Meghan Markle is lovely indeed, but all she did was meet a guy.
Let me just say I’m a fan of the British royals, since I was a kid. I am a huge admirer of Queen Elizabeth I, and wrote a piece a couple years ago researching Queen Charlotte’s possibly black heritage. So when I learned Prince Harry had met a girl with melanin, I lost it! I had to keep myself together. Since they announced their relationship in 2016, I too have been over the moon. But while Meghan Markle is amazing, she is not black women’s Michelle Obama.
She seems like the kind of sweet girl we all enjoy knowing. And smart. Her writing on her racial identity, I’m More Than An Other, in Elle magazine is impressively nuanced. Not to mention she’s likable. The homecoming queen, who’s accomplished and incredible. It’s easy to see why Prince Harry adores her. As such, many women want to attach ourselves to this refreshing young woman who seems to have a light shining from inside her.
But black women even moreso.
Since Michelle Obama left the world stage earlier this year, lights everywhere seem to have dimmed on black prestige. Black women have always craved transformative figures to “represent” our value in a world that whites get to define.
But Meghan Markle is no Michelle. She’s different. You don’t see her dealing too much with black people. When I say that, I mean she’s not on the cover of black mags like Essence, and though she’s been on t.v. for years, you haven’t seen her at the NAACP Image Awards. She pledged Kappa Kappa Gamma in college. That is a predominantly white sorority. Her first husband was white. Her second husband will be white. Most of her friends (as it seems from her school photos) are white or Asian. While she has traveled to Africa, so have many do-gooder white people.
All that said, Meghan Markle is pretty clear that she does not identify as black, but bi-racial. Which is quite alright. In this day and age, people are free to be who they want. But that’s where she differs from bi-racial people like Barack Obama, Halle Berry, Misty Copeland, Alicia Keys, Paula Patton, Lenny Kravitz, Colin Kaepernick and a host of other talented people who clearly sided with being black.
Before we crown her our unofficial black princess, maybe black women should check ourselves, regarding who we offer our crowns.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, race was kind of important in 2016 and 2017. Colin Kaepernick literally lost his job for speaking on it. Donald Trump was elected to office because of it. America has nearly split in two because of it.
For biracial people, to accept blackness is to accept the hatred, scrutiny, judgment and marginalization that surely awaits the acceptor. To reject it, or even to equivocate about it, signals to blacks that you want no part of their struggle. Period.
That “rejected” category belongs to people like Tiger Woods, Raven Symone, and Zoe Saldana.
Choosing race is a terrible choice for one to have to make. But race is still a tool for separating whole societies. Prince Phillip — Queen Elizabeth’s husband and Meghan Markle’s future grandfather-in-law — is a well-documented racist. Much of the British monarchy’s power and wealth was built off of African riches. Race still matters.
Here’s the rub for a few black women. Ms. Markle has not made herself part of our sisterhood. Thus, they ask, why are some of us jumping around like her marriage will do something special for us? Again, I have been nearly jumping out of my skin. I know their marriage won’t change much, but this is change. It’s rare. Plus Harry’s open mind represents where we should be as a society. (I don’t care about the Nazi outfit when he was young; we’ve all been stupid.)
However, it’s not clear Meghan’s ever shown an interest in black society. Nor must she. Ms. Markle has endured her own struggles with being biracial. It’s just vague what her position is on our struggle.
It is true that Michelle Obama didn’t start her time in the White House railing against racism. In 2009, she couldn’t come out of the gate with her fist in the air and her husband had just started his job. But her friendships and networks (Oprah, Maya Angelou, Valerie Jarrett, Beyonce) were black. And you’d better believe, Michelle graced the cover of key black mags, even during before the presidency.
Michelle let us know in subtle ways that she walked with us. Her prestigious role not only belonged to her; the glory and “arrival” was ours too. Michelle didn’t want Barack to run for president, but once he did, she knew the stakes were high for us all. She took on centuries of white dominance to show the world black grace. And all of us prayed over her like we would our aunt, cousin or sister.
Getting back to Meghan, when has she ever shown a similar connection to the black community? To us — the silent sisterhood of warriors tearing down barriers? And now that she’s marrying British royalty, the strict traditions may not ever allow her that kind of freedom.
“… the excitement might be premature—Markle will likely be instructed by royal advisors to hide that she is biracial and probably won’t end up doing much to improve the rocky race relations in the United Kingdom, according to two noted British scholars.
“She won’t be allowed to be a black princess. The only way she can be accepted is to pass for white,” Kehinde Andrews, an associate professor of sociology… “If there are people who are celebrating, it’s a bit naive and they’ll be very disappointed.”
We can be happy for Meghan, and rejoice for an unorthodox girl being swept into a fairy tale. Her union to Prince Harry is indeed revolutionary; the act alone defies color lines in a monarchy still very racist. The world will see her as black even if she doesn’t see herself that way. Maybe by the time William becomes king and Elizabeth is gone, Meghan can speak and help Britain evolve. But for now, it doesn’t seem she’s ever been interested. She loves Harry and is focused on being his wife. End of story.
Again, that’s not a knock against Meghan. Her choice. But it is a knock against us black women for crowning somebody our princess if they do nothing more than meet somebody and assimilate.