With All Due Respect, There’s No Need To Be ‘Polite’ About The Queen’s Death

The notion of 'civility' has been used to obscure violence against people of colour for thousands of years.

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

It is with the deepest of condolences, and our best regards, that we suggest precisely zero people need to be “polite”, “respectful”, or “civil” amid the death of the Queen this morning.

Yes, Queen Elizabeth II, the woman who headed up the British monarchy for 70 years, died last night at the age of 96. Not everyone is finding this particularly devastating. But in a social media maelstrom as inevitable as death itself, those in mourning are calling for everyone else to behave themselves.

I don’t think many people are actually revelling in the death of an elderly woman, but let’s be honest: this is a person that headed up an institution that essentially invented racism as an enterprise, and used that enterprise to invade lands and enact violence all over the world. And no, she didn’t personally commit that violence. But her passing isn’t just about her. It’s about what she represents. You know, The British Empire. Not everyone was a fan.

“Americans are welcome to shitpost,” Ben Judah, author of the book Fragile Empire, and self-appointed social media monitor said on Twitter after the Queen’s death. “But they should be warned of intense depths of feelings here: it’s hard to explain but millions feel the Queen is their spiritual grandmother.”

The insinuation here is that all of us, even those who have been harmed or whose ancestors were on the receiving end of violence committed by the British Empire, need to have some respect. Some decorum. After all, people are grieving.

But those of us whose families have suffered at the hands of British colonisers owe you no such thing. And it continues to blow my mind that any kind of restraint or moderation is asked of us; from the very class of people, mind you, who have historically stood on our necks. As we’ve talked about before, notions of civility and decorum have been used to oppress, enslave, and enact violence on people who weren’t English, and usually, not white. And that logic of oppression continues today.

Much of this violence has been justified via an eerie and nonsensical narrative that positioned colonisers as victims of their circumstances. In The White Man’s Burden, Rudyard Kipling famously suggested that white people had a moral obligation to invade foreign lands to “civilise” their inhabitants.

All the violence, the enslavement, the genocide: none of that was out of malice. It was for their own good — or so the fiction goes.

“People of colour don’t get to orchestrate the terms of civility,” Gaye Theresa Johnson, who researches civility and race at the University of California told NPR. “Instead, we’re always responding to what civility is supposed to be.”

The concept of “civility” is still being used every day in an attempt to keep people of colour in their place. “Pushing back against the status quo will be seen as inherently uncivil by the people who want to maintain it,” Johnson explains.

So watch out for the folks who try and call for “respect” today. You don’t have to play their game.