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I’m Black And British. The Royal Wedding Left Me Feeling Conflicted.

The complex history of race relations in England can’t be healed by one wedding alone.

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

I love a good royal wedding, but it’s not because I’m obsessed with the British monarchy.


Being of Ghanaian descent, I have questions about what it represents culturally and racially. While Ghana was once part of the British Empire, when my parents moved to the United Kingdom for work, they never got the sense that they or their children, one of whom was born in Britain, were fully accepted. So as you can imagine, my relationship with the U.K. often feels complicated.

I belong to two worlds: Africa and Britain. And sometimes, I feel stuck between them.

Despite this, royal weddings give me the “warm and fuzzies.” It’s because they allow Brits, who are famous for keeping a “stiff upper lip,” an opportunity to relax, celebrate – and even show off just a little bit. All this results in smiles — and even a feeling of unity.

I recall feeling this way as a kid as I watched my first royal wedding. It was when Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and then-Lady Diana Spencer got married. I recall the silence as they said their vows and the cheers reverberating in the apartments on the Ivybridge estate in Isleworth, West London, once they became man and wife.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]It was without a doubt one of the blackest royal weddings in history.[/quote]

While on a personal and community level, royal weddings have the power to unify, they can also feel exclusionary. Royal weddings are culturally specific to a British – rather – English tradition. Even the religion is specific to the region: the Church of England. While Catholics can marry in, they can’t ascend to the throne. People of a certain high class or lineage tend to marry into the royal family, so never in my lifetime did I think I’d see a person of color marry a Windsor.

The significance of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s union isn’t lost on me. I was moved. And watching it here in the United States made the experience all the more special — it was a nice reminder of home.

The ceremony didn’t disappoint, but the celebration of Markle’s blackness was surprising. Before her wedding, Markle emphasized her mixed identity, which appeared, to some, to downplay her blackness. This, in turn, begged the question: Was she trying to make herself more acceptable to white audiences?

That question was answered at her wedding ceremony.

Her guests included black royalty like Oprah, and her hymn choices included popular songs from the civil rights era like “This Little Light of Mine” and “Stand By Me.” All of this signaled a celebration of her blackness. While I’m extra happy the wedding ceremony celebrated her black heritage, it was — to be clear — a celebration of American blackness, which means it was a bit exotic to us Brits. Different, if you will, not too close to home, therefore, acceptable. Then she gave a nod to her new community — the black British community – by including performances by the local singers of the Kingdom Choir and the cellist from London, Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

And all of this delighted us.

It was without a doubt one of the blackest royal weddings in history.

Photo by Dominic Lipinski/WPA Pool/Getty Images.

Yet, I’m still skeptical, as the media ponders whether the royal family was finally being dragged into the 21st century. People want to know what this means for race relations in the United Kingdom. The apparent consensus from the media is that their marriage is a sign that Britain is more accepting of race than people previously thought.

This is where I become conflicted.

On one hand, I loved watching these two people who are so in love get married. I’m also happy to see Harry, who once used racial slurs against Pakistanis, grow into a man who will call out the press for using “racially tinged” comments about his (then) future wife.

These are all signs of progress to be sure. However, we shouldn’t let this wedding distract us into thinking that Britain is post-racial.

It isn’t.

Britain is still struggling with classism and racism. A few weeks before the royal wedding, the British government came under fire after black Britons of Caribbean descent — who were invited to come to Britain after World War II to help rebuild the nation — were incorrectly identified as illegal immigrants. Some of these people — who spent most of their lives in the U.K. and whose children were born there – were denied basic rights, like health care. Others were even deported.

This, while Brits of color continue to report that Brexit has contributed to what one U.N. representative described as “an environment of increased racial discrimination and intolerance.”

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to celebrate about modern Britain’s relationship with race or our brand of diversity. I am, however, hopeful that Markle, who showed us how to successfully bridge two worlds, might show us the way.

Articles

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

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"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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Politics

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

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Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

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The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health