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Meghan Markle’s Vogue Was Deemed ‘Not White Enough’ by British Press & Twitter Is Fuming

When Meghan Markle dreamed up the theme for her Vogue cover, do you think she anticipated how much controversy it would create? Now, Meghan’s Vogue is being criticized as not white enough by British press — most overtly by Telegraph columnist Camilla Tominey. Referencing Prince Harry’s comments about unconscious bias in the media, Tominey accused the Duchess of having bias of her own, evidenced by her 15 Forces for Change including “only” five white women (and no men). Sadly, Tominey is not the first to suggest this — but on the bright side, Twitter is fiercely standing by Meghan’s side.

The quote most cited from Tominey’s Telegraph column is the same one The Telegraph used to promote the story on Twitter: “I wonder whether Meghan was conscious of the bias she showed in choosing 15 ‘forces for change’ for the Vogue cover, all of whom were women, of which only five were white?” Obviously, this is an inflammatory statement: Part of the “change” that Meghan (and so many others!) would like to see in the world is shifting attention away from white men, who have held the spotlight for far too long. It’s no accident or even “bias” that Meghan selected “only” five white women — it was very specifically her goal to highlight women of color who know better than anyone the need for change, and have been denied a voice for generations.

From the very first line, Tominey seems to know how her comments will be received. “May I make the following remarks without being accused of racism (either consciously or unconsciously)?” Tominey writes. “Probably not.” Clearly, she read Harry’s comments about racism in the press, but she doesn’t seem to have any interest in considering that his words might have value. Instead of questioning why people will accuse her of being racist for writing this — and perhaps interrogating how her ideas on race have been formed — she dismisses any attack on her writing as alarmist and irrelevant out of hand. It’s a terrifically narrowing and dangerous outlook for a journalist to have.

“If I was pale, male and stale, I’d be feeling pretty discriminated against right now,” Tominey writes later on. Are women still paid less than men in the UK? Are racially-motivated hate crimes still on the rise? Are people of color still more likely to be victims of homicide, live in substandard housing, and be excluded from education opportunities? Yes, yes, and yes. Tominey is welcome to address the hurt feelings of white men all she wants. But to even use the word “discrimination” to describe their exclusion from a Vogue cover is a painful and insulting distraction from the true discrimination running rampant every day — in Britain, and across the world.

Much of Twitter has chimed in condemning Tominey’s sentiments as both preposterous and acting in service of white supremacy and institutional racism. “How many white women would have been acceptable for Meghan to have chosen?” one muses. “It’s so telling that when a single edition of a single publication doesn’t explicitly center whiteness, Britain’s right wing media goes into attack mode,” another adds. “This is how institutional racism works.”

One person pointed out how Tominey’s comments fall in line with the now-long list of The Telegraph’s white female journalists who bombard Meghan with criticism, further suggesting that Meghan’s status as the first nonwhite member of the royal family has everything to do with it.

What Prince Harry said is true: The second the word “racist” is thrown out, people lose sight of everything except trying to prove they don’t deserve the title. But we sincerely hope Tominey takes some time to reflect on why it bothered her so much that Meghan chose 10 women of color to feature, and why her criticism has evoked such a powerful response. No one wakes up in the morning hoping today will be the day they get to call someone a racist, and Twitter isn’t delighting in its criticism of Tominey so much as tending to the wounds her words created. If Tominey could expand her understanding of how it feels to be excluded to the entire nonwhite populations who have felt that sting for centuries, that would make Twitter truly happy — consciously, unconsciously and everything in between.

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