorm when on Twitter she wrote: “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving, raping, genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.”

Anya’s deep anger is rooted in the displacement and deaths of family during the Biafra War (1967-70) and Britain’s role. She’s not alone in her searing condemnation of a monarchy that profited for centuries from the labor and lives of Black and brown people. It is estimated the Brits extracted $45 trillion from India, causing 4 million people to die when Britain shipped all the wheat produced in India to England. They inflicted violence and brutal repression trying to subdue the populace. 

In Kenya, in the 1950s, almost 1.5 million Kikuyus were held in concentrations camps and tens of thousands dies when they were tortured, starved and beaten – all because they sought to shake off the heavy yoke of British colonialism.   

Harvard Professor Maya Jasanoff said in a recent New York Times opinion piece that it’s appropriate to mourn Queen Elizabeth but also imperative for us not to whitewash the monarchy’s less-than-stellar history. I agree.

What is perhaps most galling is that they have tried to muddy their role in the global slave trade despite stealing more than 15 million Africans from Africa and dispersing them in the New World. They seek to disregard the long, nasty and brutish history of British colonialism – wrapped tightly in a web of violence, exploitation and theft of the nation’s wealth, resources and power. And in her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth has never seen fit or felt the need to offer formal apologies or reparations. A growing number of Caribbean and African nations are demanding recompense but it has fallen on deaf ears.

The queen’s death has only increased calls for the return of stolen artifacts, pilfered diamonds, remains, ceremonial objects and monetary compensation for centuries of slavery and exploitation.

Decency, humanity, accountability and the crown’s bloody legacy demand that the British make amends for their egregious centuries-long unlawful and immoral behavior. It’s long past time.

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1 Comment

  1. The passing of QEII is symbolic of a metaphysical shift in the relationship of Anglo people to African, Caribbean, and Indian people. The social media reaction caught many monarchy lovers off guard. That the monarchy supporters are surprised by the negative reaction to QEII is indicative of their acceptance of the whitewashing. Great, well-written article.

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