by Ella Hou, Opinions reporter
graphic by Julie Wang
I never paid much attention to the British royal family. All I knew was that they were adored by the British and Americans alike and that Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry was a constant subject of controversy. Through the media’s celebrity-like lens on the family, though, I came to believe that while British people may have a legitimate reason to care for their monarchy, American interest was purely for entertainment.
As an American with little interest in celebrity drama, I did not care much about the British monarchy; that is, until the drama surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s appearance on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” emerged.
Perhaps the most striking detail the couple revealed during the interview was that a member of the royal family expressed concerns over how dark their child’s skin color would be, given Markle’s biracial heritage. Markle also revealed that the media hate had gotten so bad that she started having suicidal thoughts. When she went to “The Firm,” or the institutional part of the monarchy, to seek help, she was denied because she was not considered an employee of the institution.
Markle’s ability to speak on important, yet common issues such as microaggressions and the lack of mental health services gave me a newfound respect for her. As I scoured the internet for more information, however, I realized that many did not share my opinion. British TV broadcaster Piers Morgan described the couple’s allegations of racism within the monarchy as “destructive self-serving nonsense” that was “an absolutely disgraceful betrayal of the Queen and the Royal Family.” As to Markle’s pleas for help, he said he “wouldn’t believe her if she read [him] a weather report.”
This angered me for two reasons. Firstly, the denial of racism within the royal family is laughable. Take Prince Phillip’s comment about how people who stayed in China for too long would become “slitty-eyed” or the time Prince Harry himself wore a Nazi uniform, as examples. The royal family, like any other family, should not be exempt from upholding the same standards of racial sensitivity. The comment on the child’s skin color was a colorist and completely uncalled-for microaggression, and it should be addressed as such. Racism is racism, no matter how small it may seem.
Secondly, the invalidation of Markle’s feelings struck me as extremely hurtful. As a woman who has been harassed to the point of considering suicide, she most likely would not have given the media yet another story to exploit if it was not true. She spoke out simply because she was tired of being misunderstood, and her willingness to do so is a testament to her bravery.
When British tabloids scrutinize and accuse her of lying, it could only naturally make her feel even more neglected. Can you imagine opening up about such a vulnerable experience, just to be told that no one believes you? It would be very upsetting, and I do not think enough people realize just how much so.
Unfortunately, this experience is not unique to Markle, as minorities, particularly those in the BIPOC community, are constantly subject to a lack of validation. “It’s an insult when people are incredulous about the racism people like Meghan Markle experienced because that incredulity speaks volumes about what people refuse to see, what is right in front of their eyes all the time and that some people have to navigate daily,” UCLA Associate Professor of African American Studies Gaye Theresa Johnson said in a March 10 ABC News article.
To see this experience so publicly reflected amongst the British monarchy serves as a painful reminder of just how deeply ingrained the nature of racial prejudice and ignorance is in society. That is why we should care: this is not just a celebrity matter or even a familial one, but it is societal as well.