Alexander: Stop Policing POC Reactions to Queen Elizabeth’s Death


By CJ Alexander, Special Projects Managing Editor


British monarch Queen Elizabeth II passed away last week at the age of 96, and her death has been met with mixed reactions. While the UK and world leaders mourn her, other groups — particularly people of color and those whose nations fell victim to British colonization — rejoice in her passing.

Some reactions have been extreme. One Carnegie Mellon professor wished the Queen an “excruciating” death hours before she died, and Irish soccer fans mocked the announcement with a cruel chant. Black Twitter wasted no time at all sharing memes, and Instagram pages dedicated to Indigenous and minority voices refused to honor her, instead condemning the monarchy.

Considering the history and devastating impacts of British colonization, we shouldn’t police BIPOC reactions to the Queen’s death. If anything, they address what our history books don’t.

History of the Monarchy

The British Empire’s colonial conquests were incredibly far-reaching and lasted for centuries. Sixty-five countries were born from British rule, and some are still fighting. Most African countries didn’t gain independence until the 1950s and 60s, and for Zimbabwe, 1980. Belize only gained independence in 1981, and in 1997, the UK handed Hong Kong over to the Republic of China following a 152-year occupation.

During their reign, Britain committed terrible atrocities that continued well into the 20th century. In 1943, India suffered a devastating famine, and instead of feeding the millions dying of starvation, the British exported India’s food supply to troops in the Mediterranean. In 1952, the British forcibly removed, tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of Kenyans to squash a political revolt, and hid this fact through fake official documents. From 1948 to 1960, the British waged a war in Malaya (now Malaysia) where they set fire to homes and farmland, moved 400,000 people to concentration camps and sprayed Agent Orange on food crops to starve the country. And in 2015, British planes and bombs spearheaded the indiscriminate killing of nearly 100,000 people in Yemen, which added to their previous kill-count of 200,000 from the 1960s.

Even if downsizing efforts of the British Empire occurred under Queen Elizabeth II, there’s no denying the damage inflicted upon those formerly living under British rule. Their colonialism, along with that of other empires, left nations and people lost, impoverished and bitter.

Lasting Impacts

Some countries are still reeling from colonization. Ahoefa Daniéle Degbesse, a SLCC student from Togo, said, “My country didn’t really recover after colonialism … our economy didn’t go up, nothing really worked out the way that we wanted things to go … our environment and the way people lived did not really recover after we got our independence.”

U student Olusegun Oyewole, from Nigera, said, “British colonization … sets the scene for a lot of the discord you see today in the country.” Oyewole explained that after Nigeria gained independence, the three main tribes — who did not get along — were forced together by the British to run the country, resulting in political turmoil.

Unfortunately, most of the textbooks within these former colonies play up white saviorism and put colonizers on a pedestal. Nara M. A., a U student from India, said that “textbooks would say stuff like ‘oh the British rule was great, it gave us technology, it did all this and that.’” But there were only small portions of her textbook that touched on the severities of colonial rule. Nara explained that because colonists wrote the textbooks, they teach former colonies that their lives are better because of colonization. And the lasting impacts can be seen on beauty standards, media representation and economic development within these former colonies.

Despite the Royal Family’s role as figureheads of Parliament, the Queen still represented colonization to many. Her reign was characterized by colonialism, and her family continues to reap the benefits of her predecessors’ atrocious exploits.

Because the evidence is stacked against the monarchy, we shouldn’t invalidate how POC react to the Queen’s death. Rwothomio Kabandole, who works for the Uganda-based organization No White Saviors, said over email, “As an African person, I am still subject to colonial terms & conditions. However way people express themselves towards her demise is within their rights.” Kabandole went on to say that despite the reactions, he will stand strong in “holding the record straight as to who the architects & upholders of our oppressions are.”

We shouldn’t fault people for expressing themselves accordingly when they have been subjected to the lasting impacts of British colonization. And we definitely can’t expect anyone to demonstrate sympathy towards those who failed to extend the same to them. 


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