In the war between Team Meghan and Kate, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a black woman who doesn’t side with the controversial Duchess of Sussex. This isn’t blind support based on Meghan’s part African-American lineage –black women gravitate to her because we can clearly see ourselves in her struggle. Brits are hesitant to call Meghan’s treatment for what it is – racism– and that’s exactly why this all feels so familiar. Like Canada, Great Britain’s racism is subtle and polite. It infiltrates institutions and expresses itself as micro-aggressions in order to evade the human eye. For every criticism and negative sentiment as to why she’s undeserving of her husband and title, there’s a reason to justify it that “has nothing to do with race.” Black women have seen this story before, because it’s the story of our lives. Here’s why Meghan Markle’s struggle is felt so strongly among black women everywhere.
Meghan Markle is black first before anything else
As a black woman in corporate or other white majority-environments, getting people to see past your race can feel like a challenge, if not impossible. It’s one that Meghan’s good friend Serena Williams can speak to very well. Despite being the most decorated and highest-paid female tennis player in the world, she’s been the target of racist attacks her entire career.
Meghan Markle is often portrayed as the ‘angry, black woman’
For black women, being passionate, outspoken, or assertive is often seen as being aggressive and intimidating. It can result in being written up at work, becoming office gossip, or even being fired. White women fearfully breaking down in tears after a black woman assertively states her opinion is oddly a common experience, and it’s usually the catalyst for these social consequences. Here’s looking at you, Kate.
Meghan Markle never wears her natural hair
Why does she do this? My guess is that she does it for the same reason I do – to blend into her environment as seamlessly as possible. I don’t want to be negatively judged because my hair screams that I’m an outsider. If you think that’s ridiculous, I’d like you to imagine Meghan showing up to a Royal engagement with a curly afro. Yeah, exactly.
Meghan Markle was told to be grateful or “go back to where she comes from”
Often, people of colour who enter high-status careers, schools, and white-majority countries, are made to feel that they should be grateful to be there. The underlying message here is that their kind doesn’t belong and that they should tolerate any treatment — or get out. Markle’s departure from the UK was a signal to POC everywhere — you don’t have to tolerate these toxic environments, or having anyone make you feel less than just because of the colour of your skin.
Meghan Markle was criticized for standing up for herself
Natasha Eubanks, editor of The YBF, a black celebrity site that follows the royal couple, described why Meghan’s troubles are so relatable. She told CNN, "Having the audacity — because that's what it is — to exhibit self-sovereignty has always been a privilege reserved for men, especially white men."
Meghan Markle’s had to be the ‘strong black woman’
The ‘strong black woman’ schema is one that has roots that date back to slavery. The strong black woman doesn’t cry, doesn’t complain, doesn’t seek help, and keeps pushing on no matter what. Identifying with this schema has helped black women deal with oppression even up to today, but according to research, leads to putting their mental and physical health at risk.
Meghan Markle’s false sense of acceptance
Eniola Ladapo, a Nigerian student at the London School of Economics told NBC News what the British media’s dark shift felt like. “This has been a rude awakening. It reminded us that we shouldn’t get too comfortable, and no matter how much we think we are accepted into society, we really aren’t.”
Meghan Markle has been portrayed as a social climber
Black women have to deal with being seen as the bottom-tier of society. It doesn’t matter that Meghan was successful in her own right before meeting Harry. For some, seeing a black woman at that level of society is unnerving and elicits the kind of vitriol Meghan has endured.
Meghan Markle is admonished for the same behaviour as her white counterparts
This is just one example on a long list of unfair comparisons between the two. Black women know all too well that we’re judged more harshly than our white counterparts for the same behaviours, whether it’s at work, school, or even in the justice system. Whether the bias is conscious or not, we’re a long way from equality.
Meghan Markle is pressured to be the standard for black women everywhere
Meghan's move from the UK has been liberating, not just for herself, but for black women who see themselves in her. We hope she finds peace and the freedom to be herself.