From The Grio — Prince William of Wales married Catherine Middleton today during an event that some have deemed “the most anticipated wedding ceremony of the decade” and others have criticized asoverblown media circus.
Cakes, carriages, and celebrity cameos will mark the occasion, with Beyoncé and Jay-Z rumored to be delivering a rare joint performance. Hundreds of tourists have flocked to the abbey where the couple wed, pitching tents and camping outside in the hope of catching a glimpse of the royal party.
Exciting as all this may seem, black Americans have responded with somewhat less enthusiasm. For the most part, to dare to breach the subject in barber shops, board rooms, or dinner tables across the country is to invite complaints that the overseas royal spectacle is a waste of time, culturally irrelevant to black Americans, or just plain boring.
Perhaps there’s some legitimacy to this view. After all, by and large we share neither race, heritage, or nationality with the royal family. But as a minority group operating under a two-party political system that publicly shirks the concept of a monarchy but privately adheres to systems of nepotism and elitism that similarly consolidate power by bloodline, we should be paying close attention to the royal goings-on.
The pomp and circumstance surrounding the royal wedding may inspire eye rolls and snoozefests. But because it reveals how much the royal family means — and what it represents — to Britain and the world at large, it should also remind black America of the importance of developing and maintaining leadership figures who proudly and visibly embody the cultural values of our community.
This concept of black royalty is hardly unfamiliar to us. After all, we lay claim to both the “King of Pop” and the “Queen of Soul”. Even the so-called “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Elvis Presley, is said to have built his career around the influence and innovation of black musicians. Queen Latifah has had us all celebrating her “royal badness” for years, and Ciara “Princess” Harris has taken theR&B world by storm. But it’s not just in the realm of music that we’ve come to experience these sorts of royal labels. We’ve been cruelly and ironically reduced to “welfare queens” in the political sphere, and seen the images of our royal African ancestors fetishized and stereotyped in the fashion and media industries. We’ve laughed along with the “Kings of Comedy”, and traveled to Queens, New York with “Prince Akeem”, the iconic fictional African prince played by Eddie Murphy in Coming to America.
While royalty undoubtedly has a place in our modern culture, it’s also played a part in our history. Though he may not have used the term royalty explicitly, W.E.B. DuBois’ concept of a“Talented Tenth” incorporated similar themes when discussing the importance of black leadership, echoing values and roles that the current British monarchy is still putting forward.
“The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men,” DuBois wrote in 1903, just as today, the British government explains on its website that “In a constitutional monarchy…the British Sovereign aka the Queen…continues to play an important part in the life of the nation”.