Like many expat colonists, I tuned into the Oprah/Meghan/Harry chat extravaganza last week. I just couldn’t help myself. Now, I care less than zero about the British Royal Family, even though I live in London. I had never even heard of Meghan Markle before she married Prince Harry, and I’m not sure I knew which prince Harry was, either. But Lord help me, I just couldn’t help myself.
For those who don’t keep up with such things: This was an interview Oprah Winfrey conducted with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. I’m not sure those titles still apply, but Google still has them up there, so who am I to argue?
Meghan Markle is the U.S.-born actress who married Prince Harry, the ginger-haired British lad whose parents are Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle between Meghan/Harry and the British Royal family – so much so that Meg/Harry now live in California, and the Royal Family don’t talk about them at all.
Families, sheesh. Whattayagonnado?
Anyway, the interview. I was already on Meghan’s side, probably because she’s American, maybe because she’s mixed race, maybe because she’s pretty (I’m shallow that way), and almost certainly because like many people, I have a lukewarm attitude about royalty. On the one hand, royalty is kind of groovy, what with all the pomp and cool hats. On the other hand: WTF? It’s 2021. Why are there still royal f******g families?
I’m not sure Meghan was entirely ingenuous during the interview. She seemed to question why her son Archie wasn’t considered a prince, but apparently because of the esoteric machinery of the Royal Family, Archie isn’t really supposed to be a prince right now. Maybe Meghan got confused by the rules. Or maybe she was putting on an act. I just wish Oprah had done her homework about who qualifies as a prince and who doesn’t. Oprah got a lot of accolades for the interview, but from my perspective as a longtime journalist, I think she dropped the ball on this one.
The bombshell moment occurred when Meghan and then Harry said certain Royal Family members openly wondered, before Archie was born, what color he might be. Meghan is mixed race – Black mother, white father. She’s the first known person of color to marry into the Royal Family. The Royal Family couldn’t be more white if they were on the Finnish cross-country ski team.
I don’t doubt that someone in the Royal Family might have wondered about the skin shade of Archie. I mean, this is a dynasty that dates back more than 1,200 years, that once ruled over a global powerhouse that pretty much colonized every corner of the world, that planted its flag wherever it wanted to, often in lands that were populated by dark-skinned people, from Africa to Asia to North America. And in all that time, not a single prince, princess, queen or king was anything but light skinned and fair haired.
All I could think was this: Finally – finally – the Royal Family had one member who might reflect the racial diversity of the lands it once ruled, and of the people who now make up the UK. And somehow they managed to flub this opportunity in the most condescending, privileged, dumbass way.
Race can be such a ridiculous concept. Trust me, I know. I’m one-quarter Filipino. My paternal grandfather was a dark-skinned man who hailed from Leyte, an island in the Philippines. He eventually landed in America and married a second-generation Armenian woman. They had a dark-skinned son who married a very white Southern woman of English/Scottish/Swiss-German extraction. They had four kids. I was one of them.
I always identified as white, even though my skin was much darker than the kids I grew up with. Meghan Markle is considered “Black” in many segments of society (though probably not in Africa), and her skin is probably lighter than mine.
We forget about these subtle shades when we talk about race. But only because in most cases, the shades are not so subtle. Over here in London, you have every color of the rainbow, and you can believe those colors mean something – despite so many people pretending they don’t.
South Asians have their constituency, as do Africans and Caribbeans, as do East Asians, Pacific Islanders, Middle Easterners and Caucasians. There are even subsets that break down between Northern, Eastern, Western and Southern Africans; Asians of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese origin; or Eastern and Western Europeans.
One thing I found interesting was the response of certain ethnic groups following the Meghan/Oprah interview. While some of white England took umbrage at this American woman bad-mouthing the Royal Family, many people of color were firmly in her corner.
They know, as much as anyone, how tough it can be for people here who don’t look like the Royal Family. The Royal Family should at least acknowledge this.
The fact that they don’t speaks volumes about how a dynasty that once ruled the world doesn’t seem to have a clue about the people who live right in their back yard.