Thursday, 12 February 2009

The ongoing saga of Prince Harry

So Prince Harry is now being sent on a diversity course. Well, its something I suppose. Given that he’s already been on a course when he joined the army, you have to wonder how effective this will be.
The real concern is that he needs a course in the first place. It is indicative of the privileged and segregated life he has led. His school did not have a lot of diversity, he has entered a profession where his colleagues are not exactly reflective of the country they serve and his social life of polo and Kensington nightclubs is not likely to bring him into contact with a highly diverse range of people.
Its not really his fault – his lifestyle and upbringing has meant that for him diversity has been something for other people and nothing to do with his lived experience. Courses can only teach a limited amount. No wonder he is now reported to have said to a black comedian "You don't sound like a black chap." He probably has hardly met someone from an ethnic minority background and his experience comes from the casual racism and ignorance of his social circle.
Segregation is not only a problem when we talk about the deprived ethnic minority communities in many of our urban centres.
Harry’s continued problems with these issues also raise the question of whether it is really appropriate for a family whose experiences are so far removed from the reality of Britain in twenty first century to continue to rule over it.


David T said...

"His school did not have a lot of diversity"

Come now!

Eton has always had a large number of Indian princes and the like.

Lewis Cooper said...

Firstly, I think it is stretching it quite a lot, David, to suggest that the presence of a few Indian princes represents any real diversity. I don’t think I need to elaborate on why this might be the case…

As was mentioned in a previous debate instigated by Sunder’s blog, ‘How do you solve a problem like Harry', Harry’s background seriously undermines his access to fair and equal life chances, including the fact that it is front-page news every time he has a ‘David Brent moment’.

His background of course represents injustices in the other direction, too. Aside from the obvious and indefensible privileges that his background offers, the punishment he is due to receive for his ‘Paki’ and ‘raghead’ comments seem to me to be unfairly lenient. Carol Thatcher lost her job for calling someone a ‘gollywog’; I am not sure that this is so much more racist, nor that her defence that it was meant as a joke is any weaker than Harry’s.

However, I very much agree with you, Nick, that the real issue highlighted in Harry’s series of 'gaffs' (or jokes?!) is the extent to which sectors of society can be so detached from any sense of (our, or my) reality. And aside from the existence of a royal family, public schools- and to a perhaps lesser extent private and religious schools also- generally serve to fragment and segregate our society, such that Harry has managed to live 25 years without realising that ‘black chaps’ do not all speak with the same voice.

As Stuart White has discussed in his recent exposition of republicanism on nextleft, abolition of the royal family can be seen as a fairly incidental cause within wider demands for a fairer society. While Harry is certainly chipping away at any creditability our royal family possess, he is more significantly reminding any of us who had forgotten of the enormous structural divisions that cut across our society. So I’m sorry to labour the argument for the abolition of private schools, but I do feel that for as long as we have ‘Etonians’, we will also have ‘ragheads’ and ‘gollywogs’.