Since it aired, I’ve felt uncomfortable with Harry’s statements about equality in the Quotidien interview and the resulting posts/articles about it, but I needed to step back and figure out WHY it made me feel that way. There was something about his language that immediately rubbed me the wrong way and to see how his statements have been used as some kind of great moment of activism has only added to my discomfort.
As a human rights worker, I spend every day trying to raise awareness and understanding of rights, to ensure that they are implemented properly in my country, and to establish effective forms of redress when there are rights violations. At the core of my value base is a belief in social justice, equality and non-discrimination, human dignity and human rights. In my ideal world, these would be fundamental truths for all people, but I recognise that, despite living in a relatively wealthy, developed nation, these are simply not realities for a large section of the population. The children and families I work with are facing poverty, mental health issues, family breakdown, discrimination, immigration difficulties, violence, trauma and neglect. For them, the idea of equality is directly connected to politics. The decisions made at local and national levels impact directly on their day-to-day experiences and their ability to ensure that their basic needs are met.
By stating that equality is something removed from politics, Harry demonstrated his privilege. As a wealthy and influential white man, he has privilege that allows him to remove himself from the political discourse of inequality and discrimination that define the lives of many others. That is not to say that Harry has not faced issues like those I mentioned above, but he has resources and connections that others can only dream of so that he doesn’t need to make his ‘fundamental’ beliefs about politics.
To me, his statement was not inspirational or demonstrative of a greater passion for and awareness of the issues that are impacting on our society today. It came across as a vague, ill-informed platitude, and when it is being used to generate headlines, it demonstrates just how low the bar is set for him. Celebrities often use their status as a platform to raise awareness of causes or issues that are important to them. They are able to speak in specifics, demonstrating a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the topic. This is not what happened at Quotidien. In between a series of ‘ums’ and ‘I don’t knows’, Harry cobbled together a sentence to avoid a question he wasn’t comfortable answering.
This was not an example of activism. It was an example of not being aware of one’s own privilege. I would call out my friends and colleagues for making similar vague, ignorant statements, so I won’t hesitate to do so when a celebrity does it, especially when the fandom is holding it up as something to be applauded. I felt Harry’s statement was dismissive of the reality of people’s lived experience. Equality is directly connected to politics (and Politics). Ignoring that only makes the issues we face more difficult to overcome.