Meghan Markle’s guest-edited issue of British Vogue is the gift that keeps on giving! Today we learned that the issue also includes an interview between Jane Goodall and Prince Harry, in which Harry seemingly responds to racist reactions to wife Meghan. The full interview has not yet been released, but snippets published earlier today reveal Harry explaining how unconscious bias works and how racist points of view emerge. The subject matter may be in part for Goodall’s benefit — as an anthropologist, she’s certainly keyed into the evolution of human behavior. But given the intense media critique Meghan has suffered as the first biracial member of the royal family, it stands to reason that this particular topic has personal resonance for Harry too.
Published today in The Telegraph, Harry argues that racist behavior isn’t innate, but instead learned. “Stigma is handed down from generation to generation, your perspective on the world and on life and on people is something that is taught to you,” he argues. Goodall agrees: “Especially if you get little kids together, there’s no difference! They don’t notice, ‘my skin’s white, mine’s black’ until somebody tells them.”
The fact that this perspective is taught can be difficult to grasp, Harry contends — and too few people seem aware that their perspectives have potential to be unlearned, too. Responding to a comment of Goodall’s about instinct, Harry replies: “It’s the same as unconscious bias — something which so many people don’t understand, why they feel the way they do.”
Prince Harry warns about dangers of 'unconscious racism' in candid interview for Duchess of Sussex's Vogue https://t.co/YPftpj9eof
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) July 30, 2019
“If you go up to someone and say ‘what you’ve just said, or the way you’ve behaved, is racist’ — they’ll turn around and say, ‘I’m not a racist,’ Harry continues. “I’m not saying you’re a racist, I’m just saying that your unconscious bias is proving that because of the way that you’ve been brought up, the environment you’ve been brought up in, suggests that you have this point of view — unconscious point of view — where naturally you will look at someone in a different way. And that is the point at which people start to have to understand.”
We have to say, we’re loving woke Harry here. It’s true that people don’t take kindly to being labeled racist at all — often, to the point that a productive discussion about issues like unconscious bias can be cast aside as the perceived criticism becomes too much to bear. And yet there is no question that racist attitudes and racist commentary persist, particularly when it comes to media coverage of Meghan Markle. Harry is smart to make this distinction between what’s learned and what’s innate. We only hope that the UK media and public are able thoughtfully process what he’s saying, and perhaps investigate their own unconscious biases in turn.