Art lecturer suspended over accusations of racism after 'colourful' Meghan comment

RABAT, MOROCCO - FEBRUARY 25:  Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visits the Moroccan Royal Federation of Equitation Sports on February 25, 2019 in Rabat, Morocco. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are on a three day visit to the country. (Photo by Hannah Mckay - Pool / Getty Images)
Dr Anne Anderson was speaking after the interview between Meghan and Oprah Winfrey aired. Meghan here in February 2019. (Hannah Mckay - Pool/Getty Images)

An art historian has been suspended as a speaker from the Arts Society after an off-the-cuff comment she made about Meghan Markle before giving a lecture.

Dr Anne Anderson, who has been lecturing for 28 years, was speaking to members of the Truro Arts Society before she gave a talk on Ikea and Scandinavian Design on 12 March, a few days after Meghan and Prince Harry's interview with Oprah Winfrey had aired.

Dr Anderson, 65, remarked to one of those who had joined the Zoom call: "You couldn’t turn the television on without some person of a colourful disposition having a moan about something."

She told Yahoo UK that two days later, she received an email saying she had been suspended from the Society's list of speakers because of a complaint over racist language.

She said: "With the new Zoom world that we live in, you forget you have got 30 or 40 people in your living room. Normally I would be in a village hall with 120 people and before the lecture I would be talking to a few friends - I would be able to correct anything I said.

"But you don't even see half the audience that is with you."

Dr Anderson has explained to The Times that she was referring to the language when she said "colourful disposition" and should have said "florid language".

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex react as they view a special exhibition of art by Indigenous Canadian artist, Skawennati, in the Canada Gallery during their visit to Canada House, in London on January 7, 2020, to give thanks for the warm Canadian hospitality and support they received during their recent stay in Canada. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / various sources / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Harry and Meghan during a visit to Canada House, in London in January 2020. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)

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She told Yahoo UK: "I got an email saying I had been suspended from the society, and I faced being de-accredited because I had made non-inclusive or racist remarks. I did not get the vibe that what I had said was any more contentious than anyone else who had been involved in the conversation - we were just chatting about Meghan Markle.

"I offered to apologise - I do not go out of my way to offend anyone."

But Dr Anderson says the offer to apologise was not passed onto the Truro branch, where she had been speaking, which she claims is against the usual procedure of The Arts Society.

Instead she went straight to a panel which included the two complainants, to explain her actions.

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She said: "It could have been dealt with within the society. I have a good relationship with most Art Societies, I have been working for them since 1994.

"What I'm really worried about is abuse of power.

"They have this caveat of 'bringing the society into disrepute'. The only person who decides that is the CEO.

"He was deciding my fate and I think it went too far. I don't think my crime fitted my punishment."

Dr Anderson voiced concerns that younger lecturers might not have been able to deal with the same situation.

She has now written letters of apology and agreed to go on a diversity training course, though commitments mean she has not yet been able to do this.

She also has to meet with a retired lecturer to discuss her "inappropriate behaviour" - which she says is even talking about Meghan at all, claiming the duchess is now a banned topic.

Dr Anderson said: "I will definitely be doing [the course] in the next week, I don't have any problem with it, and I know in the current climate it's a good thing to do."

She said she was still suspended from the speakers' list, despite the letters and the agreement to the follow-up course.

Britain's Prince Harry's fiancée, US actress Meghan Markle gestures during a visit to Reprezent 107.3FM community radio station in Brixton, south west London on January 9, 2018.  
During their visit to the station, they met some of the presenters, content producers and staff, heard more about their training programmes, and met some of the current and former volunteers who have benefitted from the training. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Dominic Lipinski        (Photo credit should read DOMINIC LIPINSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Meghan during a visit to Reprezent 107.3FM community radio station in Brixton in 2018. (Dominic Lipinski/AFP)

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"I'm 65 and coming to the end of my career, but if this happened to a younger lecturer, to go through this, if you are starting out and your reputation and your livelihood is threatened...

"The avenues by which people in education make money are dwindling," she added.

Florian Schweizer, chief executive, The Arts Society said: "The Arts Society followed its complaints procedure after a complaint had been made against Dr Anne Anderson.

"The matter was resolved by following this procedure. We have no further comments on this matter."

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