I don’t know why folks get unhappy when somebody well-known, previous, and comfy lastly dies. It simply doesn’t strike me as that devastating; dying is the final word retirement, and I’ve been making an attempt to be idle for the reason that minute I used to be born. However on Sept. 8 at Balmoral Fortress in Scotland, at 96, Queen Elizabeth II died. She had an extended, well-documented, dutiful life: She was the eighth Queen of England, a thorn within the sides of a number of nonwhite international locations for seven a long time, and, in fact, the rationale why immigrant moms like my very own defended Princess Diana so fiercely. The web seems deeply divided between folks dunking on her (myself included) and other people mourning somebody whose very best quality was how a lot she liked corgis. (These tweets are also pretty funny however clearly not deliberately so.)
I don’t care that the Queen is lifeless. She had run and I didn’t know her, so why ought to I waste the six tears I’m allotted per yr on a stranger? The one motive I’m right here is as a result of I enjoyment of upsetting Europeans, a long-held custom for nonwhite Canadians for at the least a century and a half. (Have you ever ever confused a shepherd’s pie and a rooster pot pie in entrance of a white individual? It is best to. It turns into an entire factor.) However I wrestle with the truth that so many individuals are actively devastated about her dying. We’re positive to enter at the least per week of celebrations of her very lengthy life, however…why?
Her wealth and affect persevered completely due to colonialism.
Queen Elizabeth’s dying, in contrast to these of different well-known older ladies, alerts nearly nothing in any respect for the day-to-day lives of individuals around the globe; it would imply some adjustments for the way we view the monarchy, however politically, her dying is a nonevent. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying meant that Roe v. Wade will surely be overturned (and boy had been we right). Queer activist Urvashi Vaid died earlier this spring, a loss to a number of civil rights actions, from healthcare justice to anti-war efforts. When activist and author Barbara Ehrenreich died firstly of the month, it meant one fewer voice of motive within the public discourse of socialism, feminism, and neighborhood.
Queen Elizabeth’s dying, conversely, means nothing apart from that she opted to not be cryogenically frozen with a purpose to be introduced again throughout the subsequent fall of civilization so she will take extra jewels that by no means belonged to her or her household within the first place.
Do I sound bitter? I don’t care. There’s one thing uniquely pitiful about mourning a girl who has been operating a company infamous for its genocidal tendencies. Within the quick time since her dying, some folks have argued you could mourn the person with out mourning the empire. This, so far as I, a brown individual, am involved, is unimaginable, as a result of Queen Elizabeth didn’t simply revenue from the pillaging and racial evisceration her lineage propagated for the reason that starting of British civilization; she was an active participant. Finally, her complete existence was buoyed by the atrocities of her household’s previous; her wealth and affect persevered completely as a result of of colonialism.
I do know it’s good to rewrite historical past, to current Queen Elizabeth as a softer member of the monarchy. But it surely’s not like she wasn’t alive throughout colonialism guided by British exceptionalism or the political unrest it brought on (and continues to trigger). Individuals who had been kids when the British dominated their international locations are nonetheless alive; it was just below a yr in the past that Barbados removed her as its head of state. Nations like India and Pakistan continue to wrestle with the financial, geographic, and cultural impacts of British colonialism, whereas others, like Saint Kitts and Nevis, have solely not too long ago gained true independence after centuries of meddling from the royals.
There are numerous photographs and movies of the Queen visiting her former colonies, with locals fawning over her as if her legacy isn’t part of what hurled their international locations into upheaval within the first place. I discover that protection creepy, like photographs of a jail warden strolling the grounds, the inmates grateful to be within the presence of such disproportionate wealth and ambivalence. Why did she preserve coming again to India, to Canada, to Ghana? To remind everybody that she nonetheless may, that her attain would at all times lengthen to their shores?
Nations impacted by the British Empire wrestle to personal their histories; they’re merely stopovers within the lengthy march of imperialism. The empire didn’t develop organically. Their riches had been stolen within the type of labor from enslaved folks, pilfered bijous, and naturally, tea. Elizabeth may have given any of the wealth again. She may have cemented herself because the royal who redistributed what was taken. She didn’t, although, and that wasn’t by mistake.
What international worth do you have got in case your relevancy is tied completely to what your loved ones has stolen?
Don’t get me flawed; the Queen was actually traditionally vital. The royals have at all times thought they knew the right way to run international locations higher than the native populations did; she adopted in these footsteps. She had events where people showed up wearing blackface brooches. She was a strolling, dwelling piece of simple historical past. It’s not like anybody was going to, or will, cancel the Queen; she was too elementary to England and the Commonwealth. Even Canada continues to be obsessed along with her, and we formally minimize ourselves off from the royal teat within the late ’70s. We nonetheless have a representative of the monarchy within the federal authorities! She’s nonetheless featured on our comically inexperienced $20 payments! No marvel everybody else within the UN makes enjoyable of us.
But by the top of her life, the Queen had nearly no tangible political energy. As colonialism grew to become much less fashionable, her affect waned as nicely. Are you truly highly effective if that energy comes solely via destruction? What international worth do you have got in case your relevancy is tied completely to what your loved ones has stolen?
Most of us can agree symbols are vital. That doesn’t imply we have to mourn when these historic figures take their final gasps. Swastikas are an indeniable a part of European historical past, however most of us agree we don’t must preserve them round with a purpose to bear in mind the Holocaust. (One other factor white folks took from Hindus, however, no matter, one huge trespass at a time I suppose.) You’ll be able to go to all of the Jubilees and have fun all of the sesquicentennials you need (a enjoyable phrase that the Canadian authorities made all of us be taught in 2017 that has by no means been helpful since), however the British Empire has a long, well-documented history of racist violence. The Queen, in the end, is a logo of destruction in the identical means she’s a logo of glamour and wealth and historical past. That’s an unforgettable actuality for many of us, however that doesn’t imply we’re going to have fun it, both.
And admittedly, the empire’s historical past of racism isn’t even that far again prior to now. Even the treatment of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, inside each the household and the firm made it clear the monarchy realized little or no. British tabloids are brutal, however they might’ve simply bent on the knee had the Queen informed them to cease ritualistically harassing the one nonwhite member of her complete lineage. As an alternative, she toed the celebration line. Timid in your 90s? What’s the purpose?
In the event you’re unhappy in regards to the Queen, regardless of your nationality, it requires some deep introspection. What are you unhappy about?
And but, celebrities like Liz Phair and Paris Hilton (what??) are out right here praising her for being the “unique woman boss” icon, for not taking shit from males whereas, let’s say, British troopers tortured and killed thousands of Kenyans in the ’50s. We’re solely simply starting to grasp the abuses coming from the British Empire; paperwork that had been thought to be “lost” however resurfaced in 2011 reveal a lot barbarity. Whereas she was alive, the Queen by no means apologized for these crimes executed in her identify. As the top of the agency, she by no means even acknowledged England’s grisly historical past.
I’ve been visiting household in Canada for the final two weeks, excellent timing to be visiting the Commonwealth. My dad and mom are from India; they’re native Kashmiris, a neighborhood nonetheless reeling from the results of Partition. My dad was born three years after the British determined to go away, and as such, the Queen hasn’t precisely been held in excessive esteem by my household. When my dad came upon that she died, he barely reacted — if anybody ought to care, it ought to maybe be an Indian Canadian with a Napoleon complicated who likes gilded chairs and unyielding allegiance to a trigger. As an alternative, he grumbled how she ought to posthumously return the Koh-i-Noor diamond to India. “I do know she gained’t,” he admitted, resigned, whereas sucking down some falooda. He’s proper — apparently, the diamond will go to Camilla, as a result of I suppose the royals need my dad to have a coronary heart assault and for my mother to scream at me for a fortnight about why white ladies don’t even look good in flashy jewellery within the first place.
In the event you’re unhappy in regards to the Queen, regardless of your nationality, it requires some deep introspection. What are you unhappy about? What do you’re feeling like we misplaced? A chunk of historical past already so totally documented? A reminder of what imperialism appeared like again when whiteness, wealth, and European domination had been even extra pronounced than it at the moment is? Is it nostalgia for a time when issues had been simpler — for you? The monarchy is defunct, its members are institutionally powerless, and now the Queen is lifeless. The world is transferring on previous what the monarchy gave us or, relatively, what the monarchy took. Diana’s gone, Meghan’s making podcasts in Palo Alto, and also you need me to really feel unhappy that the Queen died? Move. Save your tears for one thing that issues. ●