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Bride and prejudice

May 27,2018 - Last updated at May 27,2018

In 1984, when the newborn son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was named Henry, and nicknamed Prince Harry, a Texan friend of mine commented: “We should Americanise him and call him Prince Hank.” I was amused to recall these words last week during the wedding of Prince Harry and American-born Meghan Markle.

Normally, my involvement in the affairs of people whom I do not know personally is to absentmindedly wish happiness to any young couple who start a life together. However, this wedding was a global event that challenged many conventions.

It was not the first time that an American actress retired from acting to marry a European aristocrat; Grace Kelly did it back in 1956. But when King Edward VIII of England wanted to marry an American divorcee, a constitutional crisis arose that led to his abdication.

So, centuries old traditions were broken, which is normal and healthy. But other traditions, unfortunately, stood resilient, such as the journalistic tradition of raking up dirt, or inventing it where none exists, to chisel a penny from other people’s misery.

In the run-up to the wedding, the media haunted Meghan Markle’s friends, co-workers and loved ones, offering them substantial bribes for any gossip that they would publish for the delectation of a public salivating for sensationalist smut. 

One newspaper even took clips from the TV series Suites, a courtroom drama in which Meghan Markle acted, and posted them on a pornography site although they were not at all pornographic, so as to publish the headline that the bride to be appeared on a porn site. And as if this were not sordid enough, racism would not let this occasion pass without rearing its ugly head. 

Racism is man’s gravest threat to man. It is the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason, and its resilience is phenomenal. People have used everything imaginable to validate racial prejudice, and they even developed sham science, such as phrenology and racial biology, in order to classify humans into physically discrete races, which can be asserted to be intrinsically superior or inferior.

Even religion was evoked to justify racism and slavery: African slaves, it was claimed, were descendants of Canaan the son of Ham, so their enslavement was in fulfillment of the curse which Noah allegedly cast on his son Ham for an unspecified offense.

And before anyone says that this was all in the past, or that it only proves the dissolute nature of Western society, I mention with considerable embarrassment that Jordanian social media were awash with clips, comments and cartoons by Jordanians, that were outright racist, belittling Meghan Markle for her colour.

Albert Einstein is quoted as having lamented: “What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.” But we should take heart from this fine example of the triumph of young love over ancient bigotry. For this, if nothing else, the royal wedding richly deserved the overwhelming goodwill that it received all over the world.

 

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