Leeds university's diversity and equality professor reacts to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle interview

A Leeds university professor says there is still 'much work to be done' to tackle racism in society following Harry and Meghan's explosive Oprah interview.

By Lisa Wong
Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 6:00 am
Professor Emeritus Kevin Hylton, Chair of the Sheffield Race Equality Commission, and Professor of equality and diversity at Leeds Beckett University.
Professor Emeritus Kevin Hylton, Chair of the Sheffield Race Equality Commission, and Professor of equality and diversity at Leeds Beckett University.

Kevin Hylton, Emeritus Professor of equality and diversity at Leeds Beckett University, raised concerns that racism and elitism was still very much at large following the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's television interview, broadcast on ITV1 last night.

The couple hit out at the institution and members of the royal family in a series of astonishing admissions during their candid talk with Oprah.

And they told the TV star that member of the royal family - who both Harry and Meghan refused to identify - was worried about how dark their son Archie's skin tone might be before he was born.

Meghan said there had been "concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he is born".

Oprah later said the Duke of Sussex told her it was not the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh who had made the racist comment.

Prof Hylton is leading an inquiry into racial disparities in Sheffield, which hopes to create change in the city.

He said: “The interview that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle contributed to, with Oprah Winfrey on CBS, is one of the few times that as a society, many will be able to conceive how the intersections of ‘race’, gender and class merge to successively marginalise women of colour.

“For women, each of these aspects of their identity are not lived or bolted on separately, they can be experienced as double or triple burdens. So, when racism is being discussed by the Duchess of Sussex it is from her perspective as a woman with a certain class biography. It is similar but different to other stories of racism.

"Race is the subtle but stunning catalyst for the derogation of the Duchess and her family.”

Prof Hylton said that people needed to be aware of subtle forms of racism as well as those which are more obvious.

“I emphasise here that we must be alive to insidious and multifaceted systemic, subtle as well as overt forms of racism as they impact all citizens."

Speaking on Monday, Prof Hylton, who is also Emeritus Professor of Equality and Diversity in Sport, Leisure and Education at Leeds Beckett, said: “On this day of the United Nations’ International Women’s Day, it is clear from the interview with Meghan and Harry that much work is yet to be done to diminish the power of patriarchy, racism and elitism in society.”

During the interview, the duchess revealed that working for The Firm - as the royal family is sometimes known - ultimately left her feeling that ending her life was an option, and how she had not been protected by the monarchy.

Asked explicitly by Winfrey if she was thinking of self-harm and having suicidal thoughts at some stage, Meghan replied: "Yes. This was very, very clear.

"Very clear and very scary. I didn't know who to turn to in that."

Harry suggested his family were jealous of Meghan's popularity with the public - just as the appeal of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, had reportedly been seen as a threat.

And he said he has become estranged from his father, the Prince of Wales, saying: "I feel really let down," but added that he would make it one of his priorities "to try and heal that relationship".

Following the revelations, the Labour Party has said any allegations of racism should be investigated by Buckingham Palace.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said claims by the American duchess, the first mixed-race person to marry a British senior royal in modern history, were "really distressing, shocking".

"And if there are allegations of racism, I would expect them to be treated by the palace with the utmost seriousness and fully investigated," she told Sky News.

During the couple's candid interview, a stunned Winfrey asked of the comments on Archie's skin tone: "What? Who is having that conversation?"

Meghan paused and said there were "several conversations" with Harry about Archie's skin tone, and "what that would mean or look like".

Asked whether there were concerns that her child would be "too brown" and that would be a problem, Meghan said: "If that is the assumption you are making, that is a pretty safe one."

Pushed by Winfrey on who had those conversations, Meghan refused to say, adding: "I think that would be very damaging to them."

Harry refused to give further details, adding: "That conversation, I am never going to share. At the time it was awkward, I was a bit shocked."

Asked if the palace should respond to the claims, Ms Green told Sky News: "I'm sure that the palace will be thinking very carefully about that and I certainly think people will be wondering what is going to be said.

"There is never any excuse in any circumstances for racism and I think it is important that action is taken to investigate what are really shocking allegations."