When Oprah Winfrey asked Meghan Markle why she believed that the royal family and the institution as a whole had one standard for Kate Middleton and a separate one for her, Markle responded by saying, “I don’t know.” But the harsh truth heard around the world during the startling two-hour interview was deafening: Meghan just wasn’t one of them.
I don’t know the first thing about what it’s like to be a royal, but I do know that every word Meghan uttered struck a chord in the hearts of any Brown or Black female who’s ever been involved with a white man and his family. In that kind of dynamic, the “layers were at play,” as Meghan described it, and those layers involved being an outsider, not fitting in, or being the odd man out. All of that boils down to racism, ignorance, and oppression.
Almost five years ago, I, a Latina, married a white man. Like Meghan, I was on my second marriage, after a short-lived first union with another white man. In my first marriage, the disconnect between cultures was evident from the get-go, but I chose to ignore the red flags for the sake of adventure. By the time I was ready to say “I do” again, I had found a man worth letting down my guard for. His family was a different story.
My in-laws are good people, but they are from another era, and they just don’t understand the harm of their words. Even the best-intended comment or action by a white in-law can feel like a punch in the gut, and every time I was asked to recommend the best Mexican restaurant or asked about where I was from (meaning, where I was born?), it made me doubt myself. The Trump presidency didn’t help matters, either; I became the defender of my people, our plight, and our causes. More than once, I thought to myself, Why am I here? Why would I once again put myself in a position where not only do I have to define my identity, but I also have to defend my culture on a regular basis?
While questions about taco recommendations were annoying, other conversations were downright painful. During the early stages of my relationship, my now mother-in-law began to casually speak about the small Latino community that lived in Baltimore when she was growing up. “They called them wetbacks,” she told me matter-of-factly. I sat there breathless. “Now I don’t know if that’s the right word, but that’s what they called them.” I wanted to tell her that word was extremely offensive and a racial epithet. But I didn’t have it in me. I still get choked up just thinking about it. I wish I could have used that as a teaching moment, but I didn’t have the strength.
In another instance, my father-in-law, whom I rarely have any one-on-one time with, told me what it was like when his daughter gave birth to her firstborn, a half-white, half-Latina child. “We weren’t sure what to expect,” he said. Confused by this statement, I pursed my lips and just nodded my head. “We will love a child no matter what they look like,” he went on, “but, you know, we just didn’t know.”
When I told my husband about the conversation, he responded by saying, “I told you he was crazy.” The sad and pathetic aspect is that I wrote off my in-laws’ racist comments with the same excuses — because “they’re crazy,” “they’re old” and because “what’s the point?”
That’s where I see Meghan and Harry’s true strength. Separating from family members isn’t easy, and they bravely came forward knowing the wrath that lay ahead. As for me, I am finding my footing — and my voice — as I get older. I am not as silent as I used to be. “Actually, that is incorrect,” I’ve said to my in-laws now and again when they begin yammering about their misconstrued notions of Latinos. I didn’t sign up to be their token Brown girl, but I also won’t allow them to say whatever they please.
I am not as silent as I used to be. “Actually, that is incorrect,” I’ve said to my in-laws now and again when they begin yammering about their misconstrued notions of Latinos. I didn’t sign up to be their token Brown girl, but I also won’t allow them to say whatever they please.
Some (white) people may think everything they say to a nonwhite person could be perceived as offensive or racist. But is it that difficult to ask questions or make comments with common sense and kindness? When it comes to the entity of a family, everything is up for grabs and nothing is off the table. However, it’s quite another thing to be dismissed entirely and not cared for while living in that type of unhealthy environment. In the past, I often thought eventually they would grow to love me. But that type of “eventually” comes in waves. The struggle of being a Brown person in a white family is an ebb and flow. It’s not always bad, but there’s an element of uncertainty because you never know when your identity will come into play.
Meghan spoke in great detail about not having the support of the Monarchy and believing them when they said they would protect her. All of that is referencing the idea that when you marry into a family, you automatically become a family. And family always comes first, right? That’s the dream we want to believe will come true. But families are already complex and complicated as it is, and if you’re the only one unintentionally stirring the pot, your status becomes lower than the black sheep of the family.
The role that is expected of the outsider is to smile and pretend it’s all okay — and most importantly, never speak about your pain, because who are you to complain about anything? And when you do speak up, ever so quietly, you are told that you are dramatic, irrational, a liar, or too sensitive.
Sure, my life could have been more comfortable had I chosen to be with a Latino man instead of a white man. I wouldn’t have struggled with the language barrier between my family and his. We wouldn’t have had to deal with the culture clash of two different worlds coming together, or have had to witness conversations with racist undertones. But then again, my life wouldn’t have been as enriching — and that goes for both of us. One thing Meghan has that I have, too, is a supportive partner. I have an ally, and that means everything.
I loved when Harry told Oprah that the royal family could have had the “greatest assets to the Commonwealth that the family could have ever wished for,” but instead, chose to throw that away all because Meghan wasn’t one of them. It’s clear that if Harry had married a white woman, none of these issues would have come up — just look at Kate and William. Of course, Harry’s mother, Diana, experienced many of the same hardships that Meghan spoke about — but imagine what it would have been like for her if she was Black? The combination of overnight stardom, media frenzy, racism, and family secrecy is too much to bear, even for the strongest, most poised woman.
That’s the tragic story of Meghan and the royal family, which, perhaps, isn’t over yet. This union, and these two families, could have had a spectacular formation of what families look like today. As Meghan said, “And I could never understand how it wouldn’t be seen as an added benefit.” That’s the thing; some white families don’t see the addition of a Black or Brown woman as beneficial.
*Julia Campos is a pseudonym
Before you go, see Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s complete relationship timeline.
Watch: A Timeline of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Relationship