Apparently, a Nigerian singer recorded a very famous song called “African Queen.” I must confess, the only music I hear these days is whatever is blasting from the person seated next to me on the bus. (To be proper, I should say from the instrument owned by the person; however, we live in an i-world, populated by i-people; man and machine are one; and I use the gender purposively.)
There is no royalty in my family. My father was always dad, not king. My mother was mother, not queen. And any royal affectations we may have had were quickly disposed of during our high school years. (Those who know better may disagree with this account. But, it’s my story.)
Despite the ostensible decline of “real” royalty, we seem to be ever more enamored of it. Royal characters and themes are especially popular with young girls; the phrase “Hollywood royalty” is uttered incessantly; and family life is an increasingly royal fair, with parents of all races crowing their little princesses (less so with boy children). To say we inhabit a royal age would be an understatement.
To say the least, there is something troubling in using the class-stratified, blood-segregating notion of royalty as a metaphor for familial relations. Of course, there is also something absolutely revealing about it: the middle-class, far from being the place of access aspires to be exclusive and exclusionary. As readers of E. Franklin Frazier know, this claim is not new.
I am especially troubled by the notion that we honor women when we call them “queens” and “princesses,” as though notions of royalty are bound to positive gender histories. (Try being one of Henry VIII wives!) Paradoxically, in binding positive gender histories to terms like queen and princess, we may evacuate them of whatever lessons they have to teach us about gender and power.