“I wouldn’t. Not having lived within that family."
In Prince Harry’s tell-all interview, he addressed how he believes the Royal Family is not racist, but rather has an ‘unconscious bias’.
During the interview with Tom Bradby on ITV, the royal discussed many different aspects of his life, including his relationship with his family and his sit-down interview alongside his wife, Meghan Markle, and Oprah Winfrey in March 2021.
At the time, Meghan addressed the concerns of her then-unborn child after her and Harry’s exit from royal duties and service.
She said: “In those months when I was pregnant… we have in tandem the conversation of, ‘He won’t be given security. He’s not going to be given a title’ and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”
Despite the obvious racist connotations, Harry rejected the idea that he and Meghan accused the Royal Family of racism.
When asked if he would describe the comment as “essentially racist”, Harry said:
“I wouldn’t. Not having lived within that family.
“Going back to the difference between what my understanding is, because of my own experience, the difference between racism and unconscious bias – the two things are different.
“But once it’s been acknowledged or pointed out to you as an individual or as an institution, that you have unconscious bias, you, therefore, have an opportunity to learn and grow from that in order so that you are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
“Otherwise unconscious bias then moves into the category of racism.”
The reaction to Harry differentiating racism and unconscious bias as two different concepts has had a controversial reaction from the public.
Making the differentiation between racism and unconscious bias is an unexpected turn of events from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
From Meghan’s initial introduction to the UK tabloids targeting her racial background, financial motives and previous career experiences, the public almost expected Prince Harry to reveal the darkest problems within the royal institution.
After making several attempts to correct and publicly acknowledge the wrongdoings of his family – Harry is certain that racism is not part of the conversation.
But is his idea of ‘unconscious bias’ racist?
Unconscious Bias & Racism
Unconscious bias is a byproduct of racism.
Ashleigh Ainsley, the co-founder of ColorinTech, a not-for-profit tackling discrimination within the technology industry, explains the meaning of unconscious bias.
As suggested in the wording, unconscious bias is actions you make that you are unaware of.
According to Ashleigh, unconscious bias means:
“Where you are not necessarily consciously making a decision based on somebody’s predetermined characteristics.”
This differs from conscious bias, which is:
“Conscious bias is when you are doing or saying something and using your predisposed opinions, thoughts, ideas or judgements about somebody, based on a characteristic they have – to largely discriminate against them, or to make a judgement in favour of one thing without being balanced or fair or proportionate.
“Where it’s very obvious, you can see it, you can challenge it, and you can call it out. [If] somebody is being sexist, homophobic or racist, you can say, you’re saying that, or that is happening…
“When it’s unconscious, it can often be harder to spot, harder to identify, harder to produce accountability for.
“And actually, that means it’s a bit more pervasive, and people can get away with doing it.”
Prince Harry has positioned the Royal Family as an institution which needs to learn and educate itself about its unconscious bias, as opposed to being racist.
Whilst Harry has given grace to his family members in attempts to reconcile – the two concepts cannot be separated.
Journalist Jason Okundaye shared his opinion on Twitter:
“Negatively speculating on the skin tone of an unborn child is not ‘unconscious bias’, unconscious to who?”
“That is someone actively and consciously freaking out about skin colour.”
By attempting to separate racism and unconscious bias, it is arguably trying to minimise the remarks made by the Royal Family, the racist connotations this has had and also the history of royal involvement in British imperialism.
When holding the Royal Family accountable, Prince Harry does not address the long-held question of racism in the British Royal institution.
In Harry’s case, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry chose to share the comment about their child’s skin tone with the world, so attempting to backtrack and remove racism from the conversation has caused confusion.
Many people shared their opinion of Harry’s clarification with the media, who highlighted the contradiction with Harry’s comment.
In another tweet, Jason Okundaye said:
“This is the issue with Harry: cakeism.
“He wants to condemn his family members so they can ‘grow’, but only wants to call it ‘unconscious bias’ because calling it racism requires him to unravel the institution of monarchy itself #HarryTheInterview.”
This is the issue with Harry: cakeism. He wants to condemn his family members so they can “grow”, but only wants to call it “unconscious bias” because calling it racism requires him to unravel the institution of monarchy itself #HarryTheInterview
— Jason Okundaye (@jasebyjason) January 8, 2023
Some members of the public have said that Harry’s bid to protect the Royal Family from the ‘racist’ label is because he still loves them.
One person said: “You can tell Harry still loves his family.
“He wants to believe they aren’t completely ‘evil’ so he’s calling racism unconscious bias, but unconscious bias is just an umbrella term in my opinion.”
With his public statement that the Royal Family are not racist, Prince Harry himself has had a past including racist remarks and tendencies.
In 2009, whilst on military duty, Prince Harry was heard making a mock commentary.
While zooming onto the face of an Asian officer cadet who was waiting at an airport to fly to Cyprus, Harry was heard saying:
“Anyone else here… our little Paki friend… Ahmed.”
The word “Paki” is derogatory slang for an immigrant or descendant of an immigrant from Pakistan or South Asia.
In another video, Harry was heard telling another officer who was wearing a camouflage veil during a night manoeuvre in Cyprus.
He said: “You look like a raghead.”
It can be assumed that Prince Harry has now grown from his past.
In many instances, Prince Harry has shown the world that he has different morals and values compared to the Royal Family.
However, this difference isn’t stark enough to completely address the negative racist bias within the royal institution.
Despite the difficulties Harry has experienced being the dark horse within the royals, the attempt to divert racism as unconscious bias can be described as racism itself.