Meghan and Harry have exposed another layer of the lack of tolerance within British society
Following their decision to distance themselves from the UK and official duties within the royal family, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have unpeeled another layer of alleged tolerance in British society and made its core of racism and privilege even more apparent
I’ve never made it a secret that I’m not a monarchist. I’ve always found it an archaic institution that refutes any sense of egalitarianism from the top of British society. One of several arguments I’ve long made against the monarchy was that enjoying their unrivaled privilege could only be accessed via marrying into the family. However, even that wonderfully modern approach was a closed shop for those outside of the aristocracy and especially for minorities.
‘…if you’re an ethnic minority, working class, openly homosexual or of any group that would be frowned upon as being part of the establishment, your chances [of marrying into the royal family] are practically non-existent.’
Kate Middleton had previously married into the family and admittedly not being of the aristocracy, was somewhat of an aberration. At the time, my assertion that a minority could marry into the royal family nevertheless seemed to be upheld.
But then Meghan bucked the trend. A person of colour marrying into the royal family. It was the most progressive act I’ve ever seen from the royal family. Even as a republican (although I’ve always liked Harry), I welcomed this new, modern royal family that I once thought impossible. The royal family included a woman of colour and an interracial relationship. Wowzers.
As a black man, I can’t deny that the monarchy’s privilege is derived from the brutality, rape, violent theft, dehumanising and psychological destabilising of the black diaspora; an experience that continues to have adverse impact. The addition of Meghan Markle to the royal family didn’t absolve that. Nevertheless, she now represented modern Britain in the royal family and despite my opposition to the monarchy, this was progression.
Given Britain’s toxic history toward people of colour and minorities, this suggested British society was also modernising insofar as it had accepted a minority entering the ranks of its aristocracy and at the highest level. Were the royal family and the monarchy reflecting each other in their newfound tolerance and progressiveness? Were they distancing themselves from an entrenched racist and elitist past?
Alas, we would very quickly see that was certainly not the case.
The media, still with the blood of Princess Diana stained upon their hands and encrusted beneath their predatory talons, wasted no time in letting Meghan know she had overstepped the mark.
She had the chutzpah to join the British monarchy as a woman of colour, and via an interracial relationship. And Harry had the audacity to facilitate this; dishonouring the history of his family and the centuries of military campaigns and colonialism that presented her ancestors as beneath his. How dare the couple seek to refute a narrative that so much of British history had been built upon?
The racism and abuse Meghan has received is arguably unprecedented and it has been relentless. Even during pregnancy and as a new mother, there was no let up. Tabloids on the right have sold papers and sustained their readership with the hate driven rhetoric they have targeted Meghan with. Their content has become the nectar that quenches the thirst of racists.
Newspapers on the right would unashamedly attack Meghan with incendiary and sensationalised headlines and their readers’ responses would range from undiluted agreement to the now overused claim that Meghan just didn’t sit right with them.
“I’m not sure what it is but there’s just something about her I don’t like” became common to hear in reference to Meghan from the more ‘moderate’ readers of newspapers on the right. Well, let me tell you. You don’t like the fact that she is a woman of colour who has entered the monarchy; the reason being you’re racist.
The barrage of abuse has undoubtedly taken a severe toll on the mental health of Meghan and Harry. Although when Meghan revealed a glimpse of just how much it had affected her, it didn’t prompt empathy but instead mocking and jeers.
Many were quick to point out that she had a life of luxury that she should be grateful for. Silly black girl whining about a few comments, eh? Toby Young, a man who epitomises the zenith of white privilege (remind us Toby, how did you get into university?), disparagingly tweeted his disregard for her mental health and many others did the same.
The abuse that Meghan and Harry have been subject to has become normalised. It has been normalised to show that a person of colour should not get ideas above their station. Furthermore, it has shown that no person of colour is above being told to get back in their box. Even one who has married into the royal family as the grandaughter-in-law of the Queen.
For the rest of us, we should know our place in British society. The treatment of Meghan Markle has been a cautionary tale it telling us we do not matter and we should never assume ourselves as equal.
In the vitriol they’ve been subject to, and the response from the media and monarchy to their decision to distance themselves from the UK, Meghan and Harry’s experience has further revealed the hostility towards minorities and those without privilege that courses through many British attitudes and institutions.
Racism and privilege is sadly at the core of British society. A cursory glance at British history and entrenched attitudes demonstrates this. We have moved away from this with a veneer that has covered rather than addressed these ills. Indeed, the recent general election has proven that racism and broader prejudice is not the taboo we thought it was becoming.
The Prime Minister’s racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, classism, misogyny, sexism and colonialist sentiments are all in the public domain. As are those of the Conservative MPs who effected the Tory majority. Yet enough of the British public voted for them. They felt emboldened enough to vote for a Britain that would send a message to minorities that they were not to expect equality but instead hostility. For too long, the latter had been inhibited by “snowflakes” who espoused nonsense like equality and fairness for all.
For those familiar with Harry Potter, consider racism in the UK as Voldemort’s soul with each fragment contained within a horcrux. Voldemort could always return until they were destroyed. With vessels, or ‘horcruxes’, of prejudice such as today’s Conservative party, elitism and the right wing media existing, these attitudes hadn’t died either. They’ve just been in the shadows waiting to reemerge as the Dark Lord did.
I’ve not read or heard of any defence, publicly or privately, of the royal couple from the House of Windsor. What we have heard, is their dissatisfaction with the recent decision by Meghan and Harry. With a likely sex offender eighth in line to the throne, I think any censure and disappointment might be better directed there.
It’s the same for the tabloids. Indeed, it’s another level of racism when an interracial relationship literally causes the tabloids and their readers to become incadescent while an alleged sex offender soon becomes yesterday’s news. This is the moral void that exists in Britain’s media.
Some have suggested that Meghan has manipulated Harry in prompting their decision and that the couple have effectively milked their privilege derived from being part of the monarchy. Former Liberal Democrat MP (unsurprisingly, he was a minister in the Tory coalition government) even called for the royal couple to repay the public money spent on renovating their Windsor home.
This is the asinine and racially driven nonsense that has faced the royal couple, even following their recent decision. Do you really want to have a conversation about reparations in the context of the monarchy and its history? Because that’s a conversation I’m happy to have all day.
I’m in solidarity with Meghan and Harry’s decision. To endure the hostility Meghan has been subject to is something no one should experience. This chapter has shown the attitudes on race that still exist at the core of British society. Yet again, in its response, it’s also shown how outdated and lacking in purpose the monarchy is. Sadly for Meghan and Harry, their experience has served to support both arguments too.