Along with several other commentators, I had harsh words to say in my Times column (£) about the choices made by the Duchess of Sussex, the former actress Meghan Markle, in listing 15 female impact-makers in her guest-edited issue of British Vogue.
Like others, I found these choices shallow and meretricious, amounting to little more than politically correct and deeply divisive virtue-signalling that seemed to me disrespectful of both the monarchy, which is above all an apolitical and unifying force, and the country of which it is the symbol.
People are of course entitled to disagree. And many did, expressing much outrage at our comments about the duchess. What was particularly noticeable, however, was that the taunt of choice employed by many who thus objected was that we were all “racist” in criticising her.
This particular objection needs to be understood. Of course, the term “racist” has now been evacuated of meaning, since it is now an empty smear hurled at anyone who falls foul of the left, or who has been associated in any way with anyone who has fallen foul of the left. Thus the totalitarian tenor of our times.
But on this occasion it does actually mean something – though not what the smear-mongers intend it to mean. For what it tells us is something important and paradoxical about the smear-mongers themselves.
There was, of course, nothing remotely racist about anything that was said about the duchess. She was criticised for her behaviour, for the choices she made in selecting those 15 women and for the attitudes and views she thus displayed.
Those who claim such criticism is “racist”, however, are saying that she is being criticised only because she is of mixed race. They are saying, in effect, that because the duchess is of mixed race she is to be regarded as beyond all criticism.
Inverting the famous observation of Martin Luther King, they are therefore judging her not by the content of her character but by the colour of her skin.
As I wrote here, exactly the same phenomenon occurred with US president Barack Obama (and is occurring again in the US over Somalia-born congresswoman Ilhan Omar). Anyone who criticised Obama’s behaviour was immediately tarred as a racist. It was said that the only reason he could possibly be subjected to such criticism was racism, and therefore by definition all his critics were racists.
But those who criticised Obama on the basis of what he had said and done were treating him like they would treat any other politician or president or indeed any other member of the human race — holding him accountable for his actions.
As with Obama, those now screaming “racist” against Meghan’s critics have revealed they think she is not to be treated as fully human and accountable, but is to be treated as different and beyond all criticism simply on account of the colour of her skin.
These are the actual racists in our midst.