Romance, Royalty, Racism, Renaissance—and a Reminder That Fairy Tales Aren’t Real
Trigger Warning: Suicidal ideation is discussed. It is towards the end of the article, so if you wish to avoid it, don’t scroll to the end.
This past Sunday, March 7th, Oprah Oprahed and delivered the interview that still has the world shaken to the core. Like many others, I watched, with my jaw dropped and pearls clutched, as cup after cup of the strongest Earl Grey tea was served. The revelations, though never actually surprising, were at times mindblowing. At least initially. I was left feeling a strong empathy for what Meghan (and Harry) had experienced.
I was also triggered by some of what Meghan shared, and I suspect that I am not alone in this. One of the reasons why the interview resonated so deeply is because in some ways it was so despairingly relatable. Strip away the trappings and titles, and you are left with a toxic tale of racism, misogynoir, bullying, exclusion, narcissistic abuse, suicidal ideation, and more. Meghan, we found out, had been going through what many women, in particular women of color, deal with every day.
There is much to unpack, so I’ll jump right in and share my thoughts:
ON ROYALS BEING RACIST
Are you seriously shocked? Seriously? If you are shocked by revelations that the descendants of the family that colonized more than 25% of the world’s land surface at one point are racist (most of those territories originally populated by people of color), then you are being deliberately disingenuous. This is who they are and have always been, no matter what Prince William says.
ON THE PRIVILEGE GRANTED BY MEGHAN’S SKIN TONE
Meghan was initially deemed to be “acceptably Black” because she is so light skinned. She more than passed the paper bag test.The way her mixed-race genes express themselves physically means that she can easily pass for white. To be clear: I am not implying at all that Meghan has ever tried to pass. From what I’ve researched, it seems as though she has always acknowledged her biracial heritage, and described herself as biracial.
Be that as it may: do not fool yourself for a second that someone, say, with the skin tone of Meghan’s own mother (or Angela Bassett’s, Viola Davis’, Lupita Nyong’o’s) would ever have been granted access to the palace or the prince.
Like many of us lost in the blush of a new love, Meghan was naïve. And I believe that a part of her naïveté was driven by her skin privilege. As a white-passing celebrity she had never encountered some of the struggles that her darker skinned sisters have to deal with, and she had never had to “lead with her blackness,” so to speak. I think she was lulled into a false sense of security because she didn’t personally know the issues that come with having darker skin, and had rarely, if ever, been rejected because of her skin color.
ON “CONCERNS” ABOUT ARCHIE’S SKIN TONE
Please miss me with your wide-eyed-ness about this. The moment made great TV. That is undeniable. But the British Empire was founded upon a belief in the “God-given supremacy” of the white race over all other races. It was founded upon the enslavement, expropriation, subjugation, and genocide of brown-skinned indigenous peoples.
Do not shy away from the terroristic nature of colonization. Do not be fooled by the pomp and ceremony; by the changing of the guard; by the charming tourist attractions. The empire was built on brutality.
Meghan married into the family whose ancestors created the The Barbados Slave Code in the early 1600s. The Code was named “An Act for Better Ordering and Governing of Negroes,” and it denied slaves the most basic of human rights, including the right to life. Black people not being allowed to simply exist has a long, dingy history.
In short: Of course these people had “concerns” about Archie’s skin tone. Of course they felt “safe” to mention those concerns behind closed doors. Of course they altered centuries of tradition, based on an interpretation of the one drop rule, to deny Archie his birthright.
Speaking of conversations that take place behind closed doors…let’s get honest about shadeism, or as it is more commonly known, colorism. BIPoC: please let us all stop pretending that we don’t have these kinds of conversations ourselves. We know that color is currency. Specifically light skin color. I’m willing to wager that most Black or minoritized people have said something like this or had it said to them:
- “Hay que mejorar la raza”
- “I can’t marry them; they’re too dark.”
- “I hope the baby gets those light eyes.”
- “Thank God the baby got that ‘good hair’.”
- “She would be really pretty if she wasn’t so dark.”
- “Don’t let the children play outside too long or they’ll get dark.”
To this day, many (dark skinned) Black men (and other men of color, tbh) seek out mates who are considerably lighter in skin tone than themselves. Maybe it’s preference. Maybe it’s colonial legacy. Maybe it’s neither. Maybe it’s both. Either way, the “light is right” mindset is a legacy of colonialism that we actively perpetuate, and it has got to stop.
ON BLACK EXCELLENCE
The truth is that no matter how Meghan showed up, The Firm and the masses would not have been happy. This Black/bi-racial woman nailed the first curtsy after practising for a just few minutes, nailed the etiquette, nailed the comportment, nailed the fashion, nailed the national anthem, nailed the public speaking, nailed the Australia tour, nailed the connection with the peoples of the Commonwealth—because she knew there would be no room for anything less than perfection. Her greatest triumph was her greatest sin in their eyes.
This little black girl (as they see her, not as she self-identifies) had the audacity to be great. She had the audacity to be confident. She had the audacity to be excellent. And so The Firm decided to knock her down a peg or two, and ask her to “be 50% less” so she would not outshine
Kate anyone else. The irony is, of course, that had she presented as “50% less” from the outset they would have rejected her as not being good enough.
This is what Black and BIPOC people, and especially Black women, experience every day in workplaces around the world. Do more. Be more. Push more. Give more. Say more. Ok…not so much. Ok…now you have to go.
It’s a constant, unwinnable battle.
ON DARVO, AND WHO CONTROLS THE NARRATIVE
The fact the tabloids launched a pre-interview smear campaign against Meghan, and that The Institution is now investigating her for bullying, is classic DARVO, and tells you all you need to know about the veracity of her story. (DARVO stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.) The way DARVO works is that the actual guilty party accuses their victim of what they are perpetrating upon the victim. It’s also interesting that The Institution has been comparatively silent about Prince Andrew’s alleged pedophilia. So…do with that information what you will. All I can say is: there’s a reason why The Firm hosts an annual Christmas party for the tabloids.
Admittedly it might be tough to think of a Duke and Duchess being financially abused, but translate their circumstances to a “regular” person who is in an abusive and/or narcissistic relationship, and it begins to make sense. The behavior is the identical. Anybody who has ever tried to end a relationship with an abusive narcissist (been there) has experienced the same or similar. They love and approve of everything you do/sun rises and sets on you (or rather, as a part of their entrapment strategy, this is how they make it appear). They take steps to separate you from your identity and your loved ones. They take more and more control of your life. (Remember when Meghan shared that her passport and keys were taken? Again…been there.) Once you try to leave, they trash your reputation and try to ruin you financially in the hope that monetary need will bring you to heel. In the Sussexes’ case, the abuser is The Firm.
ON “MEGHAN SHOULD HAVE DONE HER RESEARCH”
This is victim blaming and pick-me-ism of the highest order. It’s not a good look at all. The way a narcissistic relationship works (in this scenario The Institution is the narc) is it starts with love-bombing and appearing to put the target on a pedestal. This is why it initially appeared as though Meghan had been brought fully into the fold. It’s called the honeymoon period for a reason. Who among us has not experienced a honeymoon period and then woken up to a reality that we did not see coming? Whether with a job, a friendship, or a romantic relationship, we’ve all been there. And no amount of research could have saved us.
In addition, Meghan probably thought that she knew quite a bit about Harry and the royals because so much has been written about them. Who needs to Google anything when the information sort of exists in the ether? Some of the people trashing Meghan for not having researched her prince (and it’s been mostly women, but…I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with that now) are some of the same ones who will say/have said things like “I’m marrying him, not his family.” Or they hear something pejorative about someone and say “Well I’ll give them a chance and judge for myself.” And if we’re going to be honest, many women, had they been in Meghan’s shoes, would’ve been marrying their prince without hesitation, research or no research. But anyhoo…
ON SUICIDAL IDEATION
More than any part of the interview, this broke my heart. Nobody deserves to feel this bad, or worse yet to be driven to feel this bad.
I have seen messages of support for Meghan, but I have also witnessed the backlash. There are thousands, if not millions of people who believe that Meghan was lying about feeling suicidal. As someone who has been there, I promise you that this is not something that one lies about.
The vitriol, the minimization, the shaming, the questioning of motives, the character assassination that people are directing towards Meghan: these are some of the reasons why people who are feeling suicidal so often prefer to struggle silently rather than disclose. Nobody wants to be kicked when they’re already down.
In so bravely sharing her struggles, Meghan has ignited a much-needed conversation about mental health. She has quite likely helped millions of people just by being open, and putting a face to the phrase “It’s ok to not feel ok.” In sharing, she has reduced the stigma, and hopefully made it easier for people who need it to seek help.
“Meghan Markle is not going to see your comments saying that you don’t believe she was suicidal, but your friends and family who have been suicidal will…and they now know that they cannot come to you for help.”
ON FAIRY TALES
I hope we all left the interview feeling more compassionate, and remembering that celebrities are human beings too, as deserving as any other person of kindness, protection, and empathy.
For me, Meghan and Harry’s story is a reminder that although there are no fairy tales, no matter what life deals you, there is always the possibility of creating your own version of a happily ever after.
The “Magical Negro” is a real thing: Who knew that the Magical Negro trope had an actual basis in reality? I’m not a fan of the trope, but I am overjoyed that Tyler Perry came through for Meghan and Harry when their own family abandoned them. As someone on Rihanna’s internet said: Tyler Perry gave them a home and security, and Oprah gave them a platform. Once again Black people saved the day.
Misogynoir is also real: What Meghan went through on the world stage is what Black women deal with every day: The hatred. The racism. The loneliness. The bullying. The exclusion. The undermining. The struggle to stay afloat. The need to appear strong. The emotional exhaustion. The feeling of not being protected. I don’t know if to feel hopeless or inspired because an entire duchess was subjected to it. What then of those of us who are not existing in lofty circles? If no-one advocated for and protected Meghan, who will advocate for and protect us?
The world needs more Oprah: We miss you Auntie. Please come back. We need your magic on our TVs daily again.
No one is exempt from mental illness: Wealth, position, and privilege cannot shield you from it.
Living with mental health issues is like being on stage: It is a constant performance, which adds emotional stress to someone who is already struggling. People with mental illness are not faking their illness—but they might be faking wellness. They do this to avoid the stigma. Meghan mentioned the photos of her and Harry smiling and holding hands. All we saw was a loving couple, but in reality, she was literally holding on, white-knuckled, for dear life.
Don’t judge: You can’t necessarily tell from the outside what someone is going through or if they are having mental health issues. Think of Robin Williams and others about whom you might have said “We had no idea.”
Be kind: See above. Lead with empathy.
Normalize talking about mental health: Normalize candor. Normalize seeking help. Normalize providing help. #EndTheStigma
Don’t give up: In Meghan’s own words, “Know there’s another side. Know that life is worth living”.
Unless otherwise stated, text and images ⒸLisa Hurley/@happyhappyphoenix