The Monarchy

No You Can't: Britain's Racist Constitution

"It will often be open to objection for a number of reasons. It may not produce the best candidate for the post. It may be likely to result in the appointee being of a particular gender or racial group. It may infringe the principle of equal opportunities."
Court of Appeal, October 2001
Ruling on an appointment to public office made from a "circle of family, friends and personal acquaintances."

The 2011 European visit of President Obama highlighted shameful features of Britain's constitution.

In Ireland the President visited the humble home of a relative in a small Irish town. In Britain he spent the night in the home of one of the richest people in the world. She is paid £12m a year as ceremonial and hereditary head of state. Obama is paid just $400,000 for one of the most onerous jobs there is.

In Ireland the American president spoke to the people who gathered in the streets of Dublin to hear him. In London he addressed the members of a legislature that includes hereditary legislators and legislators-for-life.

President Obama found it remarkable that he should be addressing the two chambers of Parliament. "It is possible for . . . the grandson of a Kenyan who served as a cook in the British army to stand before you as president of the United States". he said.

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"It is possible for . . . the grandson of a Kenyan who served as a cook in the British army to stand before you as president of the United States".
President Barack Obama

It would have been undiplomatic for him to have pointed out that if his father had married a British woman it would have been impossible for him to address the American legislature as a representative of his country. For the British constitution does not allow the children of newcomers to become head of state. Only members of the Windsor clan are allowed that privilege.

Nor could a British Obama have taken a seat in the British legislature. As a republican (with a small "r") he would be barred by the Parliamentary Oaths Act that requires an oath of allegiance to the Windsor clan, not to the people.

The American people have elected Barack Obama as their head of state. He is the first non-white American to hold that office. But had his Kenyan father chosen Britain rather than the UK for his studies his son, his grandchildren and their grandchildren would have been excluded from the office of head of state. For in this country the constitution requires that that position be filled only by northern European Protestants. No Blacks, no Jews and, indeed, no Irish need apply. The British allow one family, the dysfunctional, high-living white Windsors, the exclusive right to represent them.

It has taken a long time but the possibility of a Black American president was never foreclosed. The inspiring slogan of Barack Obama’s campaign was "Yes We Can". But in Britain the state still says "No You Can’t". And most definitely you cannot be head of state if you are Black, Asian or Jewish.

Before Barack Obama, Joe Lieberman became the first Jew to come close becoming vice-president when he and Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election.

Gore's choice of Lieberman as his running mate was seen as a singular event in American society. Ten percent of US Senators are Jewish and Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater had a Jewish father. But the recognition of Lieberman as effectively presidential material seemed to remove the question mark from the possibility of a Jewish president. For as vice-president he would have been, as the saying goes, a heart beat away from the presidency. It opened the way for Lieberman to declare his candidature for the 2004 Democratic nomination.

"Each time a barrier falls for one person, the doors of opportunity open wider for every other American."

Jesse Jackson said to Lieberman "You know Joe, each time a barrier falls for one person, the doors of opportunity open wider for every other American." Lieberman’s first public responses to his selection was to say "What a great country this is!" The Washington Post remarked that the audience understood what he meant.

If you do not, reflect on the fact that if Lieberman’s grand parents had emigrated to Britain instead of the United States their children too and their children's children and their children's children's children and so on to eternity would have been excluded from the office of head of state. For in this country the constitution forbids that a Jewish person should hold that office. (The Windsors are the children of privileged immigrants, of course. But the family chose to repress it's origins by changing its name to Windsor, a name redolent not so much of its United Kingdom, as of southern England, the historically most privileged region.)

The bar on a Jewish or Black head of state is not because of racism or anti-semitism, although there is still such in Britain and in Parliament. In recent years there have been Jewish and Black cabinet ministers for the treasury, defence, foreign and home affairs, some of the most senior positions in government.

The British constitution bars Jews, Blacks and many others from the highest public office by two means, however. First the law requires that the head of state be a Protestant Christian and indeed be the titular head of the Church of England. More crucially, the office of head of state is the preserve of one family, the Windsor family, which, needless to say, is not Black and not Jewish.

The first barrier might be removed by a simple legislative act. The second may be overcome only by replacing a feudal and inherently racist constitutional disfigurement by a democratic alternative.

The British in general have been reluctant to look this constitutional obscenity in the face. Some of course approve explicitly of the racism. The idea of a Jewish or black head of state horrifies them. Some while not intentionally racist approve of a system that they believe to underpin their conservative values. Left-wingers of a paternalistic "tory" outlook may fear a changes the balance of power between the people and government in favour of the people that a republic might signify. Others let a sentimental affection for monarchy or their anxieties about social change blind them to the immoral consequences of their attitudes. Many have given it no thought and are simply habituated to a monarchical system.

"It will often be open to objection for a number of reasons. It may not produce the best candidate for the post. It may be likely to result in the appointee being of a particular gender or racial group. It may infringe the principle of equal opportunities. "
Court of Appeal, October 2001
Ruling on an appointment to public office made from a "circle of family, friends and personal acquaintances."

It is easy to imagine how left wing and liberal apologists for monarchy would react if a constitutional amendment limiting the presidency to white Protestants were to be proposed in the United States, however. Many would be angry and contemptuous. The proposal would likely be characterised as emblematic of a sickness in American society and of an ineradicable racism.

But in Britain a racist constitution co-exists with a wide-spread commitment to equal rights for minorities. The three main national political parties are all formally opposed to racial discrimination. But all three are equally committed to the racist aspects of the constitution.

"I am the only black/Asian republican I have ever met."

No Jewish or Black organisation speaks out against this discrimination suffered by their constituents. That may be, in part, from a fear that opposition to monarchy would undermine the progress that their ethnic groups have made. However, according to Yasmin Alibha-Brown, a republican who often writes on race issues, most black Britons are staunch monarchists. "I am the only black/Asian republican I have ever met" she wrote in the Independentin June 2000. If that is true then most black citizens are supporters of an institution that treats them as inherently second class because of their ethnic origin or religion.

Any public institution that privileges a particular family is racist. Employers who fill job vacancies through their employees' networks of family and friends are likely to find the Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening on the grounds that that will reinforce any ethnic imbalance in the work force. Its predecessor the Commission for Racial Equality washed its hands of the monarchy however. It refuses to act against racism because the Windsor family's privileges are "outside the scope of the Race Relations Act." Although it called for the law to be changed to allow it to act in other areas that are outside its scope, it is significant that it never questioned this flagrant limitation to its authority.

Crumbs are tossed from the "royal" table to please the minorities. There are invitations to eat cucumber sandwiches at the Windsors' London palace and royal honours, such as Commander of the British Empire, which are dispensed to black citizens as they long have been to white, the trinkets which so many Britons find adequate as a substitute for the honour of citizenship.

"How wonderful it would be if we could help to increase the proportion of black and ethnic minority practitioners in the field of architecture."

In September 2000 Charlie Windsor, who uses the title of "Prince of Wales" and is entitled to the position of head of state when his mother dies or resigns, told a lecture audience "How wonderful it would be if we could help to increase the proportion of black and ethnic minority practitioners in the field of architecture." It sounded commendable: it was commended. But what would we think of anyone but a "royal" who said ethnic minorities should have equal opportunities in employment - "as long as my job is excluded. They should live where they like - but not in my street"? We would scorn their hypocrisy. Instead Charlie was given credit for being a modern monarch!

In Britain it has been said that the monarch "interprets the nation to itself." That idea seems bizarre to many of us who look at the Windsors and see a grotesquery that bears no relation to our lives or our experiences. But you can see how a head of state might have such a role. How a Jewish vice-president or Black president might signal a more inclusive United States. How two female presidents of Ireland marked a shift in the status of women there. In Britain this function of our chief public officer is disabled. She or he can only signify an excessive attachment to the past and an unwillingness to accept the present or reach out for the future.

In December 2001 an allegation by a former personal secretary to Charlie Windsor (a.k.a. the Prince of Wales) that she had been forced from her job was not upheld by an employment tribunal in Bristol, near Mr. Windsor’s Highgrove Estate.

Elizabeth Burgess, the complainant, told the tribunal that one of Windsor’s valets had said "What the hell would you know? You are just a fucking nigger typist." Ms Burgess, who had worked at the estate for ten years, said that "they wanted a white face at Highgrove and I was not that face." She believed that her complaint about the valet was not acted on because Windsor "adored" him. The royal estate was dominated by "the old school tie" and disrespect for black people was common, she said.

The tribunal ruled that allegations related to events five years ago could not be taken into account.

The previous year another employment tribunal had found that an employee of Windsor’s charity The Prince’s Trust had been unfairly dismissed. Trust managers made an "unreserved apology" to Darren Beckford who had worked for them for twelve months. Mr. Beckford had alleged that he was picked upon and shunned by other employees because he is black.

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