The truth is now out there – racism and a lack of support from the royal family and their advisers over racist attacks and threats to their lives is what Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, say led them to step back from senior royal duties and leave the United Kingdom.
In what is undoubtedly the interview of the year, Meghan was true to her word in June 2020 when she said “The only wrong thing to say is to say nothing”. For the last few years, we have only heard one side of the story. The side that cast aspersions on Meghan’s character, called Harry weak, criticised their union unfairly and chose misogyny, sexism and bigotry as their tools. It was time for the world to hear from Harry and Meghan. They were right to speak up.
Harry and Meghan opened up about their treatment at the hands of the royal family and courtiers, and debunked what sections of the press printed about them – supposedly shared by sources from, or close, to the establishment. Meghan put the record straight about accusations that she had made her sister-in-law cry – it was the reverse, she said.
We also learned that “The Firm” declared Archie would not be given a title, or a traditional picture of them leaving the hospital with the baby. No security was given to Archie. The royal family would go on record to negate the most ridiculous stories, Meghan claimed, but never once go on record to protect them.
The look of shock on Oprah Winfrey’s face – when Meghan shared the fact that one of the royal family had concerns about how dark Archie may be – must be mirrored on the face of any person who understands how racist this is. Let this sink in: member(s) of the British monarchy allegedly had a conversation with Harry about their concerns over how dark his son’s skin might be.
Archie – Queen Elizabeth’s first descendant of mixed heritage – was not to be given the status, protection, security or title afforded to his cousins Prince George, Princess Charlotte or Prince Louis. There are some caveats: extended members of the royal family do not automatically get the right to police security; and protocols state that only children or grandchildren of a sovereign gain the automatic title of prince or princess. Archie was the Queen’s great-grandchild at the time he was born.
Nevertheless, it looks unequivocal that the royal family have treated Archie differently because of his proximity to Blackness.
The Sussexes have already experienced situations such as British broadcaster Danny Baker comparing Archie to a chimpanzee in public – it’s no wonder that they were determined to protect and control information about their family to the fullest extent, because they allege no protection was coming forth from the institution.
In my book,This Is Why I Resist, I explain why the toxicity of institutional racism in Britain lends itself to a media where some vociferously feed blatant racism and misogynoir. There is no doubt in my mind that the experience Meghan had was racist and misogynist at the hands of an institution which should have protected her – but, instead, facilitated a monstrous hate against her by parts of British media.
When it comes to Meghan Markle, let’s be honest and admit that one of the reasons some of the British media can do this, is because it is what a section of the British public wants. Parts of the British population drive this irrational and unjustifiable ugliness against the duke and duchess.
We only have to look at some of the recent headlines, which have included accusing Meghan of poor judgement by reportedly wearing earrings which were a wedding gift from the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman in the wake of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi; to repackaging old bully claims against her, days before the Oprah interview, to depict her as an “angry Black woman”. Some reports have also accused her of “hissing” at staff – another derogatory stereotype attached to Black women as angry and uncultured.
The institution that is the royal family clearly sees Meghan as a threat, just as Diana was perceived as a threat. The experience of both independent, charismatic and much-loved women is uncanny – both were rejected and not supported, because of their natural ability to engage with the public, which presumably stirred jealousy. However, for Meghan it is much worse, because her proximity to Blackness as a biracial woman of Black heritage made her a bigger threat. Prince Harry was right to fear that history was repeating itself.
It is heartbreakingly cruel that when Harry and Meghan both say they asked for help several times, especially when Meghan disclosed that she “didn’t want to be alive anymore”, she would be left suffering with her suicidal thoughts – no help was apparently given. This is unconscionable.
The royal family has a lot to answer, and we deserve a full response. And even if people are supporters of the monarchy and of our Queen Elizabeth, we must all remember that neither she – nor the institution – is beyond reproach. They are also accountable for their actions, omissions – and failures.
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu is a political and women’s rights activist, and the author of ‘This is Why I Resist’
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies