When it comes time to analyse the media portrayal of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, there’s no denying that at the core of everything, her race drives the frantic frenzy that follows her every move.
Since the announcement that she and her husband, Prince Harry, have decided to step down as senior members of the royal family, malicious headlines and commentary from all walks of the world have spun into overdrive. But with every mention of “disappointment” or “rage” that supposedly surrounds the Sussexes’ decision to break away from centuries of pompous tradition and strict protocol, there are still opposing anecdotes that exist to uplift the duchess. They stem from Twitter—most specifically, Black Twitter.
If you don’t know what Black Twitter is, then simply put, Black Twitter isn’t where you’re supposed to be. But for the sake of clarity, it’s where Twitter’s most divine and hilariously relevant cultural commentary from its active Black users lives.
When news of the Sussexes’ stepping down first broke, the social media site went to shambles, with every hilarious meme poking fun at Harry and Meghan’s supposed “breaking free” from the royals. But there were also sincere messages of support from normal fans of the couple who—unlike the British tabloids—don’t ignore the seriously racist microaggressions and severe scrutiny that Meghan has undeniably experienced since the start of her relationship with Harry in 2016. Meghan’s social media support system is a diverse group—and a vocal one—that includes celebrities, cultural critics, and esteemed writers who aren’t afraid to speak out on her behalf.
“Come on home, Meghan,” tweeted writer-director Janet Mock. “We got you sis.”
“Meghan and Harry said KEEP your MONEY and your RACISM,” chimed in writer Sylvia Obell. “WE OUT.”
Come on home, Meghan. We got you sis. https://t.co/hOjiY5PsL4
— Janet Mock (@janetmock) January 8, 2020
May we all tackle our New Year resolutions as swiftly as Harry and Meghan. pic.twitter.com/4Q4vDgM0p1
— Black BEEN King (@SylviaObell) January 8, 2020
So, yeah. YEAH. Harry didn’t just say fuck the monarchy, he said fuck imperialist white supremacy. He said Meg was the prize.
THAT’S what’s got those racists so bothered.
— Soraya Nadia McDonald (@SorayaMcDonald) January 10, 2020
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Some commentators even praised Harry a bit as well, acknowledging his participation in putting his wife and family’s well-being over important—but not nearly as personally pressing—royal duties.
“Look at Harry with this spine of steel. Single-handedly raising the bar for every cowardly straight man who won’t stand up for his partner to his wretched relatives because it might make him uncomfortable,” tweeted Undefeated culture writer Soraya McDonald. “That’s some REAL prince shit.”
In a recent op-ed published on ZORA,a Medium publication that amplifies the voices of women of color, senior editor Morgan Jerkins defined the complexity of Meghan’s situation succinctly: “Because of Meghan’s Blackness, her controversy is attached to not only what she does but also by her being in the royal family at all.”
“The most grating response I hear to Meghan’s difficulties within her royal life is that ‘she knew what she was getting herself into.’ Did she though?” Jerkins explains to BAZAAR.com when asked why she openly vocalizes her support of the duchess. “She’s not a blue blood. She fell in love. And let’s be honest, if you fell madly in love with someone, you take risks for that person. She took a risk and it has come with costs. I support her with the matters of her own heart and also because I know that the world is immeasurably more critical to Black women than they are to non-Black women.”
Meghan has mentioned in interviews that she was warned about the tenacity of British tabloid culture from close friends and Harry himself, but even fair warnings didn’t properly prepare her for what seems like an ongoing war with the press.
“When I first met Harry, my friends were so excited. My U.S. friends were happy because I was happy. But my British friends, they were sure he was lovely, but they said I shouldn’t do it because, ‘The British tabloids will destroy your life,’” said Meghan during her and Harry’s ITV documentary. “I’ve said for a long time to H—it’s not enough to just survive something, right? That’s not the point of life. You’ve got to thrive, you’ve got to feel happy. I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried, I really tried,” continued Meghan. “But I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.”
There’s an understanding between Meghan and her at-home Black supporters—an unspoken agreement almost—that we don’t need her to outwardly acknowledge her struggles in joining the royal family. We already know that they exist, and if anything, a lot of modern Black women—especially those who’ve been in an interracial relationship—have been through strikingly similar situations. Harry and Meghan’s personal difficulties with the Windsors isn’t a story or conflict that’s never been seen before—it’s just one that’s usually not played out within one of the most famous and prestigious families for all the world to see.
Blackness is a spectrum, of course, and Meghan’s being a mixed-race, lighter-skinned—and some may even argue “passing”—Black woman has granted her privileges that surely made her life easier than the average, non-Hollywood-bred Black woman. Her treatment in the tabloid press, however, especially when the news first broke of her and Harry’s relationship, proved that regardless of her being what Eurocentric standards may define as “palatable,” it still doesn’t disguise her otherness when standing side by side with the Windsors.
“No matter how beautiful you are, whom you marry, what palaces you occupy, charities you support, how faithful you are, how much money you accumulate or what good deeds you perform, in this society racism will still follow you,” wrote author Afua Hirsch in a recent New York Times op-ed.
In a way, the Black Twitter commentary surrounding Meghan Markle news erases the pomp and circumstance that infiltrates the coverage surrounding the duchess. While Meghan has to contemplate her every move and word that’s publicised, her Black fans can see beneath it. They relish over photos from when she was a teenager showcasing her natural curls. They stan her close friendship with Serena Williams. They understand that at the end of it all, she is a human and deserves to be treated as such.
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The respect that Meghan should be granted is evident in the unwavering love that fuels her relationship with Harry. The Duke of Sussex has time and time again been firm in defending Meghan, most evidently when he released a first-of-its-kind statement calling for an end to the racist mistreatment by the tabloid media at the start of their union, and again with a statement just last year, in which he compared her experience to that of his late mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car accident after being chased by paparazzi. Whereas Harry was only 12 years old when his mother passed, now he has the opportunity to protect Meghan and their family at whatever costs necessary.
The unabashed boldness in his approach to defending his wife is one we hardly see when it comes to highly scrutinised Black women anywhere, let alone from a highly privileged man married to one. Everyday Black women are criticised for how they naturally exist within this world—whether that be how they choose to wear their hair or express emotion (especially frustration), or when they choose to value themselves to a higher standard than society chooses to. (The latter being evident with Meghan supposedly being eager to return to more active and exciting work than what would have been allowed within the realm of royal restrictions.) While British tabloids have deemed Meghan’s openness about experiencing difficulties adapting to royal life as frivolous, Harry has done the opposite by not passively acknowledging his wife’s struggles, but actively demanding there be change in response to them. It’s admirable. It’s refreshing. It’s what this world needs to see more of.
Though Meghan’s race, her otherness, and her subtle defiance of the royal status quo are all factors that have played a part in her tumultuous acceptance into the monarchy, it’s most likely not the factor that upsets the British media most. If anything, perhaps it’s Harry’s unwavering and unapologetic love for a Black woman—first his girlfriend, then his wife, and now the mother of his child—that they simply cannot comprehend and still today, refuse to accept and understand.
It’s a love that runs so deep, Britain’s beloved prince is willing to leave all that he’s ever known behind for the sake of protecting the woman he married. To Meghan’s supporters, it’s a love that’s laudable, authentic, and deserving of celebration. To the British press, it’s deemed frivolous, incomprehensible, and a mistake. What can’t be denied, however, is that regardless of Britain’s reactions—toward the Sussexes’ stepping down or Harry’s unwavering support and open loving of Meghan—this is now their reality.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s Bazaar US.