Amid fresh allegations of racism in the royal family, this is what Prince Harry means by ‘unconscious bias’

Amid fresh allegations of racism in the royal family, this is what Prince Harry means by ‘unconscious bias’

The Prince has discussed unconscious bias before – back in 2020 he opened up about his relationship with the concept, and how he was forced to face up to his own bias after meeting his now wife Meghan Markle.

Speaking with Black Lives Matter activist Patrick Hutchinson for British GQ, Harry explained that he’s learned more about bias because of Meghan. “Unconscious bias, from my understanding, having the upbringing and the education that I had, I had no idea what it was. I had no idea it existed,” he said. “And then, sad as it is to say, it took me many, many years to realise it, especially then living a day or a week in my wife’s shoes. Whether it’s politics or whether it’s the media, whether if you’re not aware of your own bias and you’re not aware of the culture within your system, then how are we ever going to progress? How are we ever going to get to that point where there is more fairness?” Harry added. “Because it’s not a zero-sum game, right? Everyone benefits if the black community gets treated the way they should be treated.

Although I truly believe that Prince Harry has served people of colour well, by loudly identifying as an ally, I do believe that the language he used to describe unconscious bias was watered down and misused. What I believe Harry also failed to recognise was that for unconscious bias to exist, there needs to be a level of unconsciousness and unaccountability from said person. However, for every allegation thrown at the royal family, they have doubled down. Recall the “recollections may vary” comment from the Queen on Harry and Meghan’s claims of racism.

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious biases are internalised stereotypes based on gender, race, accent, height and looks which affect how we perceive outside our conscious awareness and control.

What is the difference between unconscious bias and racism, and where is this fine line between them?

The dictionary definition of racism says that it’s “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” This doesn’t differ too much from the definition of bias, however, there is no mention of it being conscious when pertained to racism alone. However, claiming that racism and unconscious bias are mutually exclusive creates room for unaccountability.

From the conversations around Archie’s skin tone, to the line of questions by Lady Susan Hussey to Ngozi Fulani around her race, to even using the ‘P’ word without understanding it as a slur (Prince Harry references doing so in his new autobiography ‘Spare’), these are all harmful and inherently racist actions, even if done unconsciously.

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