The entire world held its collective breath last night as the long-awaited Oprah interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle finally aired on CBS. We all knew that Meghan faced a ton of bullying and racism by the British tabloid media, but we didn’t realize it went quite so deep, or that the members of the Royal family were involved quite so much. The Sussexes also reminded us of what might have been — not just for Meghan, but for all the young people of color who look up to her.
When asked why Archie was treated differently by the Palace than his cousins — no title, no security — we knew the answer before Meghan even answered. Turns out the Royals aren’t very concerned about representation. In fact, there were some backroom discussions about what color skin Archie would have.
“[I was told] he won’t be given security, he’s not going to be given a title, and [there were] also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born,” explained the Duchess.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) March 8, 2021
The British Commonwealth is made up of 54 countries, and the vast majority of them, with the notable exceptions of Canada and Australia, have populations that are predominately people of color. And we’re left wondering what the worldwide impact would have been if the Royals had accepted and embraced Meghan as a person of color as opposed to treating her, and Archie by extension, as a pariah. The family’s racist microaggressions, paired with their failure to protect her from brutal attacks by the press, have been there for all to see.
“Growing up as a woman of color, a little girl of color, I know how important representation is,” said Meghan. “I know how you want to see someone how looks like you in certain positions, how much it meant to them to see someone who looked like them to be in this position.”
The Duchess then mentioned a book she reads to Archie that contains the line, “If you can see it, you can be it!” which really just nails what representation means, doesn’t it? But if the people can’t see a prince who is also a person of color, that limits what they think is possible for themselves. If they see people of color actively ostracized and denigrated by not only the Royal family but by regular citizens as well, it has the potential to reinforce the racism and exclusion that so many people are fighting against today and it’s not a good look for the Royals. Not a good look at all.
“I think about that so often especially in the context of these young girls, but even grown women and men who, when I would meet them in our time in the Commonwealth, how much it meant to be able to see someone who looks like them in this position,” she explained. “And I could never understand how it wouldn’t be seen as an added benefit and a reflection of the world today, at all times, but especially right now to go ‘How inclusive is that?’ to see someone who looks like you in this family, much less someone who was born into it.”
The Royal family really missed a huge opportunity to separate themselves from the history of British colonization and take a step toward an inclusive and modern message when they ostracized Meghan, Archie, and her unborn daughter.
Harry also noted this later in the interview, when he expressed regret that his family wouldn’t step in to protect her from media attacks. While they may have argued that all members of the family were subjected to negative press, he said they failed to recognize how that it was so much worse for his wife.
“What was different for me was the race element,” the Duke told Oprah, “because now it wasn’t just about her, but about what she represents. And therefore it wasn’t just affecting my wife, it was affecting so many other people as well.”
We think of all the little girls and little boys of color, not only from Commonwealth countries but from the UK itself and the entire world who could’ve benefitted from that representation–benefitted from seeing a biracial woman be welcomed into the Royal family and her biracial son become a prince–and are left shaking our heads, but also proud that Meghan and Harry are out there practicing what they preach. Representation matters.
Maybe the British Royal Family should follow the example of these celebs who talk to their kids about racism
Watch: A Timeline of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Relationship