This week the internet erupted when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement. You could hear the “YAAAS!” reverberate throughout the digital hallways as it was determined that Meghan would be The Royal Family’s first Black Princess. Endless memes and chatter about the Black Royal Wedding ensued: “They’re going to be doing the Electric Slide” — or the “Candy dance” as people in the UK call it. “The African outfits! Harry’s mother-in-law has dreadlocks! There’s going to be Murray’s Hair Cream and coconut oil in The Palace!” While the joy was a nice departure from a seemingly endless negative news cycle, when I saw the conversation dip into deeper discussions about Blackness, I had to get off the train full stop. At first I thought the celebration and jokes were just that. But no, some Black folks really see this as a win for us all. And unfortunately, it’s not.
Conversations about media representation are always worth having because let’s face it, although we’re doing better, we’re still not equal. So I completely understand the excitement and joy around The Royal Wedding being televised. I have no doubt that the whole affair is going to be opulent and grand. And having a Black woman at the center of that is going to be a sight to see. However, the narrative around Black girls finally having a Black princess to look up to rings false to me. For one, Meghan wouldn’t be the first visible Black princess. Not by a longshot. Meghan will be joining Princess Keisha Omilana of Nigeria, Princess Ariana Austin of Ethiopia, Princess Angela of Liechtenstein and Princess Sikhanyiso of Swaziland to name a few. And two, what is she representing exactly? In 2017, are we really celebrating the British monarchy?
Even though let's note that she's far from being the first black woman in the royal family. Now's a great time to revisit Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III: pic.twitter.com/qSeT0wRVmU— Ari C. (@lit_ari_ture) November 27, 2017
I remember reading a really thoughtful Facebook Post from Kimberly N. Foster (of For Harriet) about Barack and Michelle Obama. She said, “Images cannot dismantle inequitable social systems.” Seeing I remember reading a really thoughtful Facebook Post from Kimberly N. Foster (of For Harriet) about Barack and Michelle Obama. She said, “Images cannot dismantle inequitable social systems.” Seeing Barack and Michelle’s outpouring of love made us feel warm inside and reaffirmed black love, but in the broad strokes of things it did not bring us any closer to equality. To be clear, I’m not saying that it should, nor am I saying Meghan becoming a Black princess has no impact on the dismantling of racism within the Monarchy. I’m saying that if we’re going to talk about representation, we also have to be real about the limits of what it can achieve. We want our Black girls to know they’re valued and seen — and The Royal Family’s history with Black people tells us they are the last people we should expect this from.
Are Black girls really looking to the royal family to see themselves???— Sahara (@goldp1neapple) November 28, 2017
Flat out, we should not be heaping praise on a family with a history of oppressing people of color. In the excitement of current events, I don’t want us to erase centuries of racist history. The Royal Family supported colonization right up until the 1960s. The Monarchy itself will never see a Black British Head of State due to the hereditary system that’s in place now: under their current system, the monarch and head of state is inherited through the first born of the Windsor family, which up until now has been all white. Indeed, because if this, Meghan will not even become an actual princess when she marries Prince Harry; she’ll have to “settle” for the title of Duchess of Sussex. It’s real institutionalized racism and not the romanticized version of the monarch that we’re accustomed to in pop culture. There is a lot that has to happen before Black Brits see the change that so many have been rightfully yearning for.
On an individual level, I’m not sure we should be celebrating this successful woman who now has to basically give up career, privacy and potentially her activism to become someone’s wife. Obviously, she’s already made that choice. But, as history shows, the media has already begun reducing Meghan to her marriage, recognized only as Prince Harry’s future wife instead of the accomplished actress and activist she was before the relationship. It’s also going to be disheartening to see the rampant racism that is surely to evade every nook and cranny of her public and private life. In fact, earlier this year, Kensington Palace had to put out a statement calling out the “sexism and racism” that has plagued the couple since they first went public with their relationship.
For all the people pulling the "But Meghan Markle is biracial card," the Daily Mail wrote a WHOLE article trying to paint her as being "straight outta Compton" because her (Black) mama lives in LA & her (Black) aunt lives in Inglewood. pic.twitter.com/NfVLi4qPrb— Britni Danielle (@BritniDWrites) November 27, 2017
Listen, in terms of finding love, I’m happy for Meghan & Prince Harry. But this isn’t some big achievement for Black folks. And that’s OK.
(Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)