An arrangement of UK daily newspapers photographed as an illustration in Brenchley, Kent on March 9, … [+]
A crisis can have far-reaching effects. A case in point are the international reactions and potential consequences of the allegations of racism in the royal family that were made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their recent interview with Oprah Winfrey.
As reported by the Associated Press,”In countries with historic ties to Britain, allegations by Prince Harry and Meghan that an unnamed member of the royal family had ‘concerns’ over how dark their unborn baby’s skin might be have raised a thorny question: Do those nations really want to be so closely connected to Britain and its royal family anymore?”
The news organization said, “It was expected the interview would expose more rifts in the royal family. Now it seems to be risking divisions within the ‘family’ of the Commonwealth — an association of 54 countries, most of them former British colonies, held together by historic ties. For decades, Queen Elizabeth II has been the driving force behind the Commonwealth.”
Forbes reported former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the royal couple’s comments in the interview “… bolstered his argument for Australia cutting its constitutional ties to the British monarchy, possibly reigniting the debate on Republicanism in Australia….”
Buckingham Palace issued a belated response to the interview on Tuesday that was criticized by some observers. But how the British monarchy will weather their latest public relations crisis remains to be seen.
Frank Spring, managing partner of coaching and training company Undaunted Ventures, observed that, “countries generally decide to leave or stay in the Commonwealth on the basis of questions about national identity, not the character of the monarch or the monarch’s family, but Harry and Meghan’s interview could change that in at least one case: Scotland.”
He said, “Early indications are that the interview further damaged Prince Charles’s already-low popularity across Britain. He is particularly unpopular in Scotland (where son, William, is more popular even than the well-liked Queen). Like a plurality of U.K. residents, Scots have repeatedly indicated that they would prefer William [to] succeed Queen Elizabeth (impossible, unless Charles abdicates).”
Spring predicted that, “If the next Scottish independence referendum takes place after Queen Elizabeth dies (which is highly possible), the Scots, who are evenly divided on independence at the moment, will make their decision while the U.K. is ruled by a monarch that a majority of them actively dislike.
“That could drive a small number of Scots away from the Union; it would certainly deprive the campaign against independence of a visible symbol of the value of remaining in the U.K. In a very close election, which the next Scottish referendum could very well be, that might make the difference. Charles needs all the popularity he can get, and the interview only damaged him more,” he observed.
“Given the racial awakening that the world has been experiencing it is fair to say that the Royals as an institution is the epitome of racism. So calling it out should not be a shock,’ said psychologist Charmain F. Jackman, the CEO of InnoPsych, Inc.
“I was born and raised in Barbados, a country that is still a constitutional monarchy and part of the Commonwealth. Our new Prime Minister, Mia Motley (the first woman PM), is working on removing the Queen as head of state. I think that countries will definitely be examining whether it is in their best interests to stay under the Commonwealth system, a system that upholds white supremacy.
Scott Sobel is senior vice president of crisis and litigation communication at kglobal, a public affairs and public relations firm. He said, “The allegations of racism in the royal family that aired during Oprah’s interview will absolutely be an awkward obstacle for current British political relationships of all kinds and especially between the U.K. and countries dominated by people of color.
“You don’t have to be a political science PhD to know that Britain’s and the British monarchy’s history of imperialism always has been an obstacle between the U.K. and its former subjects, especially former subjects of color,” he observed.
Sobel said, “Of course, the British royal family has largely a public relations role and is a figurehead but the allegations of racism leveled by Harry and Meghan are insulting and demeaning and very personal. Both the British government and the royals need to do much more than just deny those allegations.
“There must be personal outreach and probably some kind of tangible and/or charitable support to indicate good intentions – a blanket comment that the allegations are false isn’t enough, especially since those allegations come from the firsthand sources of Harry and Meghan,” he noted.
Sobel said, “Harry’s and Meghan’s break with the royal family and now a public airing of grievances also creates a rift of credibility and a red flag for monarchies everywhere. The Oprah interview sends a strong message that all monarchies should wonder if their own codes of silence among insiders is now a thing of the past?”
Christy Pichichero is a professor of history at George Mason University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She said,” The impact of the Oprah interview is unlikely to cause a political shockwave or mass departures from the Commonwealth. Are the allegations of colorism and racism in the British royal family dismaying and painful? Certainly. Are they shocking? Hardly.
She noted that, “For people of Commonwealth states in South Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, and elsewhere, the dark side of British colonialism—slavery, discrimination, cultural destruction, and worse—are part of their local and national history. Critiques of these crimes and their legacies are as old as the British empire itself.”
The interview’s impact, “… may be more significant in England where citizens of all backgrounds have been toppling statues of former slavers. If Buckingham investigations reveal racism or other forms of discrimination in the Institution, it will be exceedingly difficult for all British citizens to feel respected and properly represented by the royal family.”
Pichichero advised that, “Business leaders need to realize that even the slightest prejudicial remark or action is unacceptable in 2021 and is damaging to the company as a whole. Training on implicit bias, intercultural competency, and recruiting and working with diverse teams is an absolute necessity.
“Accountability measures must be in place to guarantee a discrimination-free workplace where people of all backgrounds can contribute and thrive. The leadership must not just verbalize, but actualize the principles of anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. These principles must form the foundations of company policy and become the fabric of everyday business,” she said.
A public relations crisis has the potential to damage the long-term reputation of a company or organization. On occasion, the crisis can also harm the public standing of those whose allegations precipitated the crisis. This royal family crisis appears to have both helped and hurt each side.
As reported by Forbes, “Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s popularity in the United Kingdom has fallen to a new low after the couple aired grievances about the royal family in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, a new YouGov poll found, but the reverse happened in the U.S., where a Morning Consult poll showed the couple’s primetime interview made Americans view the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in a far more favorable light.”
I’m the author of Crisis Ahead — 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey) which was rated one of best