Seventeen million people tuned in to watch Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey. As Meghan shared explicit and intertwined acts of racism and sexism, the audience was invited to watch and encouraged to gasp and cringe at the acts of the British Royal Family.
The truth is no one, NO ONE should be shocked by the racist nature of the British Royal Family. This same family was the colonial power that ruled over 65 countries that have since claimed their independence, from Afghanistan to Zambia. Even watching The Crown, I cannot separate the image of the British Royal Family from its history as a brutal colonial powerhouse that occupied countries and exploited their resources, especially many African nations. So why are people (ahmm… white people) so surprised?
The embedded “shock” structure of this interview was exhausting. Across two hours, the program had nine commercial interruptions, and before each break was a brief teaser of the “shocking revelation” that is set to come upon the return. Conveniently, the most “explosive” anecdote. This repetitive cycle meant we heard Meghan tell the story of the Royal family’s concerns over Archie’s skin tone twice times. The only difference is one was abbreviated.
Every instance or example Meghan brought forward, from the Royal family’s “concern” about her unborn son’s skin tone to the fact they ignored her ask for mental health care, was repeated and teased multiple times throughout the two-hour program. It’s this repetitive process that mirrors what many women of color, especially and specifically Black women, are forced to do every day to prove the ridiculous, overwhelming, and harmful nature of racism. Usually, this process goes unheard, unlike Meghan’s audience of 17 million.
Too many (white) people like to believe that racism doesn’t exist or that it is a far cry from the discrimination we read about in history books. However, we know this not to be true. Every day from workplaces to classrooms, Black women have historically been and continue to be discriminated against, from pay discrimination to healthcare. While this is upsetting in and of itself, the fact that our culture often doesn’t believe Black women the first time they speak up just compounds the pain. Black women have been forced to share heartbreaking and life-threatening examples of discrimination and racism to first prove that these things exist today and only then to make a case for their safety and communities.
Watching Meghan repeat her story with too many examples of how the press and “the firm” treated her, reminds us that Black women have been doing this for centuries. The pain they must expose just to prove to white audiences that they should have a shared sense of humanity. The toll is severe. The lack of belief and immediate compassion is unforgivable.
At one point in the interview, Meghan said to Oprah, “Life is about storytelling.” She clearly believes in the power of the story and uses this interview to be heard and shock white audiences out of complacency and into her reality. She didn’t share her trauma for attention (she has plenty of that) or to tell Black women what they already know. She shared her truth to create real and positive change even if it was at a tremendous emotional expense. Through this interview, Meghan reached out to every person who has been in an interracial relationship and every woman who has been silenced and told her problems don’t matter or that she’s overreacting. Life isn’t a fairytale. Sometimes the princess has to rescue herself and her prince. And that’s what Meghan is doing.