Britain On Fire! Or, Have You Ever Wondered What Would Happen If The Aristocracy Were Black?
Raleigh Ritchie is Jacob Anderson’s moniker for making music. Anderson is a British actor, musician, and record producer who’s lived in London since he was 17. He’s appeared in Game of Thrones, Broadchurch, and a slew of other films, tv shows, and stage shows. But what has me excited is not so much what he’s done before but what he’s doing now.
Ritchie is dropping his new album, Andy on June 26th. It’s a weird name for an album but the title, “…was taken from a nickname given to his grandfather and is an early indicator of how personal the themes and ideas expressed in this upcoming project are set to be. ‘Andy is a little wink to myself,’ shares Anderson in a recent press release. ’It’s saying, this is you speaking right now, this is you saying what you have to say.’“ Which fits nicely as the follow up to his first album, You’re A Man Now, Boy which was essentially a coming of age story.
Now, let’s dive into Ritchie’s first single off the new album, Aristocrats.
As the video opens, we’re immediately confronted with a handful of black people dressed in Royal Elizabethan clothing sat in front of a massive union jack. It’s an image that feels alien and provocative; suggesting an alternate history of the aristocracy where black men and women were not torn from their homes, kings and queens made slaves for the profit of white people, but one in which those black kings and queens came to the UK and took the British throne as well! But, as things progress, we see this image flicker and change between a series of different outfits implying different stations for this group of people though they’re always sat in the same places. It’s remarkable how much a simple costume change will reveal to you about your feelings towards someone.
But for people of colour, costume changes are happening constantly as they have to put on a different face or voice or dialect to survive or have a shred of hope to be respected in a world where white people hold all the power. And so the lyrics, “Sometimes I don’t recognise my mind, sometimes I wonder if it’s yours or mine” hit particularly close to home, even more so when followed up by the chorus, “I don’t even know if I know what’s right for me” — It’s a well documented aspect of the black experience in Western culture to be forced to conform to white European standards and expectations.
Ritchie isn’t shying away from this, he’s confronting it head on, saying, “British history is complicated, especially as a POC, and history is everything! It’s what we learn from to help us build our future. Back in school, I didn’t learn much about British history aside from the country’s victories and a version of some of its atrocities. Sometimes it’s a confusing place, and although I love my country, I don’t always feel loved by it. With this video, I wanted to explore this and my relationship to my own history and the history of those who came before me.”
And, sadly, that’s a history fraught with suffering, racism, colonialism, and the slow but sure erasure of the black identity. So it could not be more fitting that we end Ritchie’s guilt-ridden hope-fantasy of an alternate Britain, one that not only accepts Black people but allows them to hold the highest power in the land, with those same black people stripped of their freedom, their power, and eventually their lives as the empire burns down around them. It seems Ritchie believes a Britain so accepting of black power not only won’t happen but, if it ever did, would immediately seek to destroy itself. And you know what? I think he’s right.
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