A couple of days ago deposed Alberta premier Jason Kenney took to Twitter to inform Albertans that he had traveled to London to wait in line for more than 14 hours to view the body of the Queen lying in state. Albertans pointed out that his wait was still considerably less long than the average wait in an Alberta emergency room.
Kenny also informed us that he was an avid and lifelong monarchist, but of course did not grant Albertans a day off to participate in the international act of mourning the Queen. How we mourn the Queen, and who is allowed to commemorate her has been a fraught topic over the last few days since the Queen’s death.
We may remember that professor Uju Anya faced pushback and death threats ever since she tweeted about the Queen’s responsibility for the genocide of her family, half of whom are Nigerian. Colonized people around the world have been taking the time to remember the history of the British Empire.
And as we know, should you spin a globe and put your finger down there is virtually no place on earth that you could touch that has been untouched by the British Empire. From my own family history of my grandfather facing charges in addition to speaking about the colonialism of the British Empire on the eve of the war, from histories in India, from the ravages across the continent, including, of course the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, where in fact, the Queen first wrote about the death of her father and her ascension to the throne.
People from around the world, from Ireland, to the Caribbean, to Asia to the African continent have been busy informing the public that we will not bury the histories of colonialism, and reminding people that we want our possessions back, including, of course, the crown jewels. Remembering colonial histories is of course inconvenient to the state’s desire to use this moment, not only to create a narrative about the Queen’s life, but also to bring us all back into a particular authoritarian fold, where we’re not allowed to question the state commemoration, the role of the monarchy, and particularly as formerly colonized, and currently oppressed people allowed to speak the truth about our histories about our oppressions or about our pain.
But remembering the Queen’s history of colonialism and her involvement in the royal family— in the deaths, blood, pain and suffering of millions of people around the world as an extension of the royal family, and as a monarch is not in fact, a disrespectful act. What is disrespectful is pretending that the Queen was somehow responsible for decolonization.
And we have seen in this tributes where people have suggested the fact that she presided over the independence of multiple Caribbean countries and African countries and of India—of many different countries—somehow means that the Queen played a leading role in the liberation of people of color around the world.
To suggest that is actually to do deep disrespect to those of our martyrs who died, suffered and bled in revolutions around the globe, remembering the very real, ongoing and present processes of colonization that continue to haunt people around the globe, including Indigenous people right here in Canada—is not an act of disrespect to the Queen.
Nor is it too soon to raise these issues as we are compelled into forced mourning of this month. It is not somehow disruptive, or unkind, to speak the truth about the realities of this woman’s political history, nor the potential future of the Monarchy. We must continue to speak out when we are told that our voices must be silent.
And we must continue to recognize that telling these colonial truths is not actually an act of violence towards a kind old grandmother and mother and person respected by many, but is in fact a necessary act. And on that note, if you do you live in a province that has a day off, take the day to read some history, to listen to people of colour and Indigenous people. And if you hear something you don’t like from people talking about colonial histories, think about why you’re so uncomfortable yourself.