The British Royal Wedding, Feelgoodism and the Colonial Jumbie

By Tyehimba Salandy
May 20, 2018

The British Royal Wedding, Feelgoodism and the Colonial JumbieTen years ago, British ‘royalty’, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla visited the Caribbean and locals prostrated before them. Local leaders made arrangements for them to play the Steelpan and the sacred Rastafarian Nyabinghi drums. Leslie from wrote an insightful article titled Royal Visit Highlights Lingering Colonialism that brought attention to the dynamics of colonialism in this visit. This article is as relevant today as it was ten years ago when it was written, given the celebratory eruptions at the wedding of British monarch Prince Harry and his bride Meghan Markle. Yet the region is poorer today for elevating fake royalty to dizzying heights of reverence while neglecting the royalty inherent in resistant Caribbean voices who have worked hard at improving Caribbean societies.

While many people gush at royalty and the “power of love”, for people of the Caribbean and wider global south, who are still faced with the structures of British coloniality imbedded deeply in our society and the world we live in, it is an opportunity to reflect on these issues.

The British Monarchy and the Empire of Violence

The British empire was held together by violence in two forms. The first one was the military violence that invaded and conquered territories, set up slave plantations and brutally suppressed dissent and revolts. The second, and perhaps more dangerous form of violence, was the violence of “knowledge” which involved spreading a narrow and ideological system of values, culture and information as if it was the best and only one. Non-European and non-Christian ways of seeing and being were bastardized and destroyed. It is through this violence that Anglo-Saxonism firstly became the dominant European model of civilization and progress, and later the global model of civilization and progress. It also explains how, after more than 50 years of independence from Britain, the social, mental and global structures erected across the global south as part of colonial domination are still in place.

Generations of children had to sing “God Save the Queen” in local schools that instilled British and Christian values in young impressionable minds. Within this British educational system, ideas of white superiority and black inferiority, subservience to colonial authority and demonization of non-European cultures formed part of the structures that upheld the British colonial empire. This feeds into the global reverence for Britain and her monarchy.

While many people have very romantic images of the British monarchy, it presided over a reign of brutal violence, that far exceeded that of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and the Butcher of Congo: King Leopold II of Belgium. Britain dominated the trade and enslavement of Africans, and at the height of its empire had colonies across the globe while boasting that the sun will never set on the British empire. They also participated in the genocide of indigenous people in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia. While in charge of India, British actions of increasing taxes and exporting crops grown by farmers caused a series of famines that resulted in the death of millions of Indians. In one of these famines, known as the Bengal Famine, Britain diverted food to its soldiers, and caused the death of between three and ten million people. During the Mau Mau uprising against British rule in Kenya, the Kikuyu people were imprisoned in concentration camps and subjected to torture, executions and sexual abuse. Yet, despite being the most pervasive colonial power, and with perhaps the most colonial crimes against humanity under its belt, Britain is still able to project an aura of respectability, honour and nobility. This allows them to avoid responsibility for their many atrocities.

Stolen Wealth of Nations

Across the global south, most countries that were colonized by Britain still maintain membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. Also called the Stolenwealth of Nations, this organisation is headed symbolically by the British queen. Once every four years, athletes from all of these countries participate in the Commonwealth Games, established by the Commonwealth of Nations, and again presided over by the British queen. It is a travesty that most global south leaders see it fit to maintain membership in this colonial organisation, rather than creating an independent global organisation to serve the interests of global south countries and to further decoloniality. It also reminds us that the structures of domination have survived long past the point of political independence more than 50 years ago.

Let us not forget that in the Caribbean, the countries of Jamaica, St Lucia, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua, Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis still maintain the Queen of England as their symbolic head. Guadeloupe and Martinique are still colonized by France. In addition, there have been concerns that there are moves to re-colonize the Caribbean given the situation in the former Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba) where in 2010 the Netherlands took control of these areas and declared them as municipalities of the “mother country”. This is a reminder that mental and political decolonization is an ongoing process across the global south.

How can global south people celebrate the romantic activities of the monarchy when the structures of coloniality are still so much a present part of day to day realities? Caribbean thinkers have long pointed out the damaging presence of the colonial jumbie or duppy. Celebrating without considering all of this is tantamount to celebrating colonialism. Consider this analogy. You are at home one evening, and intruders break into your house, kill some members of the family, rape some, and torture some. They steal the valuables in the home, and hold some members hostage. What degree of psychological pressure would it take for those members of your house to accept guidance from the intruders on how to be a good person, how to educate your children, and how and who to worship? Moreso, to feel excited about one of the intruders’ impending marriage? These are the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.

Reparations, Feelgoodism and the Redemptive Power of Love

Scholars, such as CLR James, Eric Williams, Joseph Inikori, Walter Rodney and most recently Hilary Beckles, have explained the relationship between European colonial nations and their overseas colonies. Eric Williams in his seminal book Capitalism and Slavery explained how proceeds derived from slavery and colonialism were a key part of economic transformation in western Europe. Hilary Beckles develops Williams’ ideas in his book Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide by going into the archives and tracing how the British royal family, the British government, the established church, many elite families, and institutions in the private and public sector all invested in, and benefited directly from, slavery. In a lecture titled Britain’s Perfect Caribbean Crime: Ignored Genocide, Faked Emancipation, Insincere Independence, and No Reparations Professor Hilary Beckles explains how the 1934 Emancipation Act defined enslaved Africans as property and so paid slave owners 20 million pounds sterling for the loss of that property. This history forms part of CARICOM’s demands for reparations from Britain which so far has been met with silence, or in the case of the former UK Prime Minister James Cameroon, a response suggesting that Caribbean leaders “move on from this painful legacy”.

The ‘royal’ wedding is in itself an urgent reminder of the need for reparations. The extravagant lifestyles of the monarchic family draw upon ill-gotten gains that have their roots in slavery. The opulent wedding ceremony was also no doubt connected to wealth that came from the subjugation of black and brown bodies during slavery and colonialism. How many of the diamonds, gold and other precious jewellery that adorn the queen’s crown and the bodies of British nobility were also questionably obtained during this period. How many crimes against humanity sanctioned by the monarchy have to be forgotten to celebrate this wedding.

That the near-white Meghan Markle has a mixed mother does not change the relations of empire and privilege that is at the center of the wedding. In the wedding, the Black preacher won widespread acclaim for a sermon about the redemptive power of love. Yet this was part of feelgoodism and illusions of a wedding of empire. Having a Black preacher, a Black musician, and a Black gospel choir are all emotional trinkets to tug at heartstrings and thus distract people from seeing the relations of empire underneath the fairy-tale “love can conquer” illusion that is the ‘royal’ wedding. There is no “redemptive power of love” without first truth and justice. Will Prince Harry and his bride agitate for reparations and the return of stolen resources? Will they work to repair the damage done by British empire? I think not.

The wedding is also an opportunity for people to rethink the notions of royalty and monarchy. Why are European monarchies who have presided over so many global crimes against humanity viewed with so much esteem and reverence? The fact that royalty is consistently portrayed in white or near white bodies is psychologically damaging to all people, given the rampant racism and colourism that affects all countries and communities. Who will stand up and ask the brave question “what makes them royal”?

At best, the empire wedding of Harry and Meghan is a distraction away from the ongoing global struggles for justice happening across the world. What about the Chagos Archipelago where journalist John Pilger exposed how Britain managed to wheel and deal, and steal an entire nation, evicting the inhabitants who were later prevented from returning? What about the Palestinian-Israel conflict which Britain was complicit in starting? It is telling that global media, as well as media in the global south often give more attention to the royal wedding than atrocities happening in Palestine. What of the illegal invasion of Iraq? Or Britain’s role in the 2011 invasion of Libya and the murder of its leader? What of the Windrush generation, children of Caribbean migrants who were maliciously denied citizenship of a country they helped to build. The fairy-tale royal wedding is part of the erasure of the memory of all those atrocities.

The feelgoodism that occurs when there is even just a slight departure from the lily-white faces in positions of leadership in colonial establishments does nothing to lessen or repair the damaging impact of coloniality. In fact, it does quite the opposite. The feelgoodism puts minds to sleep as people are far less likely to think critically, thereby allowing dominating structures to increase their control, without opposition. This explains how Barack Obama as a two-term President of the United States was able to attract widespread global support, despite his drone strikes, increased military spending, increased financial support to Israel and illegal invasion of Libya.

15 thoughts on “The British Royal Wedding, Feelgoodism and the Colonial Jumbie”

  1. Breds, you say a lot of things that a lot of people my age(over 60) have heard in the 70s during the heights of Black Power. Fast forward to now to see the sad state Black people in this country and you will see why their is this clinging to things foreign by some. When the Black man in TT can reign in his penchant for destructive violence against his women and his bredder men, then you will see the doubter having no need to crave things foreign. Rasta black, muslim black, no affiliation black just killing one another without humanity and you can’t see see why you granmudder, nennen, tantie would not die to be in megan and harry wedding?

  2. Well, well, look who is back..
    Did not even come to say sorry for Election 2010: ‘Time for Change’…>

    Not even when Laladalsingh call we, ‘stinking Nwords’..not even during the SoE and Kamla dem locked up 9000 African Trinbagonian males.. Not even when Kamla dem took almost all of the Nation’s wealth and divvy it among Indians exclusively.. you never said sorry..

    Anyway. in all the talk of the evils of colonialism, nothing is said of ‘Indian Indentureship’ and the devastating effect in had on ‘African’ people from Fiji to Guyana (Surinam also).. Oh, and let’s not forget the Dutch Masters (Master Minds) who constructed this ‘caste system‘ which they learnt from the Hindus… Its a story that Afro Trina s must mention since we suffer first hand from this colonial evil..

  3. Well puttin to use a colloquial expression but how many would read it.It is said if you wand a blackman to know anything put it in a book.lets keep the debate going and we talking about the British but what about the Chinese colonisation of the Caribbean and the South,Bredder according to Brigo we properly well tie we have to leeggo weslf by Education the only redemptive power.At least Harry saw ‘God in every face not race’ala MOrgan Job and he chose Meghan. well said again.

  4. An Idiot, is a noun,it simple means a “STUPID PERSON”, synonyms: FOOL,ASS,HALFWIT,DUNCE,DOLT,IGNORAMUS,CRETIN,MORON,IMBECILE,SIMPLETON,take your pick Brilliant, at your age, where is your sense of critical thinking? a historical article that should enlighten you in your waning years, and EDUCATE the youth, your lack of knowledge have failed to make you see the LINK of all the MAYHEM that continue to exist among our PEOPLE. You heard of it in 1970, but you did not self educate, in so doing, you have remained a “BRILLIANT IDIOT”,in life, our goal is to transgress from ANIMAL, TO HUMAN,and eventually to DIVINITY,are you still in ANIMAL mind set? reeducate yourself, it is not to late, in so doing,you might just save yourself.And please, change your title.

  5. During the Sermon delivered by Bishop Michael Curry at the Harry-Meghan Windsor (not Windrush) Wedding I wondered quite aloud about the credibility and appropriateness of the black Anglican Bishop preaching and expatiating about the saving, transcendental and utopian redemptive power of the LOVE when hatred, non-appreciation of others and ingratitude rivets his own community universally and which is amply demonstrated in the article on which I am commenting. Here was the Royal Family admitting one of the descendants of the so-called colonised into the very heart of Buckingham Palace and indeed making some reparations and yet we are assailed by the boring negativities of this poisoned pen writer who uses the Royal Wedding as a peg/clothes line to hang out/ exhibit to dry all the festering boring and hackneyed allegations against British colonialism while the PNM successor to Edward Beetham practices the more insidious and subtle and more disastrous onslaught on the Indians of Trinidad.
    Honestly I am fed up of these outpourings of ingratitude, intellectual aggression and ill-placed manufactured venom. Analyse the wedding for what it was and do not peregrinate into excursions of hate and anger for being rescued from the atrocities of tribal chiefs and Africa and thank the British for being the facilitator. Has anyone ever wondered why the Indians who were transported under indentureship and slaved on the cane-fields of Caroni do not have an aggressive response to British occupation of lands that they conquered even before slavery and indentureship and the eradication of the native Amerindians? If the British were to bring down heaven and place it at the feet of Black colonials they will still find fault as the writer has clearly demonstrated This is why I thought that the message delivered by Bishop Michael Curry as if he were preaching in a black American church will not resonate with his people because love is exclusively an intra-racial matter. He should have spoken of gratitude and appreciation that indeed can change the world and not deal with fire because that is an economic technological matter.
    These hackneyed anti-British/colonial sentiments used by Williams to parachute himself into governance are being replicated ad nauseam and bore me to death when the agenda should to get on with the present and the future and not harp back to the past as an excuse to extract free money but to show that you are better than the British which I am not seeing for all the gas and oil in T&T and the wealth of human diversity that God blessed Trinbago with in ample abundance and that is being sullied by murders gone wild.

  6. Colonialism saw the world divided by the Pope and the March of Europe across the world. Portugal, France,Spain, Belgium, Germany and Britain marched across the world. British conquest was brutal and none compromising, it saw millions dead from military conflicts and famine as the writer articulated so well. The French came and conquered the Congo along with several African nations. Belgium took Rwanda, the Germans Namibia, the Portuguese Brazil and many more nations including Goa India. Spain took charge of Mexico, and much of central and south america according to the line drawn by the Pope. The world was taken over by these nations and the wealth stolen and sent to the treasuries of these nations.

    But what was the modus operandi of the colonialist. Its vestiges still form part of the national ethos of many nations in their practices! Unknowingly these practices have strangled and killed many nations! And should be a warning to Trinis.

    The colonialist entered a nation with a small well discipline army. They took over the education system, religious system and economic system. To control these population they practice divide and rule. It was like a chess game, have the natives fight amongst themselves whilst they plunder the nation. As an example when Belgium came to Rawanda they made the nation catholic and then proceeded to divide the nation as incredible as it may seem along the width of their nose. Narrow noise Tutsi, broad nose Hutus. The Hutu and Tutsis fought amongst themselves resulting in one of the worst blood bath in recent history with over 800,000 Tutsis slaughtered in 3 weeks! The colonialist particularly the UN stood by and did nothing….This practice was repeated across the globe. Pakistan versus India, Tamil versus Sinhalese etc.

    We are still victims of colonialism believing that foreign is better than local. A person over 70 black or brown still looks up to the white man as god. Why? They were taught so in schools and subliminally brain washed.

    I could go on but I will leave it here.

    1. Well you must be so happy since independence and those nasty British have gone living in paradise ruled by your own kind you ask any of them 70 year olds which part of their lives they prefer now with corruption rife murder rate sky high a failing education system and a 3 rate health service name me one thing that has improved since Independence for the average man only undertakers are gaining

  7. It is my view that Harry and Meghan loves each other knowing fully well the responsibilities they carry as they entered into the institution of marriage especially Meghan in the public eye. That love between both of them was expressed genuinely by the invited American pastor at the Cathedral. The smile Meghan carries epitomizes the Late Lady Di who unfortunately met an untimely death. She did reveal in interviews prior to her passing the nature of some of the discussions that took place at the dinner table at the palace which bordered on hypocrisy. That’s the nature of individuals.

    The politics mainly reminding us the past that transpired over centuries cannot be disputed and I believe it is acknowledged by all of us. However, how long are we going to dwell on it? For the past decades Commonwealth immigrants have been making inroads into Europe and North America and are now beginning to make an impact. For e.g., did the gospel choir, the instrumentalist, the American pastor etc. were invited by the staff of Buckingham Palace or is their a touch of Meghan with the overall concurrence of the Royals giving the final assent, similarly the same can be said of Obama with the stewardship of Robert Kennedy despite the nefarious antagonism currently expressed by Trumpism against immigrants in the US.

    Let’s start looking at ourselves only yesterday Barbados was threatening to leave the CCJ
    Ivor Archie is making a last ditch effort to appeal to who? the Privy Council. When Eric Williams made his statement that one from ten leaves nought i.e., Jamaica pulling out of the Federation in the 50s that speaks volumes of our trust levels of one another even to this day.

    The immigrants that went to labour in lands of opportunity are beginning to see their sons and daughters reap some benefits. For us here we need to understand that success can only be achieved from our own watchwords:”Together we aspire, together we achieve”.

  8. Ty,

    Thanks for your piece on the royal wedding in Counterpunch. I’m glad someone articulated the historical background and what needs to be overlooked or forgotten to continue to worship European royalty in the 21st Century.
    You might be amazed to hear that even here in supposedly liberal San Francisco, so many are mesmerized by this ostentatious event. Thus it is not only historical amnesia on the part of my white friends, but a lingering mental captivity to the fairytale of the princess bride, that anyone can
    Be fortunate enough to be elevated to the ruling class and that this is something to be desired. Of course, the modernized version of this in capitalist and allegedly anti-monarchical USA is the marry a billionaire fantasy. Underlying these fantasies of course is the understanding that
    The super rich will always be with us (or above us).
    Of course if I were to say any of this to any of my star struck friends, they would think only that I am the worst kind of spoil sport and irredeemably “negative”, the worst criticism that can be leveled here in perpetually sunny California.

    So thanks again and keep up the good work.

  9. I just read your very interesting article on the royal wedding etc. I quote ‘Britain is still able to project an aura of respectability, honour and nobility.’
    Why is that do you think? I have always wondered. ( I am British) I suppose being masters in subtle propaganda and general manipulation.
    Robert Thomas

  10. “While many people gush at royalty and the “power of love”, for people of the Caribbean and wider global south, who are still faced with the structures of British coloniality imbedded deeply in our society and the world we live in, it is an opportunity to reflect on these issues”.

    The above quote from the article struck a chord in me.
    One cannot help but ask why British colonial structures are still “imbedded deeply in our society”.
    The British has long left us to independently manage our own affairs; nevertheless, we still hang on dependently to institutions like the Privy council, while our Caribbean court of Justice seems to be floundering.
    The great irony in all of this is that British institutions have progressed and morphed into newer, more modern and appropriate systems while we proudly proclaim pride in ancient, backward British systems like education of our youth and prevailing societal attitudes.
    We only have ourselves to blame for failing to meet the new challenges in every area of our society, so stifled with the false pride as we proudly proclaim our slavish perpetuation of everything British.

  11. I say ‘Amen’ to that TMan. But we should not just stop there.
    We hold on to lifestyles and behaviors that are unrelated to our experience in this part of the Caribbean, which run counter to our geographical and social norms.

  12. Dear Mr. Salandy;

    I agree with everything you said, I would also include that with Britain dividing up India/Pakistan and Ireland/Northern Ireland over a million people have been killed. And, still today, tens of thousands of Palestinians as well as Sudanese, Ethiopians, Christians, Muslims, Druze, et al have been murdered as a result of the Balfour Declaration “giving” Palestinian land to white supremacist Jewish Zionists to invent (Illegitimate) Israel: a racist, fascist/Nazi-like, apartheid, imperialist, genocidal state. And as George Galloway has said of Israel, a “criminal, gangster state”.

    Stefano R. Baldari

    1. JustRight wrote, “The India of 17th,18th and 19th centuries was the richest in the world.”

      A very informative video, But.

      The richest in the world… FOR WHO?

      Surely not the Dalits. India (Hinduism) is the most ‘sophisticated’ slave systems ever imagined.. all in the name of religion (Casteism).
      One must ask, what was India’s Justice/Economic System like for a Dalit Pre British Colonialism?
      I can remember a Dalit Panther spokesman saying that “Ghettoes are a recent phenomenon for the African American… But Ghettos have been in India for thousands of years..”

      Anyway, a story making news today about a ‘found’ sunken 300-year-old Spanish Ship off of the coast of Columbia (Spanish galleon San José) with over $20B in ‘treasure’.
      This tells the magnitude of the European plunder of the world. It’s hard to conceive such a thing…

      But here is an example.. ‘600’ 15-gallon containers fill with gold coins from another ‘find’.

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