Note from BW of Brazil: So, one of the big news items of recent days has been the birth of the first child of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Perfect timing, I would say. I say this because it’s been almost exactly year since the couple married under the same media hype. It’s also been a year since I put together an opinion piece on that spectacle, the hoopla and a historical perspective. I never got around to publishing it, so this coming of the royal baby actually presents the perfect opportunity to release the same piece I filed in the archives nearly one year ago. What’s cool here is that I don’t really need to alter anything accept this current introduction.
First, in keeping with the original order of last year’s file, I will start first with a piece by Afro-Brazilian leader Douglas Belchior posted around that same time.
Did you feel represented at the wedding of the British royal family?
Posted on May 21, 2018
By Douglas Belchior
The British royal family has not had definitive political power for some time. But its symbolism and tradition are expensive to the British and must be expensive to the rest of the world as well. Especially the descendants of Africans, and especially in countries that are victims of colonization around the world. The groom’s family has a tradition of about a thousand years. It went through, therefore, the before, during and after the almost four centuries of mercantile slavery, which devastated Africa and ravaged the so-called novo mundo (new world).
Trafficking in enslaved people has spread this period and victimized, at the minimum, 12 million African human beings. The wealth generated by slavery brought to England the primitive accumulation of sufficient capital to the advent of the first Industrial Revolution and maintained the country as the great world power in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. That’s right, the blood of the birth of world capitalism is of enslaved Africans, natives and their descendants.
Throughout the twentieth century, England maintained violent colonization in dozens of countries in Africa and other continents, promoted apartheid in South Africa and led, alongside the US, the advance of world capitalism in its neoliberal format through Margaret Thatcher, in the 1970s and 80s, always with the honors of the Crown. Today the royal family still holds, in addition to government/state funding, land and business assets in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and an immense undisclosed fortune.
All the glamor, the elegance and richness of the wedding of the lovebirds, has this origin there … got it?
It’s even beautiful seeing a neo-afro-princess smiling on the screen, a super stylish and thrilled black mother, a super-tuned black choir and a nice black pastor quoting Martin Luther King. But celebrating a royal marriage in an imperialist, colonial, and slav-o-crat country as a gain for the comunidade negra (black community) or the povo negro (black people), it is not. Please! It is worrying the adhesion, especially by the black masses, to the growing discourse of valuing an empty representation of meaning, legitimacy and concern with the collectivity, increasingly liberal and individualistic. Could it be that we didn’t show up right there in the usual place? Serving, caring, singing, praying and beautifying their lives?
Is this the representation we need to feed?
Is there a reason for black people to celebrate the Royal Wedding? Let’s see what history tells us
Note: Just a reminder. I wrote the piece below last year and never ended up publishing it. As such, the material can simply substitute the topic of the Royal Wedding with the recent birth of the couple’s first child almost exactly one year later. As the subject remains the British Empire and the couple in the headlines, there was no neeed to edit the text.
Archived on May 24, 2018, previously unpublished
Courtesy of BW of Brazil
So, obviously the big news of the past few days has been the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It was pretty difficult to miss. I hadn’t really been following the hype but when I went upstairs and turned on my television on Saturday morning, Globo TV, as well as Record TV were broadcasting the ceremony live. This was the third time in my memory that I can remember turning on the television and seeing something about the British Royal Family. The first was on July 29, 1981, and the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. The second was on Saturday, September 6th, 1997, when I saw bits and pieces of Princess Diana’s funeral. The funny thing about these three events is that they represent three distinct phases of my understanding of the world.
In 1981, as a child, I was simply too young to understand the meaning of the Charles-Diana wedding, but I did know that this was a powerful, dynastic family which explained the reason why this union was being broadcast in the US and the rest of the world. I remember thinking about how much money this family must have but only being introduced to a bit of history at that point, I had no idea how they had amassed such a fortune.
By 1997, with the death (murder?) of Princess Diana, I was beginning to question the history of the world that I had been taught by that time to the extent that I knew something about Diana’s death just didn’t add up. I hadn’t yet begun to put together pieces outside of the mainstream media’s narrative of her death, but I was slowly getting there. And now, 21 years later, with a broader understanding, I am now disgusted at the way in which the world is taught to worship this family.
Of course, as the Royal Family’s “dirty little secrets” are purposely kept out of the public eye, I can see how the world, myself included have/had been deceived for so long. Keeping in mind my own manipulation by history books and the media, I don’t fault the world with being in awe of the spectacle that was the Harry/Meghan wedding. But, being the person that I am today, I have to say, I wasn’t going to waste more than the 15 minutes I devoted to watching the ceremony. The deception was just too revolting. I mean what better way to keep masses of black folks worldwide duped than to present a black choir, a black pastor making a reference to Martin Luther King and a solo by black cellist? All of this on top a black bride.
The symbolism, hope and aspiration here was nearly as big as Barack Obama’s inauguration as US President in 2009. But again, the deception meter rose perhaps just as high. I mean, a black woman being a part of the family that most represents European power, prestige, wealth and dominance. How could you possibly hate on that? Well, before I try to break it down, just let me say, what you may call hate, I simply call history.
I mean, can anyone give me a reason why any black person around the world should be celebrating this wedding? I mean, because of this wedding, are we supposed to just forget that “the British have invaded 90% of the world’s countries”? Are we supposed to forget that between 1815 and 1914, it is estimated that about 13 million square miles, almost 25% of the earth and more than 400 million people, again, between 20- 25% of the global population at the time, were under British control?
If that doesn’t make you pause for a moment, how about considering the massive wealth of the British monarchy that is estimated to be about $35 billion. “Well, why hate on another family’s wealth?”, some clueless slob may ponder, but besides the global poverty that affects billions of people, has anyone ever stopped to question what the Royal Family’s wealth may have to do with black people? It’s called slavery, my dear, SLAVERY, which led to vast amounts of wealth as well as the Industrial Revolution.
Just consider that Britain’s Royal Family sat upon an empire that exploited hundreds of millions in Africa, India and other parts of the world. With Britain dominating the international trade of Africans, during the period of colonization it raped, pillaged and plundered numerous African nations to the degree that by the start of World War I, the two main colonial powers, Britain and France actively controlled 45% of the African continent.
And what happened when slavery came to an end? Did the Royal Family or the British do anything to compensate Africa and its descendants for presiding over centuries of murder, rape, free labor, psychological terrorism and misery? No, but it DID pay 46,000 slave owners an equivalent of US$23 billion in compensation.
Dr. Robert Beckford, a British academic theologian, tells us that Britain owes the Caribbean a total of US$10.1 trillion, including an estimated US$5.4 trillion it stole from the region in unpaid labor, US$3.4 trillion in unjust enrichment to the British economy, and another US$1.3 trillion in pain and suffering. Further still, records from the National Archives reveals that between the mid-17th century and the first decade of the 19th century, Great Britain shipped more than 3 million Africans to its Caribbean colonies, North and South America as well as other countries. Of that total, at least 300,000 didn’t survive.
But surely British actions weren’t all bad, right? I remember a long-time friend often pointing out the fact that it was the British that led the movement for the abolition of the institution of slavery. He would often say, “Remember, without the British, we could still be slaves now.” Well, let’s analyze this. Did the British lead the charge to abolish slavery because they realized the inhumane practice that it was, or did they feel sorry for Africans, or recognize how the practice reduced human beings to objects?
Naw, I doubt any of this.
The fact is, the British took the lead in the anti-slavery movement because, as leaders of the industrial age and what would become modern capitalism, their industry needed international markets that had more purchasing power, which would make them for wage labor. Thus, once one of the leaders in the enslavement industry, the British would then begin to attack nations still practicing slavery.
Britain’s economic and military dominance of the 19th century affected Brazil in numerous ways. Slavery in Brazil wasn’t a factor that lead to a civil war as it had in the US, because anti-slavery forces on Brazil were the British, upon whom the nation’s colonizers, the Portuguese had become dependent for protection and economic support. In the early 1830s, the British Royal Navy commanding the Atlantic Ocean, which carried slave ships to Brazil, would intercept these ships, liberate slaves and even burn ships of slave traders.
In this period, with slavery being the foundation of Brazil’s economy, Britain’s pressure to abolish the institution would have devastated the nation financially. But instead of heeding to British demands, Brazilian elites found back channels to import still another one million slaves. In 1854, the slave trade was officially abolished although slavery itself continued in Brazil, leading to the popular phrase “para inglês ver”, meaning, “for the English to see”. In other words, while the Brazilians declared that they were on the path to abolishing slavery, all the while the the regime continued until 1888, when Brazil became the last nation in the New World to liberate all of their slaves.
But that wasn’t the only manner in which Britain had influence over Brazil. With political independence, Brazil, like other Latin American countries became increasingly dependent on Great Britain economically. In fact, Brazil’s independence would eventually mean that it would, for intents and purposes, become a colony of Great Britain. As E. Bradford Burns put it:
“Brazil fell at once under the economic control of Great Britain from whom the Brazilians bought most of their manufactured goods, but to whom they sold only secondary amounts of their exports, a situation which would prevail for 100 years.”
Historian Emilia Viotti da Costa saw it in similar terms, revealing that: “Brazil as an independent nation would continue to have a colonial economy, but would pass from dependence on Portugal to dependence on Great Britain.”
Another Brazil-British connection would come with the discovery of gold deposits in the state of Minas Gerais in the country’s southeast in the late 17th century. With the British extending its economic activities in Brazil, it wouldn’t be long before the growing empire would get in on the gold rush, channeling the precious metal to London by licit as well as illicit means.
Facilitated by the 1703 Methuen Treaty, a military/commercial treaty signed between England and Portugal, as much as half to three quarters of Brazilian gold would eventually end up in England and lead to the industrialization of England as well as and the opening of the Brazilian market to England.
On the relationship between Brazil and England, Eduardo Galeano tells us that “throughout the 18th century, Brazil’s economy had been orchestrated into the British symphony as imperial supplier of gold.” On the flip side, as its fortunes were in decline, Portugal would actually end up paying its debts to England with the gold discovered in Brazil.
By 1830, the British-controlled Saint John d’El Rey Mining Company opened the largest gold mine in Latin America in the state of Minas Gerais. And lest we forget, who is it that was doing the brutal work of mining this gold? Well, although the British did employ skilled miners from Cornwall, England, it also employed the services of black slaves. Huh? So, let’s get this straight. The same British who were intercepting the transport of slaves on the high seas in 1830s, had no problem using slave labor in their mines in Brazil. What’s going here? I’ll let Matt Child give us a brief summary:
“In 1845 the British-owned St. John d’el Rey Mining Company operating in the Brazilian province of Minas Gerais, reached an agreement with the recently liquidated Cata Branca Brazilian company to rent 385 slaves for fourteen years. The contract signed in London detailing the transaction specified that ‘all of the said Negroes. . . shall at the end of the said term of fourteen years be and become absolutely free and emancipated.’ But in 1859, after fourteen years of service, the St. John d’el Rey Mining Company (hereafter St. John) did not grant the Cata Branca slaves their duly entitled freedom. The breach of the contract and the illegal enslavement of over three hundred individuals went unnoticed for nearly twenty years.”
So, tell me again, why are we celebrating the British Royal Wedding? But wait, we haven’t even looked at how the marriage of Harry and Meghan plays out in a Brazil that has always dreamed of being a white nation.
As I’ve referred to in numerous previous articles, in the 19th century, Brazil’s elites promoted the idea of whitening a majority black country through massive European immigration as well as a eugenics project that would induce the black population into self-annihilation through successive unions between darker-skinned people and whiter-skinned people, which, after 2-3 generations of mixture would eventually lead to whiter children and eventually erase the “black stain” that slavery had left on the nation.
This dream was idealized in the famous Redenção de Cam (Redemption of Ham) painting of 1895. I mean let’s face it; whether you accept Meghan Markle as a black or mixed, one thing is for sure: she is a very fair-skinned woman who will most definitely produce a very white-skinned child, just like in the painting. It is a reality that plays out in Brazil every day. Seriously, the Royal Family would never condone a wedding with a black woman that looks like Pinah, the black passista (Carnaval dancer) that danced with Harry’s father, Prince Charles on his 1978 visit to Brazil. The possibility of a baby with darker skin being born would be too great.
While untold millions of black people no doubt tuned into the Royal Wedding and got swept away by the hype, opulence and deception, viewing this from Brazil, I saw it from another angle: the Royal Wedding certainly fed the dreams of millions of light-to dark-skinned Brazilian women of African descent who dream of being swept away by their charming (rich, white) Prince. In short, the wedding of Harry and Meghan was perhaps more powerful as a promotion of embranquecimento (whitening the dark skin through miscegenation) than 100 Globo TV novelas, in which (it seems) about 90% of the few black characters featured are paired with white partners.
The promotion of whitening blackness through miscegenation is so obvious at Globo TV that, I would venture to say, any black actress who has been featured in at least five Globo TV novelas has had far more white romantic partners on these soap operas than black. After all, Globo contracts actors based purely on talent and availability, right?
So again, we’re celebrating what? I would say an event that rivals perhaps the election/inauguration of Barack Obama as US President in 2008/2009 in terms of manipulation of the black mind. I’ve read how so many black women are celebrating this union as some sort of breakthrough for race relations and the falling of racial barriers. After all, a black woman is marrying into the most celebrated family on earth. But there are certain facts here that people just apparently black out in order to not disturb their dream.
- Meghan Markel’s marriage, like Barack Obama’s presidency, does NOTHING to change the daily reality of black people in their respective countries. It’s not going to stop black youth from being gunned down whether they’re in Rio or California.
- Markle is entering into an entity (the Royal Family) (like Obama in the US gov’t) in which she will have no power and will simply be used as a showpiece and a puppet.
- Markle, like Obama, will not change the centuries long stereotyping and disdain of Africa’s descendants. Simply because the power structure accepts one black person certainly doesn’t mean they change their position on the black masses.
- Markle, like Obama, is not the darkest crayon in the box, and even if one were to deceive themselves into believing this union is some sort of advance in race relations, note how often times when there’s this sort celebration of “racial advances”, the chosen person is often less visibly black.
- Of course, your mainstream media will never tell you this, but if I were Meghan, I would definitely watch my step. Remember Princess Diana? You know, the one that, even with massive attempts of mainstream media sources attempting to paint other narratives of her death as mere “conspiracy theory” but 38% of Brits still believe her death “was not an accident”. I know, I know, let’s not go down conspiracy road here, but….how many of you happened to notice the floor in the wedding photo at the top of this post? Some of you know the deal, for those who don’t, ask somebody.
It’s for all of these reasons that you’ll have to excuse me for not getting excited about the latest edition to the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha/Windsor clan. The wealth and prestige accumulated by this family has a lot to do with the overall social conditions of my community to this day. And neither the Royal Wedding or the birth of their latest beneficiary will do nothing to change that.
Source: Douglas Belchior/Carta Capital, The Grio, Jamaica Observer, African Resource, Algarve History Association, Stephen Haber and Herberts S. Klein. “The Economic Consequences of Brazilian Independence” in How Latin America Fell Behind: Essays on the Economic Histories of Brazil and Mexico, 1800-1914. Edited by Stephen Haber. Stanford University Press, 1997. Galeano, Eduardo. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. 1997 Monthly Review Press. December Green and Laura Luehrmann. Contentious Politics in Brazil and China: Beyond Regime. Westview Press, 2016. Matt D. Childs. ‘A Case of “Great Unstableness”: A British Slaveholder and Brazilian Abolition, The Historian, 60 (1998).