“Speak well of the dead.” Many people believe it is socially inappropriate to speak ill of those no longer among the living. Persons argue that they are unable to defend themselves. But what if their actions are indefensible?
“This weaponization of White Womanhood continues to be the centerpiece of an arsenal used to maintain the status quo and punish anyone who dares challenge it,” Ruby Hamad writes in White Tears/Brown Scars.
Besides, there is never a good time to talk about injustice during an oppressive regime as colonizing is still happening. Calls for reparations and countries declaring their independence from the country preceded her in death. In fact, the United Kingdom only recently paid off their debt to slave-holding families.
Queen Elizabeth II died after a 70-year reign, and the response to the news varied. It largely depended on whether the country had been colonized or not.
Only 22 countries have not been invaded by the British empire, which means that 90% of the world has. It makes Great Britain the largest landowner in the world.
Whether done in her name or with her own hands, the argument remains as made by James Connolly regarding King George V’s visit to Ireland and Scotland in 1910: “We will not blame him for the crimes of his ancestors if he relinquishes the royal rights of his ancestors; but as long as he claims the rights, by virtue of descent, then, by virtue of descent, he must shoulder the responsibility for their crimes.”
Because you simply cannot experience the privileges of colonialism without sharing in the pain that it causes. You must take the spoils of war and the bad reviews of the citizens of said country left empty-handed.
The crown is not the only thing being passed down, as many of the jewels in the British crowns have been stolen from other countries. Newsweek writer Shannon Power reports, “Calls Grow for Return of Crown Jewels to India, Africa After Queen’s Death.”
But it is not uncommon while planning the funeral of a relative for someone to claim that money or a material object was left for them in their will, at their home or on their person. “She would have wanted me to have it,” someone inevitably says.
Manuel Aragorn jokingly tweeted, “I think the Queen would want us all to live the way she did, with free housing, basic universal income, and full government health care.”
Let’s be fair. Death brings out the worst in people, both the living and the dead. With any critique, we hear assertions that “It’s too soon.” or “Now is not the appropriate time.” But this sentiment was hotly debated on social media.
Whether you’re on the giving or the receiving end, it matters what side of the oppression you are on. It also matters the nature of your relationship.
Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, and Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, remembers her as “granny” and offers words of gratitude: “Granny … Thank you for your commitment to service. Thank you for your sound advice. Thank you for your infectious smile. We, too, smile knowing that you and grandpa are reunited now, and both together in peace.”
His experience is also true. She was Queen Elizabeth, a mother of four and his “granny.” None of these experiences cancel out the other.
But as Autumn A. BlackDeer, decolonial Indigiqueer scholar from the Southern Cheyenne Nation reminds us, “Colonialism is not a historic event. It is an ongoing project.”
The same can be said of our collective grief and trauma. We are all still working through these experiences and our feelings.
“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it,” Zora Neale Hurston warned. Consequently, while some are grieving the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, others are grieving what and who they lost during her reign.
Some have used humor to cope, and others have taken to public lament. Either way, we do not all grieve the same or about the same things.
May we continue create space so that everyone feels free to say what they need to about the dead and the things that kill them to say.