In her astonishing Sunday interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, talked about the racist double standards she’s endured since her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018. In their bones, every Black woman who has entered a hostile white environment felt her words as she spoke of what it’s meant to have her existence threatened and her life turned inside out by racism.
One need not be a royal to recognize the misogynoir — a very distinct hatred of Black women — that Meghan, the daughter of a Black mother and a white father, has faced for years from the British media, public, and, to no one’s surprise, members of the royal family.
“You came in as an American, you came in as an actress, you came in as a divorcée, you came in as an independent woman, you came in as the first mixed-race person to marry into the family,” Winfrey said. “Did that concern you in being able to fit in? Did you think about that at all?
“I thought about it because they made me think about it,” Meghan said.
When members of the royal family told the couple that their child would not receive the title of prince or princess, they made her think about it. When they learned they would no longer have a security detail, they made her think about it. And when some of her in-laws, Meghan said, fretted about how dark their child’s skin color would be, they made her think about it.
As ways are concocted to weaponize our race and gender, the guardians of whiteness always make sure Black women think about not being allowed to fit in.
Queen Elizabeth released a statement Tuesday, the first official word from the palace since the interview. She said the family “is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan,” as if the House of Windsor just realized the couple’s unhappiness more than a year after they left England to find some peace and space. As for their accusations of racism, the Queen called them “concerning,” but added “some recollections may vary,” which is a very polite way of saying Harry and Meghan are lying.
If only the family had protected Harry and Meghan as they’re protecting Prince Andrew, who has all but disappeared into the palace after allegations of sexual misconduct with a teenage girl while he was palling around with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Meghan admitted that the relentless stress, plus the realization that neither she nor her family would continue to receive protection authorized by the palace, compelled her to consider suicide — not that anyone at Buckingham Palace cared about the mental well-being of a Black woman. Despite the media’s racist barrage, not once, Prince Harry said, has his family ever offered his wife a word of support.
Of course, that barrage also lived within the palace walls as well.
It’s all kind of an ugly ruse. Of course, the racism is painful and real. Yet the true intention is to work your last Black nerve as you try to figure out what your oppressors want when all they want is to keep you oppressed. Being biracial means that nothing Meghan ever does will ever win over all members of the Royal family, many Britons, and probably far too many Americans.
Forever one of our greatest writers and thinkers, Toni Morrison tried to warn us. In a 1975 speech, she said, “The very serious function of racism . . . is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.”
That’s why so-called birtherism didn’t stop after President Barack Obama released his birth certificate. It was never about his birthplace; it was about the racist idea that a Black man had no place in the Oval Office. Racism isn’t born of logic, and can’t be deflated by facts.
In a statement tweeted after the interview, tennis great Serena Williams, a close friend of Meghan’s, said, “I know first hand the sexism and racism institutions and the media use to vilify women and people of color to minimize us, to break us down and demonize us.” Williams has been there, and she knows how hot those fires can burn.
Meghan has been demonized — but she’s still standing, expecting a daughter in the summer, and is no longer silenced a year after she and Harry quit the royal family. She shared her truth with all its thorns, and through her we recognized the sting of existing in areas where the goal posts constantly move, and the rules suddenly change just because we’re there. Like Meghan, Black women struggle every day to understand why we don’t fit in — until we understand we’re rarely allowed to fit in and find our place.