The Crown Has No Place In The Caribbean — No Matter What Netflix Shows Me
COMMENTARY If a royal racism scandal in the Old World reminds us of anything, it's that even figurehead monarchy should be anathema to the New World.
I’m more convinced than ever now that The Crown has no place in The Caribbean. Not even Netflix can change that.
Like millions during this godforsaken pandemic, I’ve watched enough of the streaming service to make me wonder if I miss “Derry Girls” more than I do my own grown children. And I’ve slurped the four seasons of “The Crown” like so many bottles of Cabernet — or claret, as the Brits would say.
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A big caveat about “The Crown” is that its story lines require as much fact-checking as a Donald Trump tweet. But one twist the writers didn’t fabricate was Queen Elizabeth II’s solidarity with the British Commonwealth countries — many of which she reigns over and most of whose leaders are Black or non-White — to help end apartheid in South Africa.
So kudos to the Queen. And I took that into account as I pondered the accusations of racism that’ve been added to the royal family’s haunted house of dysfunction after Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah this week.
Still, I have to say this about the royal couple’s very believable charge that Buckingham Palace was wringing its silk-gloved hands over the hue of their mixed-race child: it’s only strengthened my belief that Commonwealth countries that still recognize Her Highness as their head of state – at least the 10 in the Western Hemisphere – should ditch her.
Monday, the day after the Oprah “bombshell,” was Commonwealth Day. I’m sure a lot of folks in the 54 Commonwealth nations, including Canada and many in the Caribbean, sang “God Save the Queen.” But I’m just as sure a lot of them groaned, “God, why do we still have a queen?” Not just due to the Harry-and-Meghan tell-all, but because of simmering, 21st-century sentiment in those former British territories that commonwealth is just a more polite word for colonialism.
A fundamental precept of the New World is our rejection of Old World aristocracy — meaning, a royal head of state in Europe has no business being a commonwealth head of state in the Americas.
That shadow is one big reason Barbados, a Commonwealth member widely considered the most British of Caribbean islands, announced in September that it’s replacing Elizabeth with “a Barbadian head of state.”
“The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” Barbados Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason said. The island, she pledged, will be a republic by the time it celebrates the 55th anniversary of its independence from Britain in November.
Dominica went queen-less in 1966; Guyana in 1970; Trinidad and Tobago in 1976. Jamaica and a few other Caribbean-under-the-Crown nations are now strongly considering it. I hope they do cut the crown cord, for reasons both practical and principled.
After covering the Caribbean for more than 20 years, I’m still racking my brain to figure out what lofty benefits these small island nations derive from having a Windsor’s tiara-ed portrait on their dollar notes. Or did I miss the Queen’s announcement last month that she’s leading a drive to donate COVID-19 vaccine doses to her Caribbean subjects? Oh, wait, that was India – a former British colony schooling the British monarchy in how to help its former colonies.
The bottom line is that these countries don’t need the Queen – and that jettisoning her could and likely would have a psychologically liberating effect on their democracies. It would be a “statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving,” as Mason asserted, and a definitive divorce from the legacy of slave-trading overlordship that first made the West Indies barnacled to England 400 years ago.
If Harry and Meghan’s allegations of royal racism are a reminder of that, so be it. But White, non-Caribbean denizens of the Western Hemisphere also have a stake in this.
The anachronistic idea of monarchy – even the figurehead brand that’s pasted on Commonwealth states – should be anathema to the New World. A fundamental precept of the Americas is our rejection of Old World aristocracy, of the acridly unjust notion that birth defines worth. Another is sovereignty: a head of state across the Atlantic has no business being a head of state here.
The fact that one still is in the Caribbean – the New World nexus – and in Canada seems very wrong.
So, especially after the Harry-and-Meghan scandal, I hope Netflix’s “The Crown” devotes a plot line to that very point in Season 5. I’ve got a bottle of claret waiting.