Just over 80 years ago Buckingham Palace was bombed by the Luftwaffe, leading the Queen Mother to famously say they could now “look the East End in the face”.
By this she meant that she and King George had shared some of the hardship faced by the poorest Britons, and it was indeed a moment of social solidarity.
Today, her great-grandson Prince Harry is back in the news cycle, yet again, telling “white people” about their privilege and the structural advantages they enjoy.
It’s part of Harry and Meghan’s campaign to end structural racism and inequality of outcomes, and it comes with an Evening Standard editorial that includes the six most terrifying, and at the same time most anodyne, words in the English language: “there is still more to do.”
There will always be more to do, because equality of outcomes is as unachievable between groups as it is between individuals. Various regimes in the past have tried, and the results were not entirely successful.
Of course campaigning for equality between groups involves far fewer sacrifices than equality between individuals; if you’re a wealthy white man, you’re not going to have a detachment of Red Guards turn up at your house pointing guns at you.
Indeed it doesn’t even matter if inequality within groups increases, as has been the case. Moreover, in the US the biggest losers with affirmative action are Asians and rural, lower-class whites, not the children of the elite.
The battle against “structural racism” is popular partly because it is so nakedly about class interests. It’s almost amusing to read absurdly advantaged Ivy League students lecture their fellow Americans about “white privilege”, as if that privilege was evenly spread among 70% of the population and not concentrated among a tiny few.
For non-white members of the elite this provides even greater cover, even when they’re from groups that are statistically far richer than whites.
It’s not just that it’s in the interests of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to focus on “young people of colour who do not start their lives with the same equality of opportunity as their white peers”, rather than class — their beliefs almost defines them as a class.
All aristocracies must encourage an ideology or set of myths to justify their position, human resentment being what it is. Historically it has usually been lineage or religion, so that in the early medieval period a hugely disproportionate number of saints came from aristocratic families, doing good work but also adding some moral stardust to their clans.
But today, since no one wants to accept that people rise to the top through brute ambition and ruthless intelligence, let alone because of something so unjust as “royalty”, people need some moral justification for why they are there.
The problem is that it really grates to be lectured to by the privileged, and people like the Sussexes seem completely unaware of this. His intentions are surely noble, but the son of the Prince of Wales telling “white people” about their advantages is so absurd as to be beyond satire — and it’s hardly looking the East End in the face is it?