Like millions of Americans and people all over the world, I am anxiously awaiting the interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry with Oprah Winfrey tomorrow evening. It is interesting in the current climate to see all of this play out. The British press and even Buckingham Palace were unusually unfair and cruel to Meghan. Whether it was the racist broach, her family tree, calling her baby with Prince Harry a monkey, the jokes about her being from Compton, or the KFC Australia “fried chicken engagement ring” these were all acts of racism. No, no one called her racial slurs, but for those committed to anti-racism work, it was very clear what was happening — covert racism. According to Wikipedia, covert racism is described as “a form of racial discrimination that is disguised and subtle, rather than public or obvious. Concealed in the fabric of society, covert racism discriminates against individuals through often evasive or seemingly passive methods. Covert, racially biased decisions are often hidden or rationalized with an explanation that society is more willing to accept. These racial biases cause a variety of problems that work to empower the suppressors while diminishing the rights and powers of the oppressed. Covert racism often works subliminally, and often much of the discrimination is being done subconsciously.”
Even if you are the only black member of the royal family with proximity to whiteness like Meghan, you are not immune to racial discrimination because first and foremost you are black. Harry and Meghan left the royal family due to intense racial discrimination. And, as a black woman, despite my proximity to whiteness, I have suffered from racial PTSD and anxiety from age five and the experiences have formed my own self. The experience Meghan has gone through hits me hard personally, as most racism I have experienced has been covert and I have been gaslighted to believe I was “overthinking” or “making everything about race”. But when you are black, everything is about race. Prince Harry tried to do the best he could to protect Meghan by issuing a statement, but even he was no match against white supremacy.
In addition to experiencing racism at all levels frequently, we know that racialized experiences have significant negative effects on both physical and mental health outcomes for Black Americans. Some researchers have suggested that chronic experiences of racism and microaggressions result in “racial battle fatigue,” which includes anxiety and worry, hyper-vigilance, headaches, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and other physical and psychological symptoms.
I have lived in elite circles (my grade school was as expensive as many colleges) and I have experienced racism on all levels, while many people assumed my proximity to whiteness and social standing shielded me. I guess I see me in Meghan. I understand that black women darker than me face so much worse, but my experience and Meghan’s are very real and emotionally damaging.
The British press is accusing Meghan Markle of “bullying” her staff ahead of the Oprah interview, speaks volumes of the Palace’s need to hold on to white supremacy. My guess is, based on my own experiences, Meghan was merely direct and to the point and her staff thought “how dare a black woman talk to me like that”. The subconscious slave/master mentality of most white people is never lost on me.
Any idea she was kicked out of the royal family or it was her fault, I feel is (although probably unintentionally) perpetuating an “angry black woman” trope that anytime we, as black women, say “this is not okay” or set boundaries, it is our fault or we shouldn’t be so “uppity” or we should be grateful for crumbs. Kamala Harris has experienced this a lot. And, Obama was always called uppity for golfing, eating fancy mustard, etc. The angry black woman trope feeds into both sexism and racism and puts the onus on Meghan for leaving versus a joint decision made by a couple — Prince Harry and Meghan.
What Meghan has experienced is the belief that she should be grateful for what she gets and as a black woman and she should know her place. Because really the conversation around the Harry and Meghan saga is not about them at all — It is about how we do not know how to define racism and fight against white supremacy.
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