Everyone is talking about the royal engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In the black community, Markle’s racial identity is also a hot topic. The future Duchess of Sussex has a black mother and a white father and she identifies herself as bi-racial because she is equally proud of both sides of her family tree.
Yet, the American television actress is not immune to racism. Ignorant comments have surfaced on social media and in British tabloids about the 36-year-old’s relationship with 33-year-old Prince Harry.
One columnist from The Daily Mail wrote that if the new couple had children, “the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA,” and described Markle’s mother as “a dreadlocked African-American lady from the wrong side of the tracks.”
Another Daily Mail story about the actress’ hometown of Los Angeles contained the headline, “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton,” referring to the LA suburb where the rap group N.W.A. formed. The writer also wondered if Harry would visit the “gang-scarred home of her mother.”
In a rare public statement last November, Prince Harry condemned the pieces’ “racial undertones” and the ongoing “abuse and harassment” Markle and her family experienced.
In 2015, Markle wrote an essay for Elle Magazine addressing her mixed race identity and the racism she and her parents have faced.
One story she shares is about a narrow-minded dorm mate she met her first week in college who asked if her parents were still together.
“You said your mom is black and your dad is white, right?’ she said. I smiled meekly, waiting for what could possibly come out of her pursed lips next. ‘And they’re divorced?’ I nodded. ‘Oh, well that makes sense.’ To this day, I still don’t fully understand what she meant by that, but I understood the implication. And I drew back: I was scared to open this Pandora’s box of discrimination, so I sat stifled, swallowing my voice.?”
Another story she recounts is when she heard her mother called the ‘N’ word.
“I was home in LA on a college break when my mom was called the ‘N’ word. We were leaving a concert and she wasn’t pulling out of a parking space quickly enough for another driver. My skin rushed with heat as I looked to my mom. Her eyes welling with hateful tears, I could only breathe out a whisper of words, so hushed they were barely audible: ‘It’s OK, Mommy.’ I was trying to temper the rage-filled air permeating our small silver Volvo. Los Angeles had been plagued with the racially charged Rodney King and Reginald Denny cases just years before, when riots had flooded our streets, filling the sky with ash that flaked down like apocalyptic snow; I shared my mom’s heartache, but I wanted us to be safe. We drove home in deafening silence, her chocolate knuckles pale from gripping the wheel so tightly.”