Meghan Markle’s “Failure” To Please the Royal Family Is Painfully Familiar
I cried through Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah. I’ve lived my life in white institutions, starting with my family, often the only person of color in any given room. My childhood bedroom, shared with my blonde and blue-eyed half-sister. At college in Virginia and then graduate school in Cincinnati, when I was praised for being so “articulate” and “surprisingly well-spoken.” In meetings as a magazine editor in New York City, where I learned how to explain Black pain to white colleagues or, and more often, learned how to bite my tongue.
So much of what the Duchess of Sussex shared rang true for me and many others. (Just check Black Twitter, we all done popped off.) But for me, the waterworks started when Meghan began talking about the specific pain of being a Black, biracial woman working overtime to please her white partner’s family and failing—not because of her actions, but the color of her skin.
I’m biracial. White on my mother’s side, Trinidadian on my father’s. I was raised by my mother’s family and brought up believing, mistakenly, that my Blackness was a non-issue for white people. That I wasn’t Black or white, but just me. I grew up told that being “me” would not cause discomfort in white folks who have a problem with Black women existing in traditionally white spaces, achieving traditionally white successes, or dating white men. I wasn’t aware the one-drop rule applied to me. I wasn’t aware it existed. I also live with mental illness, and it’s only been recently that I’ve learned not to tie myself in knots trying to convince white folks I am harmless, polite, and likable to the detriment of myself and my mental health.
I learned the hard way that some institutions, some matriarchs, some families will never accept me. I learned the way Meghan did—I learned by failing.
When Meghan shared that she didn’t want to bring her fears of self-harm to her husband, I related. When she told Oprah, our one true queen, that she didn’t want to bring her problems to him, she wanted to bring solutions, I flashed back to the times I’ve cried in bathrooms in other people’s homes—more than one home, more than one partner—because of racist comments aimed if not directly at me, then around me. When Harry, her husband, gave his own wholly supportive, but also flawed, account of the vitriol Meghan endured, I was reminded of how hard it is to explain to a white man that his love of a non-white woman is going to be a problem.