Meghan Markle Shows Social Progress, Whether People Like It or Not
Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017.
As I’m sure most of you have heard by now, Prince Harry recently announced his engagement to American actress Meghan Markle. If you’re anything like me—intrigued by the monarchy, in love with weddings, and flat out elated by the pomp and circumstance that emerges when those things come together— then this news was exciting because it means another royal wedding is on the horizon. Furthermore, this union is exciting because of the progress it represents.
As expected, there has been a media frenzy since the couple shared their news. There were the usual “OMG the Prince is getting married!” stories, but there have also been a slew of negative stories, too. I’ve seen multiple outlets focused on the princess-to-be’s race, as well as racist commenters posting their disdain for the supposed tainting of the royal bloodline. What has been most interesting to me, however, is the mixed reaction from my fellow African Americans toward Markel since the news broke.
It amazes me how some Black people have seen a Black woman marrying into the royal family as a sign of hope, while others have used this engagement to tear Markel down. It’s not surprising, but it’s still interesting to see. I’ve read more “So what?” “She ain’t nobody,” and “She’s not even Black though,” comments than I can count. In such a positive situation, some might wonder why all this hate is being directed toward this woman?
Some of the disdain has been the result of how she chose to identify her racial heritage. Markel bothered some African Americans when she hit us with the “I’m biracial,” statement.
While I understand why we get so offended when some accomplished Black people say this—because it often is a way for the accomplished to disassociate themselves with blackness, which is a problem— the fact of the matter is that she is biracial. Whether some like it or not, we don’t get to tell Meghan Markel how she should identify herself.
Have you ever stopped to think about why many of us assume multiracial individuals should identify as Black, or why we get so worked up when some don’t, in the first place? The simple answer is because society has conditioned us to do this automatically. In America, racially categorizing people became complicated when procreating occurred between the races. In a society founded and fueled by white supremacy, racial mixing presented a need for those in power to preserve whiteness in order to continue delegating access to certain privileges and institutions. As a result, the “One Drop Rule” was born. At a time when the only legally recognized racial categories were White and Black, this social rule declared that one drop of Black blood in someone’s body automatically made them Black. The One Drop Rule instantly made those individuals second class, and presented dangerous risks for those light and brave enough to pass for white.
In a world where we have progressed enough for individuals to choose how they want to be described, Meghan Markel has the right to identify herself however she sees fit, regardless of us agreeing with it or not. Personally, I don’t think that Markel’s choice to say she is biracial is an attempt to divide herself from us; I think that she, like so many other biracial people, does this to keep from feeling like she’s acknowledging only one side of herself and ignoring the other, the way multiracial people have been forced to for so long. Does doing so have its own set of issues? Of course it does. We all know that if Sis was stopped by a cop, she likely wouldn’t be treated like she’s “biracial,” the same way that racist critics of her relationship don’t acknowledge that she’s “biracial.” They call her the n-word just as freely as they do any other Black person, and she’s addressed it.
I felt the need to touch on the royal engagement because the mixed reactions of African Americans toward Markel points to one of the issues I feel we need to work on amongst ourselves: division.
Even if this engagement does nothing for you or your confidence—which, it shouldn’t because you should already know there is a catch out there who was made just for you, and you are worthy of love whether a sista is becoming a royal or not (but I’m not going to preach today)—there is no denying that it is indicative of change. We are watching a woman with tangible Black ancestry marry into the British Monarchy and that is a victory for social progress, regardless of what she calls herself.
While the nerd in me loves learning about all things royal, I fully acknowledge that the British Monarchy has been, and still can be, problematic af. My view on this has strengthened, especially as I’ve learned more about the monarchy’s historic colonization practices, racism, obsession with bloodline, Royal “purity” (whiteness), and of course sexism. For a Black woman—biracial or not—to be engaged to one of it’s princes challenges all of that. The dead kings and queens are probably rolling in their graves, and I’m here for that disruption.
For other Black people to miss the progress signified in this moment because some don’t think Markel is Black enough, is stupid.
I challenge us to do better. I challenge us to look at things deeper than what’s presented on The Shade Room or the news. I challenge us to learn about history so we can understand things with a deeper sense of context. And finally, I challenge us to stop looking for a reason to look down on each other. While Markel is not the first Black woman to marry into royalty, her new place in the modern British Monarchy is still important. Let’s not lose sight of that because she claims both halves of herself.
Be wise, and stay Kultured.