London CNN  — 

It’s been a gut-wrenching week for Black Britons.

First came the interview where what many Black Britons believed in their hearts to be true was confirmed – Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Britain’s first member of the modern British royal family to identify as a woman of color, said she was forced to leave the monarchy in large part due to the British press “inciting… racism” against her.”

Then came the defensiveness of some in the media trying again to gaslight an entire nation.

“It made me feel unsafe that was the emotion I felt,” Karen Gibson said of the interview that shook Britain and provoked the ugly underbelly of prejudice.

Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir perform outside Kensington Palace on July 24, 2018 in London, England.

The 56-year-old Gospel singer led the Kingdom Choir’s rendition of “Stand by Me” for Prince Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding in the summer of 2018.

“We knew we were breaking new ground,” she said of the group’s moving performance. “We were standing there for communities of color not only in the UK, but all over the world, and we knew America would be watching.”

Overnight, Gibson, dubbed the “Godmother of Gospel” by British media, became a celebrity in her south London community of Clapham, where she has lived for decades.

“I was sitting on the bus one day and a woman, a Black lady, came and sat next to me and she said, ‘We made it!’ and I was like ‘Did we? Did we make it?” Gibson laughed.

Now that hope and optimism is tinged with the deep pain of racial trauma – the struggles of an American actress living in the palace spoke directly to the lived experience of ordinary Black Britons.

“I think my reaction was still? Are we here still in 2021?” Gibson said of the explosive interview.

Gibson feels her words about Meghan have been misrepresented in the media before – an experience she says left her “traumatized” and led to a “loss of trust” in journalists.

At a time of nationwide lockdown, the UK’s mainstream media is its public square – a space that many Black Britons say is hostile to them.

Buckingham Palace said in a statement this week that, “The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning.”

In response to Harry’s accusation that British tabloids are “bigoted” and build a “toxic environment” of “control and fear,” the UK’s Society of Editors claimed racism played no part in the coverage of the Duchess. The group’s head stepped down after a swift rebuke from more than 160 journalists of color. calling the statement “willful ignorance.”

“The blanket refusal to accept there is any bigotry in the British press is laughable, does a disservice to journalists of color and shows an institution and an industry in denial,” they added.

Popular TV host Piers Morgan’s claim on one of Britain’s most watched morning shows that he “didn’t believe a word” that Meghan was saying led to 41,000 complaints to the UK’s communication regulator. An investigation was launched, and the famous presenter lost his top gig.

On Wednesday, Morgan said that he still does not believe Meghan.

“I’ve had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don’t [believe her],” Morgan tweeted. “If you did, OK. Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on. Thanks for all the love, and hate. I’m off to spend more time with my opinions.”

Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, whose heated on-air exchange with Morgan went viral after he questioned Meghan’s truthfulness during her Oprah interview, says it’s going to take more than a couple of resignations to heal the divide.

“There is the issue of the lack of trust in the media,” Mos-Shogbamimu said. “If the media is going to change your words, the tone of your words, how are you going to trust them with your most valuable asset which is your voice.”

The Britain that Prince Harry and Meghan left is already changing. It was rocked by a racial reckoning after the death of George Floyd in the US, that pushed tens of thousands of anti-racism demonstrators onto the streets of the UK. That hope for change is quickly turning into a demand for equality.

“I cannot waste my energy on those who are still on the ABCs, 123s, do-re-mis of racism,” Mos-Shogbamimu explained, “I recognize that those who are against progress on racial equality and racial justice … one of their tactics is to frustrate the efforts of anti-racist activist like me, so if they have me arguing at the 123 level, where is my energy to deal with the real fight?”

Away from the British mainstream media – an overwhelmingly white institution – Zeze Millz has carved out her own space on social media.

Zeze Millz has carved out her own space in UK media.

Her weekly YouTube show speaks to an audience of 120,000 on cultural and political issues.

“We’ve been nice. We’ve been very, very nice for however long,” Millz explained from her studio in London. “Now we are at that point where it’s like, no, our voices are going to be heard now and if it is uncomfortable for you then tough luck.”

Britons are often quick to condemn viral videos of police brutality against Black people in America, but at home the refrain “racism does not exist,” is all too commonly heard by people of color, Millz says.

“There is a lot of overt racism in America,” Millz said, “Whereas here it’s not like that – it’s very under-handed. They always kind of gaslight you and come up with another reason why it’s not racism.”

Supporters of the royal couple see the TV interview as a public and global affirmation that Black Britain was right: racism does exist in the UK. But they argue exposing systemic inequality is only step one.

“The racism is too deep. It’s deep for one person to almost come in and change all of that, but I think that this interview will spark a lot of change,” Millz said.

In passing remarks to a journalist on Thursday, Prince William, Harry’s brother, said, “We’re very much not a racist family.” But it seems unlikely this black-and-white, whodunnit definition of racism will be enough to silence the demands for change at a time of racial reckoning.

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