Ken Olisa, the first black Lord-Lieutenant for London, said that the issue of race is a “hot conversation topic” in the royal household, in an interview which will be aired Friday, reports PA Media.
The royal family’s attitude to race has been in the spotlight recently following allegations of racism from Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and the revelation that ethnic minority immigrants and foreigners were banned from clerical positions until at least the late 1960s.
However Olisa suggested that the family are open to talking about racism.
“I have discussed with the royal household this whole issue of race, particularly in the last 12 months since the George Floyd incident,” he said.
“It’s a hot conversation topic. The question is what more can we do to bind society to remove these barriers. They [the royals] care passionately about making this one nation bound by the same values.”
Olisa was also asked whether the royal family support BLM. “The answer is easily yes,” he said.
The aide related that the Queen had asked his advice about visiting Grenfell Tower following the June 2017 fire in which 72 people died, and he said she should go.
“I remember thinking as it all happened, it was quite scary, we didn’t know whether she would be booed or have things thrown at her, etc, and when she got out of the car all these people applauded,” added Olisa.
The interview was part of a program called “Black to Front,” which will be aired Friday evening at 7 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET) on Channel 4. The program was made by an all-black team of presenters and reporters.
The royals continue to face questions around their attitude to race after Harry and Meghan claimed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that a family member made racist comments about the skin color of their first-born child. They later clarified through Winfrey that this was neither the Queen nor Prince Philip.
Buckingham Palace responded with a statement on behalf of the Queen.
“The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning,” read the statement. “While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”
The Guardian investigation into hiring practices also revealed that decades ago, the palace used a parliamentary procedure known as “Queen’s consent” to obtain an exemption from UK legislation aimed at preventing discrimination in the workplace — including the hiring of people based on their ethnicity. The Queen is still exempt from those laws today, the Guardian reported.
And in June, Buckingham Palace admitted the royal household is not diverse enough.
The Sovereign Grant report disclosed for the first time that the proportion of ethnic minority employees within the royal household is 8.5% — with a target of 10% by the end of 2022. According to a 2011 census, 14% of the population of England and Wales were from an ethnic minority background, while in Scotland the figure was 4%.
As the financial statement was released, a senior palace source highlighted the diversity and inclusion policies, training and programs in place but also acknowledged “we are not where we would like to be.”