Is AP right to mention Prince Philip’s ‘racist and sexist remarks’ in his obituary?
- Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, passed away at the age of 99 on April 9, 2021 in Windsor Castle, England. He served in the Royal Navy until 1952, held the title of president of the World Wildlife Fund from 1981 to 1996, and made 22,000 solo appearances in line of duty.
- Friday morning, the royal family stated, “It is with deep sorrow that her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”
- Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were married for 73 years; the Queen held him in high esteem, calling him her “strength and stay” on their 50th wedding anniversary. He is credited with “modernizing the royal family” and supporting his wife tirelessly.
- AP News published an obituary revealing both the best and worst of Prince Philip, mentioning his public service, but also his “racist, sexist, and out of touch” remarks. NBC News, BBC, and Fox News brought up similar statements.
Death does not absolve the actions of one's life; the Associated Press is right to note the offensive remarks made by this senior member of the Royal Family along with his many positive contributions. The AP correctly reminded the public that Prince Philip once asked an Australian Aborigine, 'Do you still throw spears at each other?' and if a female cadet instructor 'worked in a strip club.' Australia, a Commonwealth Nation, has had a fraught relationship with Aborigines, and the world is currently grappling with sexism in all facets of life. It is important to recognize that many of these beliefs may stem from society's highest positions, so we must hold those in leadership positions to account when they misbehave.
While some may feel it unfair to bring up past indiscretions during a period of mourning, Prince Philip's obituary published by the AP was accurate and, therefore, right in mentioning his racist and sexist quips. Just as it would be inappropriate for the AP to leave out his military service and decades of public work, it would be wrong to omit his notable public gaffs. The AP noted, 'He was known for his occasionally racist and sexist remarks,' just as they noted, 'He headed hundreds of charities, founded programs that helped British schoolchildren…, and played a prominent part in raising his four children…' Prince Philip's life as husband to the Queen has been notably difficult, and to describe his life's story otherwise would be a disservice to history and the genuine struggles that he faced during his life in service of the crown.
The Associated Press was wrong to include a reference in Prince Philip's obituary as being 'racist, sexist,' creating a cloud over the many admirable accomplishments for which he should be remembered. He stood by Queen Elizabeth II for 73 years of marriage, served the world through his military career in the British Navy throughout WWII, led charitable missions, all while fathering four children.
The insensitive remarks were not typical of an obituary, which generally focus on positive, notable aspects of a deceased individual and not character flaws. Making these accusations in an obituary immediately following death is distasteful; had they been made towards Philip while alive, he could at least defend himself. Thankfully, many have already done so, providing examples that he was not racist or sexist. Philip was said to be 'a friend of Israel and the Jewish people,' working extensively with the Jewish community following the Holocaust, despite associated criticism. In an interview, Prince William also claimed, 'We are very much not a racist family.'
Prince Philip died at the age of 99. While this is not an excuse for discriminatory behavior, it must be noted that individuals from older generations are from different eras associated with ideas that may not be considered appropriate today. Knowing this provides context around potentially sexist 'gaffes' or racially-tinged comments he many have made in his life. This is more relevant today, considering that virtually anything or anyone may be called racist, sexist, homophobic, or generally politically incorrect. The Royal Family is currently mourning and should not have to confront insulting claims against their loved one, but instead celebrate his life and legacy.