The Duke of Sussex has admitted his privileged upbringing as a member of the royal family meant he had no understanding of unconscious racial bias.
Harry said it took him many years – and the experience of “living” in wife Meghan’s shoes – to recognise the issue, during a conversation with Black Lives Matter supporter Patrick Hutchinson.
Mr Hutchinson rose to fame after he was photographed carrying an injured white man to safety during a violent far-right rally. The personal trainer’s actions were repeatedly praised by the duke.
The two men spoke to launch British GQ’s Heroes Festival, the men’s magazine’s annual summit of ideas, culture and thought leadership.
Chatting from his home in Santa Barbara, California, via video call, Harry said: “No-one’s pointing the fingers. You can’t really point fingers, especially when it comes to unconscious bias.
“But once you realise or you feel a little bit uncomfortable, then the onus is on you to go out and educate yourself because ignorance is no longer an excuse.
“And unconscious bias, from my understanding, having the upbringing and the education that I had, I had no idea what it was. I had no idea it existed.
“And then, sad as it is to say, it took me many, many years to realise it, especially then living a day or a week in my wife’s shoes.”
As the son of the Prince of Wales, Harry had all the privileges associated with his position and was educated at the exclusive Eton College. He went on to train as an Army officer at Sandhurst.
The duke and duchess have spoken extensively about race in recent months. In an interview and accompanying article in the Evening Standard to mark Black History Month, they said there was a lost generation of “people of colour” whose contribution to UK society will remain “untapped” as long as structural racism exists.
Harry and Mr Hutchinson were brought together by GQ as part of its content to support Black History Month and the duke urged people of all backgrounds to get involved in racial issues.
He said: “This is a global movement. The train has left the station. If you’re not on it now then get on it because there’s so much that we can do.
“And, being a dad myself, the whole point in life, I guess, for me, is to try to leave the world in a better place than when you found it.”
In June, Mr Hutchinson and some friends had gone to a demonstration to protect young Black Lives Matter activists against getting caught up in violence.
The group spotted a lone white man being dragged through a crowd by young black protesters and thrown on the steps near the Royal Festival Hall, and the personal trainer picked him up and carried him to safety.
Mr Hutchinson told Harry: “We were pleased that we’d been able to avert a serious, serious situation. Yeah, I would do it for anybody and I would do it time and time again. It’s just not something you think about.”
Speaking about the issue behind the racial equality protests that have sprung up across the globe, he said: “It just makes you wonder why people find it so hard to understand what we’re all striving for: the equality side of things. And why they find it hard to understand. I just struggle with that.”
Harry praised Mr Hutchinson’s actions, saying: “I think you are a shining example of how every single human being should operate and work and function.
“Even at a time when you have two groups that are at each other on such a visceral level, all that aside, no red mist in you, you just came in, you did what was necessary and you saved a life.”
Harry and Meghan began a new life in California just a few weeks before the coronavirus lockdown started in March, and they have been adjusting to life outside the royal family with their toddler son Archie.
During the conversation with the duke, Mr Hutchinson said keeping fit had kept him “mentally sharp” during lockdown, and Harry highlighted that many will be struggling.
“Because, for so many people, but men especially, I guess, everyone’s been suffering from some form of isolation over the last eight, nine months,” he said.
“But for men who are isolated by themselves this can be a really dark place, unless you know the different solutions or different distractions that you can put into your life, whether it’s going for a great walk or a run or just doing something that keeps you mentally and physically fit.”