Ever since they announced their engagement, much has been made of the fact that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry seem to be blazing their own path. They hold hands and show affection in public. Markle was included in royal holiday events despite not being married to Harry yet – plus, she’s divorced!
What seems unremarkable to most of us can be a big deal in that family. For this reason, people have really been talking about the fact that this will be an interracial marriage – Markle’s father is Caucasian while her mother is African American.
When they first began dating, it was clear that some members of the public would be less than accepting. In fact, after Markle was subjected to racist comments on the internet, bullying, and disappointing headlines in the media, the prince actually released an official statement which, in part, read:
His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.
Some of it has been hidden from the public – the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life.
Most of us have had some sort of negative online encounter and it never feels good but this level of intrusion and harassment is unimaginable. Considering how rarely the princes reveal private details about their lives, things had to have become pretty volatile for Harry to resort to making this sort of statement.
But, it’s not just the public they must contend with…
Recently, Markle attended the annual Christmas lunch with the extended royal family for the first time. It was to be an introduction, of sorts. It’s interesting, therefore, that Princess Michael of Kent, who will live in close proximity to Harry and Markle after they are married, chose to wear a piece of jewelry that many have deemed offensive.
After she was pictured wearing a controversial blackamoor brooch (a style of jewelry that often depicts African servants and slaves in an exotic fashion and originates in 16th century Venice) to the Queen’s holiday event, one of her representatives was forced to defend the decision saying: “The brooch was a gift and has been worn many times before. Princess Michael is very sorry and distressed that it has caused offense.”
While it’s important to try to give people the benefit of the doubt, Princess Michael, also known as “Princess Pushy,” has been accused of racism before. Back in 2004, she allegedly told a group of African American diners at a New York City restaurant to “go back to the colonies.”
In a strange attempt to claim she isn’t racist, she told ITV: “I even pretended years ago to be an African, a half-caste African, but because of my light eyes I did not get away with it, but I dyed my hair black. I traveled on African buses. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted experiences from Cape Town to right up in northern Mozambique. I had this adventure with these absolutely adorable, special people and to call me racist: it’s a knife through the heart because I really love these people.”
While some might accept this explanation, others might find it equally offensive that she chose to use the “I can’t be racist, I’ve got black friends!” argument.
Regardless, Harry and Meghan Markle will undoubtedly have a long road ahead of them, especially if and when they choose to have children. It’s an important step for the royal family and, hopefully, their marriage will provide an opportunity for us to continue these types of discussions while learning to embrace diversity in our society.