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Why are Harry and Meghan accepting an award for saying the Royal Family is racist, asks A.N. Wilson

Harry and Meghan are heroes. It's official. They have been awarded a human rights award for 'their heroic stand against "structural racism" in the monarchy'.

The award is called the Ripple of Hope, and it is given by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organisation, named after the former U.S. attorney general (and brother of John F. Kennedy) who was gunned down by a fanatic in the summer of 1968.

In that summer, which also saw the assassination of civil rights campaigner Dr Martin Luther King, there were indeed some heroes, of whom Dr King was the greatest.

At the time of Dr King's death, Nelson Mandela was in prison in South Africa, where the apartheid regime was in its full, hideous pomp, and Mandela had no obvious hope of ever being released. While Dr King was campaigning during the 1960s, Americans of African origin were strictly segregated in the southern states.

Even in the supposedly liberal northern states, segregation was the norm. At a beautiful swimming club where I go with my grandchildren in ultra-liberal Philadelphia, black people were not allowed to swim until 1967. It was the first place in the United States which allowed black and white friends to swim together.

So you can see why the Kennedy family established their award to combat racism. You see why they gave the award to such towering individuals as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who not only campaigned for an end to apartheid, throughout a long life, but who did so urging both sides to come together in peace. He was a genuine hero who risked his life for the cause over and over again, who lived for most of his days in poverty.

For Meghan Markle and Harry Windsor to have been placed in the same category as such heroic campaigners against racism is preposterous, and their acceptance of this award a monstrous self-conceit. The idea that the supposed 'structural racism' in the British Royal Family is in any way comparable to the appalling injustices of racist regimes in South Africa and America — well, it beggars belief.

During apartheid times, the Commonwealth wanted economic sanctions against the racist regime in South Africa. Many successive British governments disagreed. The Head of the Commonwealth, however, our late Queen, consistently sided with Mandela and the other African leaders in their demands for sanctions.

Further back, during the 1950s, it was she — after being warned by Foreign Office mandarins to keep at arm's length the Left-wing future President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah — who actually went to Accra, the capital, and very publicly danced with the man.

You can level many, many criticisms against the Royal Family. You can say that the royals have been blinkered and old-fashioned in many respects.

And it is true that during the 1960s the royal flunkies, those who ran the court for the Queen, excluded non-whites from the Palace staff — much to Her Majesty's displeasure when she found out about it.

But one area where even the traditionalist Queen was generations ahead of her peers was over this question of racism.

When he was Prince of Wales, Charles reached out to immigrant communities in our burgeoning industrial cities long before it occurred to many British politicians to do so.

He bothered to find out about Islam, and to pray with Muslims. He included young people of all ethnic backgrounds in his Prince's Trust and gave many people of the first or second immigrant generation the start to get going as fully-appreciated members of a modern multi-racial British society.

The same is true of the Duke of Edinburgh and his award scheme. Doyin Sonibare, in her moving address at the duke's memorial service at Westminster Abbey in March, told the congregation that she had started pursuing the award when she was 15.

Encouraged by her Nigerian-born mother, she became a gold award holder and said that it was Prince Philip's vision which had enabled her, and thousands of young people like her, to develop their personal skills.

She now not only has a successful career but has launched schemes to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to do likewise.

Call our monarchy what you like, but don't please call it institutionally racist from the safe confines of your luxury lifestyle in California.

After the Queen's funeral, William and Kate made overtures towards Harry and Meghan and it looked as if — just for a moment — there was a slight thaw in their appalling family Cold War.

Surely the first thought which should have occurred to the Sussexes is that they should turn down this Ripple of Hope nonsense? By accepting it, they are directing another Exocet missile at Harry's father, his brother and cousins. What heroic deed have the Sussexes ever done together in their dealings with the Royal Family? They have sulked, and squabbled and made trouble and thrown childish tantrums.

They have been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and claimed that someone in the Royal Family made a remark which they construed as racist — i.e. wondering what Archie would look like when he was born. (They couldn't agree on when the remark was made — Meghan claimed there were 'several conversations' about Archie's skin colour which took place 'in those months when I was pregnant' while Harry said there was just one conversation 'right at the beginning . . . before we even got married'.)

Even if they do consider this question to be racist — and it is not necessarily a question of colour or ethnicity, for surely all families are interested in whether a new baby takes more after Mum or Dad — where is their sense of proportion?

Do they really think that this casual remark, allegedly made when Meghan was pregnant, is worthy of comparison with the horrors of the apartheid regime in South Africa, or with the treatment of African Americans in the southern states from the days of slavery right down into our lifetimes?

Apparently, in Meghan's deluded head, she is some kind of civil rights heroine. She famously confided in a journalist that when she attended a performance of The Lion King, she was told by one of the cast, 'I just need you to know. When you married into this family, we rejoiced in the streets the same we did when Mandela was freed from prison.'

No one has ever managed to track down this member of the cast. Nor has anyone who was present at the theatre that evening — when Meghan met a line-up of actors, all curtseying and smiling — remembered comparing her to Nelson Mandela.

This was a man whose very existence was constantly under threat and who spent decades locked up in a tiny prison cell because of his fight for justice in Africa.

How can one possibly compare his life with that of a pampered TV actress who married one of the richest men in Britain and who, when presented with a beautiful tiara to wear on her wedding day, reportedly threw a wobbly because it was the wrong kind of tiara?

It is not only in Britain that intelligent opinion has reacted with astonishment at the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organisation offering this award to the Sussexes, and with even greater astonishment to their having accepted it.

Professor David Nasaw, Pulitzer finalist and author of The Patriarch, about Bobby Kennedy's father Joseph, declared the award to the Sussexes as 'between sublimely ridiculous and blatantly ludicrous. It's absurd'.

He added: 'If you look at the people who have been awarded the Robert Kennedy prize in the past — Bill and Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi [Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives], Bishop Desmond Tutu — then you have to ask what are Harry and Meghan doing here? What in God's name have they done to merit this?'

How can one possibly the life of Nelson Mandela (pictured with the Queen in 1996) with that of a pampered TV actress who married one of the richest men in Britain and who, when presented with a beautiful tiara to wear on her wedding day, reportedly threw a wobbly because it was the wrong kind of tiara?

Even as Harry and Meghan prepare to receive the award next month, there are genuine victims of racism in the U.S. and, alas, in Britain. Even as they attend the gala evening in New York, surrounded by the bejewelled and sycophantic rich, police forces all over this country are being investigated for genuine cases of racism.

The poorest children of black parents in Britain and the U.S. still suffer casual racism, not only from the police, but from the system.

Yet decent people, including senior members of the Royal Family, are doing all they can to change attitudes and to put things right.

Charles, through the Prince's Trust charity he started in 1976, hopes to offer employment possibilities to ethnic minorities at home, just as the Princess Royal, for decade after decade and with almost no flashy publicity, has worked for Save The Children in the poorest, most famine-ridden parts of the African continent.

Compare them with ridiculous Harry and Meghan clutching their Ripple of Hope award. These two actually make one despair about their ever making peace with their family. We feel despair, too, that two over-privileged, self-delusional, silly people fail to realise what chumps they have made of themselves since going to live in California.

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