The world has been fascinated by the arrival of the British culture wars on American shores with former Prince Harry and Meghan Markle now living in California. Millions of people watched Oprah Winfrey interview them recently. The show was the highest-rated entertainment special since the February 2020 Oscars ceremony.
Harry's older brother William, the future king of England, has denied any royal racism, and the U.K. government issued a report denying any institutional racism in Britain. British Black journalists blasted the report while anti-Markle media assert that she's endangering the monarchy, hijacking the British government and that she's a bully, embraced by Americans who don't know any better.
I experienced remnants of the British Empire as a child in the colony of Bermuda. We were taught the "Golliwog" dance in ballet class. Considered entertainment, Golliwog was an embarrassing stereotype of Britian's African colonies. Remember that the British captured Africans and shipped them to the states as slaves. Plantation owners would hold Golliwog dance competitions among slaves who competed for a prize of a decorated cake. When the dance became wildly popular and known as the "Cakewalk," its slave-day origins were eventually forgotten or ignored.
Want to stop saying, "That takes the cake"? That would be an example of "cancel culture," according to conservatives and white powers-that-be. They've applied this term to the removal of items that diminish their history such as Confederate monuments, but not to the many requests for banning anti-racism books from public libraries. Most recently, the term is used against critics of new voting rights legislation.
So now we have a new battle between conservative politicians and corporations that actively address issues around race. Corporate awareness surfaced with George Floyd, and continues to evolve. PepsiCo, which had acquired Quaker Oats, responded to criticism about the image of Aunt Jemima on pancake mix and syrup packaging and removed the caricature of a Black woman from the packaging and changed the name of the brand.
While we argue about who's cancelling whom, Georgia's legislation limiting voting options has affected corporate attitudes across the country. For the first time, Black executives of American Express and Merck have organized to call out their peers for being silent on the legislation. More than 100 companies, including Twitter, Zillow and Uber, issued a joint statement expressing concern about Georgia's law curbing voting access.
Ironically, the former royals have ended up in the middle of a culture war that mirrors what they left. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp pooh-poohed his critics and Sen. Mitch McConnell said that corporations should fund candidates, but shut up about politics. McConnell called outspoken corporate types both bullies and cowards for submitting to bullying by "... far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order." Funny how the Republican stance echoes Markle's critics.
Kemp says he's being victimized by progressives and their lies. Maybe he took notes from the British government's denials of institutional racism and from the royals who claim to be victimized by Markle.
Are we descending into the imperialism we had a revolution to escape? Are efforts to stifle voting rights for people of color going to succeed? Corporations understand the impact of these new voting laws. They'll be harder to mute than disadvantaged neighborhoods. Support these businesses that stand for our self-evident truth that we are all created equal.
Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at firstname.lastname@example.org.