Racism: Meghan, British Royal House and Soyinka’s Telephone Conversation

Harry, right, and Meghan

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

The British behave like that tiny African mouse which, when you sleep, bites and blows cool air on the injury. You still sleep soundly only to discover something has dug its teeth into your toes. The British are all courtesies and mischief!

This explains how they crept into Africa, Asia, West Indies and New England. All courtesies and subterranean tricks to supplant others! The racist accusation hauled by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex against the British Royal House puts this in bold relief. And it brings to the fore a 1962 poem by Wole Soyinka in England, “Telephone Conversation.” It was a conversation between him and his would be landlady who wanted to know how dark Soyinka was since he introduced himself as African.

That was what came up when Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, granted Oprah Winfrey an interview. Meghan, as reported by BBC, said she found life within the British Royal Family so difficult that at times she “didn’t want to be alive any more”.

The report has it further: “She said a low point was when Harry was asked by an unnamed family member “how dark” their son Archie’s skin might be.

Oprah later said Harry had told her it was not the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh who made the comment.

She said a low point was when Harry was asked by an unnamed family member “how dark” their son Archie’s skin might be.”

Meghan said that she started to feel lonely when limits were placed on what she could do, revealing that at one point she did not leave the house for months.

At one point she thought she “could not feel lonelier”, she told Oprah.

Asked by Oprah if she was thinking of self-harm and having suicidal thoughts at some stage, the 39-year-old replied: “Yes. This was very, very clear. Very clear and very scary. I didn’t know who to turn to in that.”

Meghan said that she felt “haunted” by a photograph from an official event she attended with Harry at the Royal Albert Hall while she was pregnant.

“Right before we had to leave for that (event), I had just had that conversation with Harry that morning,” Meghan said.

Winfrey asked: “That you don’t want to be alive any more?”

“Yeah,” Meghan confirmed.

She said that she attended the event with Harry that night because she felt she could not be “left alone” and recalled Harry gripping her hand tightly while in attendance at the Royal Albert Hall.

However, the British Royal House issued a statement yesterday, as reported by the Telegraph:

It said: “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years  have been for Harry and Meghan.

“The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning.  Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.

“Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members.”

File: Young Wole Soyinka

Below is Soyinka’s poem, entitled: 

Telephone Conversation

 The price seemed reasonable, location

Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived

Off premises. Nothing remained

But self-confession. “Madam,” I warned,

“I hate a wasted journey–I am African.”

Silence. Silenced transmission of

Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,

Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled

Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was foully.

“HOW DARK?” . . . I had not misheard . . . “ARE YOU LIGHT

OR VERY DARK?” Button B, Button A.* Stench

Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.

Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered

Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed

By ill-mannered silence, surrender

Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.

Considerate she was, varying the emphasis–

“ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?” Revelation came.

“You mean–like plain or milk chocolate?”

Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light

Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,

I chose. “West African sepia”–and as afterthought,

“Down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic

Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent

Hard on the mouthpiece. “WHAT’S THAT?” conceding

“DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.” “Like brunette.”

“THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” “Not altogether.

Facially, I am brunette, but, madam, you should see

The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet

Are a peroxide blond. Friction, caused–

Foolishly, madam–by sitting down, has turned

My bottom raven black–One moment, madam!”–sensing

Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap

About my ears–“Madam,” I pleaded, “wouldn’t you rather

See for yourself?”