By Mohamed Hamaludin
A beautiful American actress falls in love with a British prince and he with her. They marry and she becomes a duchess. They have a son and live happily ever after.
That is how the story is supposed to end but this is not the typical fairy tale couple. Meghan Markle is part African American and part white and her relationship with Prince Harry has been beset by racism from the beginning. The duchess and her prince have now decided to find their own happily ever after.
Friends introduced Markle, a divorcee and star of the hit television show “Suits,” to Harry, Duke of Sussex and grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, in London, in July 2016. They dated in secret for three months, then became engaged and a statement said the queen and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh “wish them every happiness.”
They were married on May 19, 2018, in a lavish ceremony at St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle, a royal residence, and Meghan became the Duchess of Sussex. Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born on May 6, 2019.
Detractors got to work long before then. Commenting on the news of their dating, the Telegraph said, “The fact that she is American and a divorcee will also have raised eyebrows in Buckingham Palace.” The Sun reported that Markle’s half-sister Samantha called her “a social climber” who “is not fit to be a royal.”
Headlines have included this one: “Harry’s girl is almost straight outta Compton: Gang-scarred home of her mother revealed—so will he be dropping in for tea?” This was an unsubtle reference N.W.A’s gritty album, “Straight Outta Compton,” which was made into a movie of the same name. A Daily Mail story even included crime statistics from Compton. But Markle was living in Toronto.
Markle told Elle magazine, “My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American. I’m half black and half white.” That may be why Rachel Johnson found it necessary to comment in the Daily Mail, “Genetically, she is blessed. If there is issue from her alleged union with Prince Harry, the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA.”
Several tabloids ran photos of Markle that had got onto the adult website Pornhub. But The Washington Post’s Karia Adam reported the images were lifted from scenes in “Suits”.
After Archie’s birth was announced, Danny Baker, of the BBC’s Radio 5 Live, tweeted a black-and-white photo of the couple with Markle holding hands with a young chimpanzee dressed in a jacket and wearing a hat. The caption read, “Royal baby leaves hospital.” Blake, who was subsequently fired, said he was just trying to be funny.
Such media attacks infuriated the couple. The prince denounced the “racial overtones” of the media reports. Last fall, the duchess bared her soul in an ITV documentary: “When I first met my now husband, my friends were really happy because I was so happy. But my British friends said to me, ‘I’m sure he’s great. But you shouldn’t do it. Because the British tabloids will destroy your life.’ I think I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried! I really tried. But I think what that does internally is probably damaging.”
The couple will for now on spend six months in Canada and six months in Britain, giving up their duties as “senior royals” and setting out to become financially independent, a plan which the queen has blessed. Guardian commentator Haroon Siddique said that this development “dashed hopes that their marriage marked a watershed in U.K. race relations.” He added, “The couple’s relationship and the birth of their son was heralded by some as hugely symbolic moments, given Meghan’s biracial heritage, which would help foster greater interest in the monarchy among Black Britons.”
New York Times commentator Afua Hirsch was not surprised: “How many of us suspected — hoping but doubting we were wrong — that what would really initiate Meghan into her new role as a Briton with African heritage would be her experience of British racism.”
Hirsch added, “Her treatment has proved what many of us have always known: No matter how beautiful you are, whom you marry, what palaces you occupy, charities you support, how faithful you are, how much money you accumulate or what good deeds you perform, in this society racism will still follow you.” That should be no surprise for a country built on slavery, harsh exploitation of non-white people and theft of their resources in an empire on which the sun was never supposed to set.
Even then, the racists were not be denied. Remember Brexit, the term coined for Britain’s exit from the European Union? The tabloids call the couple’s break with the royal family Megxit – the Meghan exit — implying, of course, that it is Markle, this non-white woman, who, as the Guardian’s Siddique summed up the sentiment, is “someone who’s stolen away Prince Harry.”
Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times. Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at email@example.com.