Image credit: “Abolish The Monarchy Melbourne/Naarm Rally” by matt hrkac is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
I came out of my racially segregated bubble to catch a train down to London to do some interviews about the legacies of colonialism and racism that will be on display during the coronation. As soon as you walk into New Street station there are pictures of the King and Camilla awkwardly smiling down at you. I’ve largely managed to avoid being triggered by the Union Jack but once I left the safety of the neighborhood I knew it couldn’t last.
Just imagining all the flags and bunting makes my stomach feel uneasy. I know it is just a symbol, but it is one that has been embraced by fascists and more often than not the nationalism that comes with flag waving is usually the kind that means we are not welcome. Britain has been steadily turning to the right, with Brexit, the most racist immigration policy in history, and appalling rhetoric from the government. The coronation is the icing on the cake as the nation politely slides into “national conservatism,” an anti-immigrant nation that bathes in colonial nostalgia.
The coronation will showcase the symbols of racism, from the crown jewels stolen from the former colonies and the constant celebration of the Commonwealth British Empire. In an effort to include the public the nation will be invited to “pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law.” We are assured this is voluntary but it is chilling to imagine that anyone thought this was a good idea. In the twenty-first century, we are meant to pledge to a monarch, whose only credentials are that he was born into wealth, Whiteness, and privilege. It definitely makes me want to swear, but not an oath of allegiance.
This reverence for the monarchy is also being brainwashed into our children. I jokingly posted on Twitter that I would keep my kids at home rather than subject them to “Kings and Queen” Day at school (there’s a bank holiday on Monday and I have four kids…I love them but we all need a break!). It may seem benign but the schools have a legal duty to teach so-called “British values” to children, and from my experience, this means celebrating the monarch whilst never talking about the evils of the British empire. These are dangerous ideas that are meant to maintain the racist status quo. The fact we just shrug our shoulders and accept the propaganda is the most worrying for the future.
Along with the symbolic racism, the coronation will display the authoritarian dimensions of national conservatism. The government’s response to the Black Lives Matter protests was to crack down on demonstrations and we will see the full force of the new powers, which come into law just in time for the coronation. Locking yourself to another person or anything else, or blocking transport, are now offenses that can land you in prison. The police also have the power to stop and search anyone they think may cause “disruption.” Given that the Met had to accept it is institutionally racist, sexist, and homophobic you might have thought someone in government would have thought twice about giving them more powers to stop and search. That has never led to any problems! Not known for their humility the Met have issued a warning to protesters that they have a low “tolerance” for any “disruption” and to deal “robustly” with anyone who wants to undermine the celebrations. If the country does fall into violent fascism over the next few years, we can’t say that we have not been warned.
King Charles’ role is now entirely symbolic, so in practical terms, the transition from his mother is meaningless apart from the vast sums of public money being spent on the coronation and changing the face of the money. But his terrible family and the coronation are the faces of the White supremacy and institutional racism that costs millions of lives each year. So ignore the colonial picnic at your peril, if we do not organize and resist we really will need God to save us from the King and the society he represents.