A discussion of the death of Queen Elizabeth II wound up turning into a dispute and history lesson on MSNBC Saturday, with host Ali Velshi pushing back on a British historian who tried to deny the inherent racism and horror of the British colonial system and the way it exploited people of color for centuries.
Things began when Velshi said as his introduction to an interview with historian Andrew Roberts:
“(Elizabeth) represented an institution that had a long, ugly history of brutal colonialism, violence, theft, and slavery. For many centuries the British robbed other nations of their wealth and power and exploited their people. Even as Queen Elizabeth’s reign largely marks the beginning of the post-colonial era, the horrors that her long line of ancestors inflicted upon many generations of people across the globe continues to be the source of pain. That is now a legacy that her eldest son, King Charles II inherits.”
When it was time for Roberts to speak, he immediately took Velshi to task:
“I think that is wildly overstated frankly. When you look at all the opinion polls we are about 80 to 85% in favor of having a constitutional monarchy. Whoever is saying that on the throne, so I think this is extremely overdone.
“Frankly, I am afraid to say, as your introduction was — it pains people throughout history — why was she chosen by every single commonwealth country, many of which are former countries, as the head of the commonwealth?”
“Andrew, hold on a second. Are you really denying what I just said about racial colonialism? Are you really doing that, Andrew? Andrew, Andrew, this is not a propaganda show. Andrew, I need you to stop. I need you to stop for a second. Are you really taking issue with the horrors of colonialism, Andrew?”
Growing more agitated, Roberts responded:
“I am certainly taking issue with your remarks about slavery. We abolished it 32 years before you did. We did not kill 600,000 people in a Civil War over it.”
Once again, Velshi used facts to counter the historian:
“So, you think that is fine. There are people all over the world were born in colonial countries, because, when I was born the British Empire still existed and, that is okay for everybody?”
When Velshi mentioned that he had been born in Kenya, Roberts took on a superior tone:
“Why on earth do you want to concentrate on the only — the negative things of an institution from 100 years ago now?”