‘Not a day goes by when some young woman somewhere isn’t doing a for colored girls monologue, making the voice her own, finding her own infinite beauty once again.”– Ntozake Shange
This week, the world has watched in shock and awe at the
emancipation? liberation? of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
And, as per normal, there has been a lot of speculation.
Why the change. Why the “drama.” Why the need for deliverance.
I must admit, as a Black woman in an interracial relationship, I have found myself particularly intrigued and perturbed by the assumed catalyst – now fondly nicknamed – Meghan thee Markle.
Because, while I obviously cannot relate to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’ life – I do now what it is like to be the recipient of stereotyped tropes.
I do know what it is like to be a Black woman married to a white man.
I do know what it is like to have people compare me to a monkey and ask invasive questions about my sexual preferences.
I do know what it is like to need boundaries – a lot of them.
And, I also know that in the era of Xenophobic Brexit, Trump, and Blue Lives Matter –a royal interracial marriage would do nothing to quell decades of unabashed and violent racism and deadly and invasive media practices.
Racism is deadly for everyday Black folk. And, living in a violently intentional crooked room in which Black women continually have to figure out which way is an impossibly brutal feat.
And, while historically the Duchess has remained relatively silent on race – the British media immediately began painting her as an angry Black woman with the dog whistle name: “Duchess Difficult.” In Jeneé Osterheldt’s thoughtful article, “Meghan Markle becoming a Duchess could not overcome her black reality” she offers this:
Last year, BBC broadcaster Danny Baker compared Prince Harry and Meghan’s newborn Archie to a chimpanzee. He was fired. BBC also aired a blatantly racist animated depiction of Meghan as an angry black woman. Being biracial does not give her a get out of racism free pass. Everything from her baby shower to her guest-editing of British Vogue has been vilified.Boston Globe
A few months ago, in an interview – the Duchess articulated that she was not okay. This was the same month that Prince Harry announced that they would be suing the British tabloids.
“There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives,” the statement read. “…Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
Perhaps not being okay and feeling isolated are two of the more enduring realities of Black womanhood. Aside from tropes, Black and white communities alike often perpetuate the stereotype of the strong Black female. And, too often this practice results in extreme isolation, deterioration in mental health and stress.
As a Black woman, I have found the story of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle particularly intriguing because they continue to renounce old customs by insisting on space for everyone.
The Duchess has a history of remaining relatively silent on racism – which her critics have often named (rightly) as problematic. But she also has a history of sharing her privilege and creating more room at the table – which was well documented on her (now defunct) lifestyle blog, The Tig.
Both the Duke and the Duchess have a pattern of insistently centering marginalized issues: mental health, veterans, environment, education of women and girls and ses equity.
And, it is equally important to note that Prince Harry and the Duchess have a history of making public and deliberate joint decisions, so it continues to unnerve and infuriate me that the Duchess often bears the brunt of public blame.
Too often in my own personal life, I have been named solely culpable for any decision which results in familial and/or relational distancing – despite the joint nature of the decision.
And while I understand and appreciate this historical moment, I also remain hopeful, awestruck and empowered to watch a Black woman stand straight in a room which was never meant for her to stand at all.