The Duchess of Sussex said she was unaware the UK had its own Black History Month as she and her husband called for an end to the “structural racism” that is holding back young people of colour in the UK.
It came as the duke and duchess launched a campaign to celebrate Black British “trailblazers” with the Evening Standard to recognise “a group of notable leaders whose influence is making a positive and lasting impact on British culture”. The list includes the disability campaigner Danielle Oreoluwa Jinadu, the poet Henry Stone, and Liv Little, who founded gal-dem magazine.
In a video interview with the newspaper, Meghan said: “Truth be told – and I was in the UK for a few years until we moved back here – I didn’t realise there was a Black History Month in Britain, and so to have that brought to our attention was really exciting from a standpoint of everything that is going on in the world.”
The couple called upon high-profile Black British figures who inspired them, including the Vogue editor, Edward Enninful, and the rugby star Maro Itoje, to each nominate one black person for their contribution to British society.
In a separate article for the newspaper, the couple said: “As long as structural racism exists, there will be generations of young people of colour who do not start their lives with the same equality of opportunity as their white peers. And for as long as that continues, untapped potential will never get to be realised.”
In the piece they said: “If you are white and British, the world you see often looks just like you” and spoke of the importance for young people of seeing role models and leaders who share their skin colour. They concluded the article by saying: “We cannot change history, nor can we edit our past. But we can define our future as one that is inclusive, as one that is equal, and one that is colourful.”
In the video, Prince Harry, sitting beside the duchess in their home in California, said he had recently become more aware of racism. He said: “I’ve had an awakening of such of my own because I wasn’t aware of so many of the issues and so many of the problems within the UK and also globally as well. I thought I did, but I didn’t.”
He added: “You know, when you go in to a shop with your children and you only see white dolls, do you even think: ‘That’s weird, there is not a black doll there?’
“I use that as just one example of where we as white people don’t always have the awareness of what it must be like for someone else of a different-coloured skin, of a black skin, to be in the same situation as we are where the world that we know has been created by white people for white people.”
He said he wanted to use his platform to raise awareness of the “massive” contribution that the black community makes to the UK. He described Black History Month as a month of celebration.
Meghan added that the month reminded people of “our shared humanity”. She said: “It’s educational, but it’s also really exciting just to find more people in the community that are inspirational.”
When asked about whether she had any reflections on the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK, she said: “The impetus is from a place of recognising equality.” She said she had the opportunity to speak to one of the founders of the movement in the US and described peaceful protests as a “beautiful thing”.
The couple also discussed the dance group Diversity’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent, which sparked thousands of complaints.
Prince Harry said: “We spoke to Ashley Banjo a few weeks ago, straight after the Britain’s Got Talent situation. And that in itself, I am sure even me talking about it will be controversial, but the reality of it is, he and his team of guys put on the most amazing display.”