My Take on Meghan Markle’s Experiences of Racism in the UK - from One Woman of Colour to Another
Many have been shocked by statements and allegations made by Meghan Markle (The Duchess of Sussex) about her experiences of racism which she revealed during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Meghan is biracial; she has a black mother and white father. Many who have no interest in the royal family have taken an active interest in this, especially many British women of colour (WoC). For us, this interview, what we have seen from the media and the events spoken about is not some abstract idea; it is a reflection of what we have experienced in our own lives. Today I wanted to talk about how I have seen the media and some Brits treat Meghan and what I, your peer who many of you know personally, can relate to due to my own personal experiences.
As I do not know the royal family personally, I cannot comment on matters that I have not seen for myself, but I can speak to and will focus on the racism I have seen directed towards Meghan from British social media users and the British press. I was happy to hear from the interview that the Queen was always warm and supportive of Prince Harry (Duke of Sussex) and Meghan as many Brits, including myself, look up to her.
In this post, I will draw on my some of my personal experiences of racism I have received including from my future in-laws and what impact that has had; my fiancé is native Welsh, and I am of Indian heritage. What is mentioned here is only the tip of the iceberg, not an exhaustive list.
There was a clear double standard in how the media reported on Kate (The Duchess of Cambridge) versus how they reported on Meghan for literally the same actions. When Kate cradled her baby bump, it was described as “tender”; when Meghan does the same, it was described as “pride”, “vanity” and “virtue signalling”. Two women doing the same thing and yet being treated completely differently, with a factor of difference between them being race – it’s easy to see why race is perceived to be the root of this as racist headlines about Meghan included describing her as “(almost) straight out of Compton”. Of course, there were times when Kate was not treated well by the press but I agree with Meghan that “rude and racist are not the same”. I think it is incredibly ignorant to say race had nothing to do with the increased viciousness from the press and the higher number of death threats towards Meghan than other members of the royal family. I myself have experienced this double standard from my future mother in-law (future MIL); she would offensively criticise the way I dressed for events despite my fiancé’s and my white friends dressing in a similar way for the same event. At one point, she assumed (safe to say because of my ethnicity) that I could not afford better boots because I ONCE a wore a comfortable and slightly worn-out pair. Being a WoC unfortunately means being criticised for any little thing that would be considered normal living by anyone else.
I have seen many examples of people and the press perceiving that Harry has not had a say in anything that has happened and that Meghan is some sort of master puppeteer that makes him act on her whims. From what I can tell, this is far from the truth and the media have applied the racist trope upon Meghan that I too have had put upon me; the trope that WoC “steal” and manipulate innocent white men. Harry is a grown man who also has independent thoughts and wishes; one cannot blame everything the couple does solely on Meghan. Even in my relationship, as my fiancé started to distance himself from his family due to their damaging and racist actions (as well as for his own reasons which I will not divulge), they firmly blamed me as if he had no independent will to stand by his partner against racism like any decent partner would; they claimed it was me somehow controlling everything. It is easier to blame WoC for brainwashing their white partners than it is to acknowledge that they are making an independent choice to distance from the racism and toxicity of their family for the health and safety of the relationship.
Treating WoC as Disposable
From early on in Harry and Meghan’s relationship, I saw the media treating Meghan as disposable and objectifying her. This resonated with me as early on in my relationship, because I dared to state that I was saddened by a racist statement about me (discussed below), I was treated as sub-human. My future MIL never referred to me by name, just as “she”, “her” and by ad hominems. It was like my personhood was being taken away because of my ethnicity and my refusal to take racism. She even told my fiancé (within the first year of us dating) that I was not his girlfriend, that I was “just a plaything” that he’d “get over”. As you can imagine, this sort of treatment is detrimental to the self-esteem and mental health of WoC and has long term implications.
Censorship of WoC & Victim Blaming
After Meghan spoke about the racism of the British tabloids, I have seen many social media users saying she should have just kept quiet and disappeared into a quiet life. Some even said she invited the racism! How is someone meant to keep quiet when being racially attacked? Are people of colour seriously expected to say nothing when targeted based on race and then blamed for inviting it? I find that to be a tall order indeed. The first thing my future MIL said about me was she, “preferred if [I] was white”. This was racist in both my fiancé’s and my eyes; when she found out I dared to say it was racist, that is when she started to punish me. Five years later, when my fiancé told her we were engaged, she repeated the same statement. For many WoC, even being with the person we love is an uphill battle against discrimination. Even on social media, WoC are censored for discussing racism as you can see from the below screenshots of a conversation I had today - this happens often. I was told to “behave” and accused of calling people racist just for daring to say the trope I discussed above was racist.
Whatever happens between the royal family, at the end of the day we have no control over it. In the same way, we cannot control what will happen to us, our loved ones or how other people treat us. But we can control how we handle discrimination and how we support each other. We need to be compassionate and empathetic to each other while also being kind to ourselves. Do not be afraid to get help or reach out if you ever feel you need it.
I’m always here to talk so please feel free to contact me.
Facebook: Isadora Sinha SU