Let me be clear: I have never, in my life, seen my mother stay up until 3am to watch anything. Taking into consideration the well-documented fact that is the love Black mums have for Diana, perhaps this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Of course, she was going to tune in to watch her best friend’s son tear the singlet of the monarchy.
Between my mother’s pre interview analysis with her friends, and my own Twitter timeline, it has seemed that within the Black British community, the lead up to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview had created a sense of intergenerational frenzy. For millennial and Gen Z daughters specifically, the compassion we have for Meghan, is an extension of the compassion our parents had for Princess Di.
Diana’s ghost was an omnipresent force throughout the two hours. Both Meghan and Harry talked candidly about the late princess, with the latter noting that the driving force behind choosing to leave the UK was the “fear of history repeating itself”. On a superficial level, it is easy to draw the parallels between Diana and Meghan. After maltreatment, control and silencing by The Firm, both women sought liberation by reclaiming the narrative, speaking to the media on their own terms.
“Diana was never cussed out for putting her hands in her pockets, for eating avocados, or for plotting to finish off Prince Phillip”
However, Diana enjoyed immense popular support that her daughter in law has never experienced; she was never vilified from the moment she was introduced as a potential spouse. Diana was never cussed out for putting her hands in her pockets, for eating avocados (in a thinly veiled accusation that she is complicit in murder), or for plotting to finish off Prince Phillip with the interview in question. In the interview Harry addresses this clear distinction; and the role race and social media have played in making a far more volatile environment for Meghan.
For Black women, Meghan’s story is all too recognisable; it’s textbook misogynoir. From the very beginning, the establishment reverted to the laziest of racialised, gendered tropes to discredit and attack her character. She’s the angry black woman, the jezebel, the temptress, the tragic mulatto. The revelation that it was Kate who made Meghan cry instead of the widely reported opposite? Ah, white women’s tears, one of our oldest foes, we meet again.
In the most heartbreaking moment in the interview, Meghan recounts how just one year after her fairytale wedding, she felt so trapped that she developed suicidal thoughts. She candidly reveals the lack of support she received from the royal family; she had asked officials at the Palace for medical assistance but was told it would damage the institution.
“It was all happening just because I was breathing,” Meghan said, tears filling her eyes. “I just didn’t want to be alive any more. That was a clear, real, frightening and constant thought.”A parable, a warning of the violence of misogynoir and racist backlash we receive when our very presence challenges the status quo. Harry made another correct observation; Meghan is not the only person who felt the racism, the sexism, the xenophobia, we all did.
Perhaps the most shocking moment was when Meghan recounted how an identifiable member of the royal family shared concerns about the potential darkness of her unborn son’s skin – Oprah, my household and my Twitter TL let out a collective gasp. She then went on to outline the ways in which The Firm began to discriminate against Archie, including him being denied his birthright of the title of Prince and a lack of police protection. It is wild to me that his tender age, little Archie, who shares a skin tone with Max Branning, has felt the full force of institutional anti-Blackness as a result of his African American heritage.
“It is not a plot twist that a family whose wealth and power is based on the subjugation of people of colour, would not be welcoming of a biracial woman into their fold”
Although the behaviour by the royals is disgusting, is anyone truly surprised? For one, Auntie Di warned us. Moreover, it is not a plot twist that a family whose wealth and power is based on the subjugation of people of colour, would not be welcoming of a biracial woman into their fold. She did not marry into your middle-class Kent family, she was entering into a 1200-year-old institution with an all too recent history of prospering from racist violence. This is a family who believes that because of their pure blood they have a God-given right to power and our taxes. Yes, they think they’re better than almost everyone. What was interesting, however, was the revelation of how powerful the monarchy still remains.
We rightly discuss the unsavoury symbolism and the history of the Crown, but insufficient criticism is given to the lengths they will still actively go to control the present narrative. This was best illustrated by the lead up to the interview, in which the press employed possibly every tactic in order to discredit the couple. Harry and Meghan discussed the symbiotic relationship the tabloids had with the monarchy, with the papers even holding Christmas parties at the palace. The extent to which the establishment can and will manipulate society in order to uphold the status quo should be terrifying to a modern democracy. The notion of modernising or fighting for representation within an intrinsically imperial, racist and exclusionary institution is laughable – ultimately it has no place in a progressive society.
The optimist in me hopes this will be transformative for Britain. Perhaps this marks the start of the nation beginning to question the institutions and norms it uncritically accepts as part of British culture. Perhaps they will start to take anti-Black racism more seriously, knowing the potentially dangerous outcome it could have had for Meghan. Perhaps this will lead to the overthrow of the monarchy and Buckingham Palace being made into Boxpark Westminster. In reality, this country and racist imperialism are in bondage like a scalp and gorilla glue. But on a personal level, Meghan and Harry have taught me that I really cannot come and kill myself. Choosing happiness and one’s self in the face of misogynoir is crucial.