After a record-breaking 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96. She was the country’s longest-serving monarch, so it’s no surprise that her death is a moment of sadness for people all over the world.

For many British people – the new prime minister Liz Truss among them – the Queen represented the “very spirit of Britain”, with a sense of duty, class and grace. But for others, the Queen and monarchy signify something else entirely, an institution inextricably linked with imperialism, colonisation, and slavery.

Though these things are viewed as belonging to the past, it’s difficult for some of us to ignore the role that the royal family played – and continues to play – in structures that allow inequality and racism to persist.

So, when news of the Queen’s death broke, not everyone felt sad or upset.

Instead, it was a case of business as usual for some – keep calm and carry on – or yet another moment to remind the public how deeply the royal family have impacted the lives of Black and Brown people around the world.

Writer Shirley Sozinha, 26, from London, founder of the pan-African cultural hub, UncoverPlat, says that the Queen leading the country for more than 70 years is a huge achievement and that she respects her as a woman.

“However, I do not respect the institution she comes from,” Sozinha tells HuffPost UK.

“What she represents is far greater than being a woman in leadership. She represents colonialism and her reign was the pinnacle of British brutality.”

As messages of condolence pour in from world leaders, including from the countries of the Commonwealth, there are those who point out that its very existence is a stark reminder of the royals’ role in imperialism.

The Queen herself did not colonise other countries. However, her family have benefited from the Empire and, some say, are yet to confront its bloody past.

“During the course of her reign, she witnessed the dissolution of nearly the entire British Empire into some 50 independent states and significantly reduced global influence,” Maya Jasanoff writes in a New York Times essay.

“By design as much as by the accident of her long life, her presence as head of state and head of the Commonwealth, an association of Britain and its former colonies, put a stolid traditionalist front over decades of violent upheaval.”

British lawyer and human rights activist Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu put it this way: “Stop with revisionist homage. Show your affection for her but don’t lie.”

This is current affairs – as recently as November 2021, Barbados removed the Queen as its head of state, becoming the world’s newest republic, and Jamaica is now in the process of doing the same.

As Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University told Birmingham Live during the Commonwealth Games this summer: “The Commonwealth is all about Britain trying to maintain some kind of symbolic link back to its imperial past. The empire is still there in some ways.”

Sozinha, who is originally Congolese, believes people of colour are right to acknowledge their conflicting feelings about the monarchy in this moment.

“Despite all that they are seen to do, they carry the blood of millions on their hands and it would be a big ask to expect any person of colour to overlook this,” she says. “We shouldn’t be shedding any tears, the Queen has not done anything that was intended to benefit us. We’re not royal subjects.”

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Kenyan newspapers, along with media oulets across the Commonwealth, have covered the death of the Queen.

Sozinha isn’t the only one to reject the national mood of mourning. In a tweet, since deleted, sports broadcaster and former England footballer, Trevor Sinclair wrote: “Racism was outlawed in England in the 60s & it’s been allowed to thrive so why should black & brown mourn!”

Sinclair received media backlash for the sentiment, but others have commented that the Black community is being judged more harshly for its views, than, say, Irish people, who also have a complex relationship with the monarchy.

There have been jokes and memes aplenty on social media and for some Brits, the feelings run even stronger.

Kelachi Onyebuchi, a 26-year-old social media coordinator, who is British-Nigerian, says that when she heard about the Queen’s death, she actually felt a sense of victory.

“Slowly, the very institution that signifies years of slavery, colonialism, pain, suffering is crumbling down,” she says – adding that while she was no fan of the Queen, she was aware what her position as head of the monarchy entailed “and for that very reason it will be extremely pretentious of me to mourn her death.”

She tells HuffPost UK: “I don’t and never will mourn my colonisers. I will never mourn the people that facilitated starvations and massacres (just to name a few of their many atrocities) of my people. Never.”





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