When you think of the British what do you think of? Tea, a stiff upper lip, the royal family, and more often than not . . . white. When you think of the British royal family you definitely think white. This last association changed in 2017 when news spread that American actress, Meghan Markle would wed Prince Harry. Born to a white father and an African American mother, Meghan is the first recognized multiracial member of the British royal family.
Tom Bradby, a British journalist and a long-time friend of Prince Harry hit it right on the nail when he said: “a mixed-race couple at the heart of the British establishment is for many a beacon of hope.”
If a woman of color can marry into one of the most influential white families in the world, and if Meghan and Harry can transcend the often unspoken cultural boundaries, which prefer to keep marriages between people of the same race then perhaps the cultural and institutional barriers that serve to keep women if color the mule of the world can be further challenged. Meghan Markle represents more than a modern-day fairytale, but a beacon of hope and optimism for women of color around the world.
But what does that hope look like now?
Over the past year, we have witnessed an endless assault on Meghan by the British tabloids as she attempts to navigate life in a new country, with a new husband, family, and baby. Any one of these factors would warrant an adjustment period. But put all these circumstances together and add in endless and unfair media scrutiny . . . the effects tend to compound one another.
In the recent documentary, Harry and Meghan: A Journey in Africa featuring a rare interview with the Duchess of Sussex highlights the negative effects that the monumental life changes and lies perpetrated by the British media have had on her and her husband. When asked by Tom Bradby what the last year has been like for her, Meghan’s voice broke as struggled to reply, “It’s . . . hard. I don’t think anyone could understand it, but in all fairness, I had no idea. Which probably sounds difficult to understand . . . but when I first met my now-husband, my friends were really happy because I was so happy, but my British friends said to me: ‘I’m sure he’s great, but you shouldn’t do it because the British tabloids will destroy your life. And I very naively [said] what are you talking about? That doesn’t make any sense, I’m not in tabloids. I didn’t get it. So yeah, it’s been complicated.”
When asked how the pressures her new life and media scrutiny have affected her mental health, Meghan admitted that it’s accurate to say that she’s struggling and not really okay. She continued on to say that “I never thought this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair. And that’s that part that really hard to reconcile.”
The way Meghan Markle is being treated has much larger implications beyond her and her family. Every time they try to tear her down, every time they throw a stone they strike us too. You and me. You and me and every other woman of color who looks up to Meghan Markle. Every woman of color who looks at her and sees a person of strength, kindness, and integrity.
We look at her and we see the message they are sending to us: it is not enough. Strength breeds conflict. Not only is Meghan’s personal strength a challenge to the established British perception of power, but her identity as a woman of color is as well.
The lies, the scrutiny, and invasion of privacy show us that the world is still threatened by a powerful woman, and more so by a powerful woman of color. What the world cannot handle it seeks to destroy. We cannot let our spirits be collateral casualties in the circus that surrounds Meghan and Harry. What we should do is use their circumstances? to motivate ourselves to rise above our fears the persistent institutionalized oppression designed to keep us down. We must exert our power until they see and until they shut up and listen. Each of us has power and each of us has a voice. Hope has turned to anger, and they cannot silence us all.