It is uncanny how swiftly British culture imitates the worst of American culture. Take Whoopi Goldberg, who distinguished herself again last week on The View. For anyone who does not know, The View is a long-running US TV show in which a collection of the dimmest women in America are invited to opine angrily on things they know nothing about. Goldberg is a long-term resident of this asylum, though she recently had to take a break from the show after declaring that the Holocaust had nothing to do with race, was some white-on-white thing, and in any case (as a woman of colour) didn’t concern her.
Her suspension over, Goldberg returned and immediately began complaining about the royal family – specifically poor Prince William and his wife, who were then at the start of a tour of the Caribbean. Whoopi thought the royals should use their tour to apologise for the crimes of slavery.
Clearly Goldberg labours under a number of delusions. One of these would appear to be that the British monarchy owns Barbados among other islands. Whereas in fact the people of Barbados recently decided to shrug off the benevolent, ceremonial role of the British monarchy in order to sign up as fully indentured servants of the Chinese Communist party. But that is another story.
Within a couple of days, Goldberg’s demented call was replicated on British TV. For our country rejoices in its own version of The View: a show called Loose Women, in which a handful of the thickest women in Britain are likewise invited to opine on matters about which they know nothing. On this ITV show, one Kelle Bryan similarly declared that a slavery apology was needed from the junior royals. According to Bryan: ‘What we’re looking for is an apology.’
It is hard to know what the ‘we’ here means. If I have done my research correctly it appears that Ms Bryan’s prime claim on the public’s attention is through her past role as a singer in a group called Eternal. Is Eternal the ‘we’ here? Perhaps Bryan imagines that she is speaking for all black people, or humanity as a whole? It seems unclear. Which perhaps is why Bryan strives for clarity where she can. Slavery seems to give her such clarity. ‘Let’s say what’s right and wrong,’ she declared boldly on ITV. ‘Is slavery right or wrong? It’s wrong.’ Like Whoopi Goldberg, Kelle Bryan seemed to imagine this to be a necessary point. As though ITV viewers are primarily people holding views that died out two centuries ago, and that the royal family is their gathering point.
Strangely, pressure from these and other quarters worked, and Prince William’s tour of the Caribbean was rounded off by a speech in which the Prince did indeed apologise for slavery. It is said that the new generation of royals are trying to do away with the old ‘Never complain, never explain’ rule. Yet they seem not to realise the pitfalls of a policy of ‘Always complain’ (Prince Harry), ‘Always explain’ (Prince William).
Among them is the fact that a person who apologises for a crime of which they are not guilty is not thereafter deemed innocent. Rather they are deemed to be under suspicion, at best. Furthermore, no apology will ever be good enough, because no apology will ever satisfy everybody. Those who are utterly ignorant of history, for instance.
For though a good many people seem not to know it, this country’s abolition of the slave trade was signed into law in 1807, by King George III. And in the period since, so far as I know, no member of the royal family has urged us to return to slavery. It is simply because Prince William’s family is unusually well known that anyone could possibly claim he has any connection to that long-abolished trade.
In modern America society must fall into one of only two classes: victim and victimiser. What’s more, an ignorance of history is no encumbrance – it is in fact a boon. Knowing nothing of history allows people to presume that calls to condemn slavery (for example) are original, fresh and daring.
Those people who demand apologies for slavery do not know that Britain, even more than America, long ago paid down whatever moral and financial debt was owed. Not only did Britain abolish the slave trade ahead of all other nations, but we policed the world until it was abolished there, too. As well as the cost paid in British lives, British households paid for this in higher costs for the resulting century.
Prince William simply demonstrated that giving a speech apologising for the slave trade puts no ghosts to bed. It only reawakens them, attracting along the way the sort of people who like seeing ghosts. It also suggests a degree of culpability that neither Prince William, nor anyone else alive, should bear. When Prince William issued his apology, he expressed his ‘profound sorrow’ for the crime of slavery. And even that is not enough. Kelle Bryan was among those who remained unsatisfied. The Prince’s words were not good enough, she said. ‘The words that came out of his mouth were not “I’m sorry”.’ And there are only a few ways around that. One of which would be to make the cast of Loose Women the Prince’s new speechwriters.
The truth is that even to join in this game is to engage in something which is not just unwinnable, but fundamentally insincere. Prince William will never be able to apologise enough for something his ancestors abolished two centuries ago. Meantime, Whoopi Goldberg has not fully apologised for something she said just the other week. I discern a double standard here. All covered in America’s worst ideological exports.
Douglas Murray’s new book, The War on the West, is published on 28 April.