Prince Harry & Meghan Markle sit side by side in a garden, looking at Oprah, who has her back to the...

Black Women Aren't Surprised By How The Royals Treated Meghan

by Nylah Burton
Handout/Getty Images

On Sunday, March 7, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry — the Duchess and Duke of Sussex — sat down with Oprah Winfrey to talk about their experiences as senior members of the royal family after their wedding. What they said shocked the world. But much of what Meghan said came as no surprise to Black women, many of whom are already aware of the racism within the British monarchy. (Content warning: This article discusses suicidal ideation.)

Meghan and Harry, who permanently stepped down as working royals on February 19, 2021, claimed the palace had frequently refused to correct the record on stories that made Meghan look bad: Meghan said it was Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, who made Meghan cry ahead of Harry and Meghan’s 2018 wedding — not the other way around. Meghan also said she received no support from the royal family or their staff when she was struggling with suicidal ideation. And appallingly, the couple shared a royal family member had “concerns” about how dark Meghan and Harry’s son Archie's skin would be after he was born. In a March 9 statement, Buckingham Palace said the royal family was “saddened” to hear Meghan and Harry’s experience and called the issues raised “concerning.” The brief statement added: “While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”

Hearing these stories brought up strong emotions for many Black women: Some questioned why Meghan signed up to join such a notoriously oppressive institution as the British royal family in the first place. Some heard Meghan’s comments about her mental health and they saw a mirror. Others got angry on her behalf when she said a white woman — her sister-in-law, Kate — made her cry and didn’t correct the media when they lashed out at Meghan for being “aggressive” towards Kate.

Many Black women who watched the interview were left to grapple with the questions it posed: How can we make sure Black women like Meghan receive support for mental health crises? Can people support Meghan and still be anti-imperialists? How do you navigate interracial relationships with white people whose families are racist?

Elite Daily talked to young Black women from the United States, Ireland, and the UK to get a snapshot of what conversations they had after the explosive interview.

The following interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

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Mbiye Kasonga, 23, Virginia, U.S.

On dealing with mental health in the public eye:

I think she did a great job of representing how suffocating it is to be in a situation where everyone assumes you can, and will, bear burdens gracefully, which is a position Black women are often put in. That feeling of looking back at a gorgeous photo and knowing what was going on underneath the surface felt so familiar to me.

Honestly, it made me feel so sad for her because I recognize that feeling of helplessness. While I’ve never dealt with suicidal ideation, I have been in situations where my mental health was suffering — but ultimately, I was the one who had to “save myself” and get help on my own.

Clarkisha Kent, 26, Virginia, U.S.

On how race is portrayed in the media:

The special was illuminating for a variety of reasons. Racism. Colorism. Confirmation that journalism as we know it plays one of the largest roles in maintaining white supremacy. I’m very glad Meghan is safe now, because history has already shown that it could have gone completely wrong.

On whether racist institutions can be fixed from the inside:

Something I’m still thinking about a day later is the existence of “Representation Matters” propaganda: When are people going to stop waltzing into these oppressive institutions like the royal family with their heads in the clouds, on the basis of being “represented?” Why are you seeking “representation” in these tyrannical structures to begin with? To “diversify” colonization? To make imperialism “inclusive?”

It’s childish at best and ignorant at worst. I’m sure countries that are still recovering from the violence wrought upon them by this family and by Britain at large are more concerned with liberation than the crumbs that “representation” offer them.

Ola Majekodunmi, 24, Dublin, Ireland

On the impossible expectations placed on Meghan:

I'm not sure if the British establishment in general was ever that fond of Meghan, especially her being an American in a royal institution. I think people questioned Harry's choice of partner simply for her nationality and race. At the start, I think some of the British public hoped that she’d bring change to this traditional, white setting which is the royal family. It's sad that Meghan didn't get to do that.

It's super hard to change such a traditional and overly white setting. That change doesn't come in a day, I'm not sure if there was really that much Harry and Meghan could do. I was glad to see Meghan's presence in the family, but I always feared for her.

As a Black person and person of color, I can see myself in Meghan's story. We all share similar experiences of racism. Ireland is a majority white country, and growing up I always felt out of place and not sure of where I belong. It's a lot harder being a minority in the majority here. However, Ireland only started being a multicultural country not too long ago, so there's obviously a lot of room for improvement.

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Haaniyah Angus, 22, Aylesbury, England

On privilege and the relevance of the monarchy:

I have sympathy for Meghan and I believe nobody deserves to experience such vast harassment and to be pushed onto the verge of suicide. But her insistence on saying she could modernize the monarchy or that she would’ve been a good representation for the commonwealth sickened me.

There is no place for an institutionally racist monarchy in modern day Britain, nor should the monarchy remain the head of state for formerly colonized countries. The idea that she’s meant to represent us is honestly really naive of her.

Meghan and Harry ultimately only steered away from a life of privilege and excess due to their own experiences and not because of what the monarchy actually stands for.

And again, I hold sympathy on a human level — but we shouldn’t forget that we’re also talking about the extremely privileged here.

Gloria Oladipo, 21, Chicago, U.S.

On how difficult it is for Black women to get help:

As someone who lived in London, I faced a lot of racism in the study abroad program I was part of. Similar to Meghan, the superiors in my program didn’t take the racism I was facing seriously, and wouldn’t help me find appropriate mental health care to cope. England has a long way to go when it comes to treating Black people with respect.

Watching the Oprah interview was a very frustrating experience. I knew that the British monarchy, a royal family that has made their wealth by exploiting Black people worldwide, wouldn't care about protecting Meghan. However, I was still caught off guard by so much of the hatred that she's gotten. It makes me sad to see that, once again, a Black woman with so many resources, power, and status can't find protection or care. But I was proud to see her telling the truth and fighting against the violence she had endured.

On what other Black women can take away from this moment:

I just really want Black women who watched the interview to take care of themselves and know that no matter what institutions do to us or say about us, we matter. We are important. We deserve to be here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. You can also reach out to the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or to your local suicide crisis center.