Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan on the importance of 'uncomfortable' conversations and racial justice

By Zach Harper

Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan reminded fans and royal watchers that we need to have "uncomfortable" conversations in the fight for racial justice and equality.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's comments came in a video July 6 chat with young Black leaders who have worked with the Queen's Commonwealth Trust. Harry and Meghan, who are the president and vice-president of the QCT, respectively.

The Sussexes spoke with Chrisann Jarrett, the co-founder and joint CEO of We Belong, an organization that fights for the equality of young migrants to the United Kingdom. Alicia Wallace, the director of Equality Bahamas, was also on the call. Mike Omoniyi, the founder and CEO of The Common Sense Network and Abdullahi Alim, the head of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers network, also joined the conversation.

The Common Sense Network is an online independent news platform where people from varied backgrounds come together to learn from each other. The Global Shapers network is a group of youth under 30 years of age who meet with governments and businesses to improve welfare in their communities around the world.

Harry began by speaking about unconscious bias and the role it has in racism.

"We can't deny or ignore the fact that all of us have been educated to see the world differently," he said. "However, once you start to realize that there is that bias there, then you need to acknowledge it, you need to do the work to become more aware... so that you can help stand up for something that is so wrong and should not be acceptable in our society today."

Meghan pointed out that racism functions in myriad ways, many of which are often silent and covert. She said it's on everyone to understand their biases and check them in order to confront and end racism.

"It's not just the big moments; it's in the quiet moments where racism and unconscious bias lies and thrives," the duchess said. "It makes it confusing for a lot of people to understand the role that they play in that, both passively and actively."

The conversation then turned to the Black Lives Matter movement and the global protests that have emerged in recent weeks out of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans at the hands of police. Meghan pointed out that many people are uncomfortable right now, but said this is necessary and the point.

"We're going to have to be a little uncomfortable right now because it's only in pushing through that discomfort that we get to the other side of this and find the place where a high tide raises all ships," Meghan said.

A memorial to George Floyd is seen in Minneapolis in late May. Photo: © Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Harry added that he sees this moment as possibly different from the past, saying he sees "people... starting to be listened to" with the recent demonstrations.

"The optimism and the hope that we get is from listening and speaking to people like you, because there is no turning back now – everything is coming to a head," he said to Chrisann, Mike, Alicia and Abdullahi. "Solutions exist and change is happening far quicker than it ever has done before."

He also said anti-racism work is global, not something specific to just the United States and the entire Commonwealth has a role to play.

"There is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past," he elaborated. "We all acknowledge there's so much more still to do. It's not going to be easy and in some cases, it's not going to be comfortable... and guess what, everybody benefits."

MORE: Seven ways you can educate yourself about anti-Black racism and take action

Mike said allyship isn't just about reading and becoming aware, but also in taking action, which goes far beyond things like signing online petitions and making donations.

"After pressing send online, people need to roll up their sleeves and do the work," he said. "There's a whole host of things that it means to be an ally, but the impetus has to be humility, kindness and a willingness to learn new things."

Meghan and Harry have been doing extensive work with anti-racist organizations in the last few weeks.

On July 1, Harry made a passionate speech about racial justice at the first virtual Diana Awards ceremony.

"My wife [Meghan] said recently that our generation and the ones before us haven't done enough to right the wrongs of the past," he said. "I, too, am sorry - sorry that we haven't got the world to a place you deserve it to be. Institutional racism has no place in our societies, yet it is still endemic. Unconscious bias must be acknowledged without blame to create a better world for all of you.

"I want you to know that we are committed to being part of the solution and to being part of the change that you are all leading. Now is the time and we know that you can do it."

In late June, the Duchess of Sussex reached out to Althea Bernstein, a biracial woman who is said to have survived a horrific attack being investigated as a hate crime in Madison, Wisc. She and the 18-year-old had a 40-minute conversation by phone. Harry joined in for 10 minutes of the call.

Also in June, Meghan gave a special address to the graduating class of her former high school in the city. She spoke about George Floyd's death and anti-racism.

The Sussexes are also reportedly supporting a campaign to stop online hate speech and have been meeting with community organizations such as the NAACP, Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League in connection with it.

An additional report earlier in June stated the couple had been meeting with organizers to discuss anti-Black racism and other issues related to the Black Lives Matter movement.

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