The Queen and Megan Markle Go Out in Public

This morning’s news included a feature about Queen Elizabeth II taking Meghan Markle on her first Royals excursion.  Her Royal Highness seems to be charmed with Prince Harry’s choice in a bride.  That’s good.

Approximately a month ago both the Washington Post and the New York Times ran articles about the reactions of immigrants, especially black immigrants, to the then upcoming wedding.  The New York Times article featured an immigrant from South Africa, Carol Lengolo and her daughter Tshego (Say-ho) and their response to the upcoming event.

Tshego is an eleven year old girl who has become an unabashed Royalist.  She told reporters that racist Britons are “just going to have to get over it.”  Her mother, Carol, felt protective of Markle, saying, “We are going to be in her corner.  She needs people to say, ‘Sister you are not alone.  We are here…we are going to defend you.”

Not all immigrants are hopeful.  They want to know what this will do for them and their everyday plight.  And, they say, Megan barely looks black.

Tshego hopes the couple’s children will look more like her.

However, all agree that it will help make the Royal family reflective of what Britain looks like today.

Anyone who watches BBC television shows sees the cross section of people who make up the population of Britain today.  Of course, that is television and it represents, perhaps, an idealized version of Brits in the way American television represents America.

What exactly does it mean to have a mixed-race person in the Royal family?

It is not, apparently, the first time.  Queen Charlotte, wife of George III is seen in this painting with two of her fifteen children. 

“The origins (sic) of her African roots is  traced to Margarita de Castro de Sousa, a member of the black branch of the Portuguese royal family that married into the German royal families.”

In terms of the really big picture, it also means  nothing.

All Europeans are African. 

Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford is an expert on mitochondrial DNA.  In his book, “The Seven Daughters of Eve”, he weaves a tale of seven women who came out of Africa up to 65,000 years ago into Europe, and then had daughters who had daughters who had daughters up to the present day.  Sykes explains the difference in mitochondrial and somatic DNA.  Somatic DNA is the genetic material in the nucleus of each cell in our bodies that determines what we turn out to be.  It determines everything from eye color to stature to sex, but it is not our only DNA.  Mitochondria, the tiny intr-cellular power plants in our cells are outside the nucleus, have their own DNA, and don’t divide as nuclei do in the process of producing two cells from one. 

Because sperm cells don’t have mitochondria, they don not contribute to the mitochondria in our bodies.  Everyone, man or woman, gets their mitochondria from their mother.  Only one thing changes that mitochondria and that is mutation; the substitution of a portion of the DNA strand by a different nucleic acid.  Much of the mitochondrial DNA is not functional in terms of determining whether or not the power plant works.  Mutations there are passed along to the sons and daughters.  Mutations in the critical (highly conserved) portion cause serious diseases that mostly result in stillbirth or death in infancy.

Since these mutations occur at the rate of one per thousand years, researchers can track lineage backwards, and estimate how closely one person is related to another.   All of the seven women in the story track backward to DNA in Africa and converge on the theoretical Eve. 

One of the seven daughter’s DNA is so dissimilar to the others that we know that she showed up in Europe only about 10,000 years ago from somewhere on the West African coast.  None of our mitochondrial DNA came from Neanderthals, but Europeans got some somatic DNA from them and that is another story.

In telling this story the Lord of what is now Cheddar asked to have his mitochondrial DNA tested along with all of his staff hoping to find that he was a direct descendant of “Cheddar Man”, a 10,000 year old mummy found in a nearby cave.  It turned out that he was not related, but his butler was a descendant.

Everything has changed in Europe, and in Britain in particular, with the collapse of colonialism.  Britain now has many immigrants from Jamaica and South Africa as well as from Pakistan and India.  Not everyone has been happy about that.

Eric Clapton ranted a hate filled racist speech in the 1970s which he blamed on alcohol and drugs, but they had no more to do with causing him to be racist than Roseanne Barr’s Ambien did  her.  They just exposed underlying racist views.  Clapton echoed what many Briton’s were feeling then, and no doubt do today.  He felt that Britain was for Britons, not for natives of former colonies.

So, we are all African.  Some of us just got to Europe, the Americas and Asia, and even Australia, later than others.  It is somewhat shocking to find that there were no blue-eyed people prior to about 10,000 years ago, and all of us with blue eyes are descended from someone around Ukraine.  Not too many hundreds of generations ago none of us had three color receptors in our eyes; we had only two receptors, and must have seen color differently than today.

The light pigment in the skin of Northern Europeans is thought to have been conserved because it provided protection against rickets, a disease of childhood that resulted from lack of vitamin D.  Light skinned children made more vitamin D in their skin through sun exposure.  A couple of ice ages had a profound effect on what got passed along in our somatic DNA.  There is some evidence that at least some of the genes for that light skin came from Neanderthals.

We are all “mixed up” as one of my black, white, Cherokee, and who knows what else co-workers once said in describing her family.

What is at the heart of racism in the U.S. and Europe?

Skin color has substituted for class.  In the U.S. it substituted for slave versus free, and later for servant versus employer.  In Britain it substituted for colonial power versus a native of one of the colonies. Subjugation leads to dehumanization in the minds of many who fancy themselves among the powerful.

I found the attitudes of the Lengolo mother and daughter sweet and a little naïve. 

The royal family in Britain has undergone much of the change seen generally in Europe.  In trying to maintain royal lines they paired Charles and Diana who were – to say the least – were ill suited for each other.  Now both of their boys have married.  It appears that Kate is related to William distantly. 

“According to genealogists Patrick Cracroft-Brennan and Anthony Adolph, Michael Middleton's children descend, via their mother, from Elizabeth Plantagenet, King Edward IV's illegitimate daughter by Elizabeth Lucy, via Sir Thomas Blakiston Conyers, 9th Bt. of Horden, Durham.[139][140] Catherine and Prince William's closest common ancestors are Sir William Blakiston of Gibside and his wife Jane Lambton, making them eleventh cousins once removed,[139][140] These findings echo Christopher Challender Child's research, published in 2011.[141]”

While related, then, one is royalty and one is not.  It doesn’t really matter, however, because Kate’s family is a prominent and wealthy British family and Michael Middleton’s family has been very active in community affairs, his father or grandfather establish a high school for girls. 

Harry, of course, is “the spare”, and now he comes to the throne only through a series of catastrophes.  Still, the royal family has to act royal.  Marrying an American is not new – Edward VIII married Wallis Simpson, a divorced American – and abdicated under pressure from the Church of England.  Now Harry has married a divorced bi-racial American and everyone is comfortable with the marriage.  The Royal Family and the Church have changed in response to changes in society.

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Comment by koshersalaami on June 15, 2018 at 4:07am

My impression of the UK is that they’re further along with integration than most if not all of the rest of Europe. France has had a long reputation of being racially tolerant but has done a crappy job of integrating their North African Muslim population who still have major unemployment problems a few generations out. 

Race is more complicated in America because of the legacy of slavery. Immigration, on the other hand, is less complicated, except for illegal immigration, which would be complicated anywhere, and even that is more complicated for legal reasons than for structural ones. The US does a surprisingly good job of integrating immigrants - there are often a lot of problems with immigrant populations but not with their kids. This is probably the main advantage the US has over most of the rest of the world. As birthdates fall below replacement rates in most of the developed world, these countries worry about the burden on the young supporting a proportionately large elderly population. Immigration is an obvious solution, but immigration without integration could prove dicey. Immigration is also largely how the US has kept up its scientific status - foreign-born scientists often prefer the US to their countries of origin and they know they have the option of becoming American. Scientists don’t move to China with the expectation of becoming Chinese. 

Race is still a startlingly intractable problem here. This should be way easier than it’s proving to be. And, in this case, it’s less a question of legal status than of societal acceptance. The LGBTQ population actually has far fewer legal protections at this point - employment discrimination on the basis or orientation/sexual identity is still legal in most of the United States, while racial discrimination is not, though racial protection under the law has clearly been moving in the wrong direction for years now, with the Courts treating discrimination as either a thing of the past or inevitable enough to accept, neither of which is true. As with a lot of discrimination, it’s mainly based on blaming the victims, to an extent most Americans don’t begin to acknowledge. 

Comment by Ron Powell on June 15, 2018 at 5:32am

Could it be that the Queen of England has found someone with whom she can simply go out and have a good time?

After all is said and done, "girls just want have fun".

Comment by Ron Powell on June 15, 2018 at 6:08am

"What is at the heart of racism in the U.S. and Europe?

Skin color has substituted for class. In the U.S. it substituted for slave versus free, and later for servant versus employer."

"Race is more complicated in America because of the legacy of slavery....Race is still a startlingly intractable problem here. This should be way easier than it’s proving to be. And, in this case, it’s less a question of legal status than of societal acceptance."

To the extent that race in America (read color of skin) has been and still is an element or component of the indicia of social status and material well being, it is a universally recognized marker which identifies those who are accepted and have access and those who do not..

How many times must I post this meme before it dawns on you that this isn't simply some sarcastic way of speaking on a sensitive subject?

It is an articulation of the American creed re race. It is the accurate distillation and description of the American mindset and attitude where race is concerned:

Comment by Rodney Roe on June 15, 2018 at 7:00am
Ron, Lyndon Johnson said it well. In Clapton's rant he used derogatory terms for North Africans and people from the Indian subcontinent. I'm sure in colonial days men fighting for the Crown were convinced that they were inherently superior to the men they were killing, and the men and women who later worked for the colonialists.
When the children of those subdued were suddenly considered equals with the children of those who made them captives they had to ask why their fathers had fought and died. They must have felt duped but couldn't realize it.
Comment by Rodney Roe on June 15, 2018 at 7:17am
kosh, I think that race and gender preference are different problems for different reasons.
Homosexuality can be dated to the beginning of herding. Ownership of animals and grazing territory became a matter of inheritance within families rather than as a tribe as in hunting rights. The inability to have an heir became a matter of loss of everything and what was seen as a voluntary preference of an heir to have no children was punished severely.
Race as a concept came along later and was tied to all of the things you mentioned.

What has been astounding to me has been how quickly we came to the tipping point with the LGBTQ marriage issue. I think that the AIDS epidemic was the key to this change. With HIV/AIDS as soon as people got over thinking it was a "gay" disease, they saw that the men who were dying were friends and neighbors who they had admired, went to church with, were fellow Rotarians, etc. They could no longer see them as caricatures.
Race has been more intractable and I think it has been due to the lack of close contact between groups. We go to different churches, live in different parts of town and our only real exposures are at school and work. That hasn't been enough to cause that tipping point to be met.

And then there is the problem that Ron's meme illustrates so well, "My life is miserable but at least I'm not black".
Comment by Anna Herrington on June 15, 2018 at 7:20am

"It is somewhat shocking to find that there were no blue-eyed people prior to about 10,000 years ago, and all of us with blue eyes are descended from someone around Ukraine."

What is the best point, and the actually shocking part to (white, no doubt) scientists is that the earliest blue eyed 'Europeans' did not have light skin, they had very dark skin - (even Europeans were originally dark, you racist dumbasses out there) - and pale skin is no earlier seen than 7,000 years ago (in modern humans, which doesn't go with the Neanderthal theory of their having pale skin and reddish hair and their mixing with 'modern' humans, as why wouldn't pale skin have shown up earlier then? but so it goes). The blue eyes evolved much earlier than pale skin, turning genetic theories on its head. 

The image of early pale Europeans most of us think of are the early Celts/proto-Indo-European and they didn't show up from the steppes until 3500BC or so.

The pale cave man images wearing rough animal skins thrown over their shoulders from even more ancient days are just false even besides the skin hue - they wore fitted clothing, usually from various animal pelts that benefitted their wear, softer pelts like chamois on the torso and tough auroch and certain other pelts for their feet, even in paleolithic (ice age) times.

Anthropology and archaeology have come a long way with more current DNA and strontium isotope testing, too (on teeth/bone, can tell where anyone was born/grew up, thus showing how well travelled the ancients were with strong long distance networks).

It's all fascinating, to me.

Comment by Rodney Roe on June 15, 2018 at 7:37am
kosh, I think that race and gender preference are different problems for different reasons.
Discrimination against homosexuality and persecution of the LGBTQ can be dated to the beginning of herding. Ownership of animals and grazing territory became a matter of inheritance within families rather than as a tribe as in hunting rights. The inability to have an heir became a matter of loss of everything and what was seen as a voluntary preference of an heir to have no children was punished severely.
Race as a concept came along later and was tied to all of the things you mentioned.

What has been astounding to me has been how quickly we came to the tipping point with the LGBTQ marriage issue. I think that the AIDS epidemic was the key to this change. With HIV/AIDS as soon as people got over thinking it was a "gay" disease, they saw that the men who were dying were friends and neighbors who they had admired, went to church with, were fellow Rotarians, etc. They could no longer see them as caricatures.
Race has been more intractable and I think it has been due to the lack of close contact between groups. We go to different churches, live in different parts of town and our only real exposures are at school and work. That hasn't been enough to cause that tipping point to be met.

And then there is the problem that Ron's meme illustrates so well, "My life is miserable but at least I'm not black".
Comment by alsoknownas on June 15, 2018 at 7:53am

In the 70's I was opposed to forced busing. I said so in a class on Black Literature and received resounding boos from the class. After waiting for it to settle, I chided those in favor of it as offering up too little too late.

My preference was for forced "cribbing". 

I sat down to applause.

Comment by Rodney Roe on June 15, 2018 at 8:02am
Anna, thanks for all of the info. Some time back I got interested in the origin of dogs. A comment by one researcher (that I can't find again) related that the bones of a dog and human(s) in a cave in Siberia dated back 35,000 years ago. Descendants of neither human nor dog survived the next ice age. So, domestication of wolves happened several times, but modern dogs are descended from a large gray wolf that no longer exists, but modern wolves are descended from a smaller southern wolf. Or so it seems today.
The use of anthropology, archeology, genetics, isotope testing and x-ray diffraction have revealed fascinating possibilities and muddied the waters at the same time.

The Seven Daughters of Eve was a fun read as a science based novel.

I have been tempted to get my DNA tested, but keep reading reports about its unreliability, the relentless pursuit of profit by the companies that do it, and the tenuous nature of the conclusions the companies draw from the results. What does it mean to be 27% Sicilian, for example? (Maybe we should ask S.B.Amy.)
Comment by Steel Breeze on June 15, 2018 at 8:11am

always was fascinated bout why dogs chose to hang with us....others,cats,monkeys,etc,tolerate it,but dogs choose it.......i'm guessin its cause he likes to keep a close eye on his project....

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