Illustration by Hannah Robinson
For the past week or so, British media discourse has been dominated by the announcement from @sussexroyal on Instagram that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would be reducing their public role as “senior royals”. This move should have been anticipated. Ever since 27.7 million people in the UK watched the couple’s wedding in May 2018, the British tabloid press, and a seemingly large proportion of the British public, have been infatuated by the couple. As Albie Mills wrote last week: “the British public are torturing their royal family”.
Since the couple became official, the torrent of attacks on Meghan has continued to grow in intensity, sexism and racism. Any analysis of the situation that does not consider the racism faced by Meghan is an incomplete analysis.
A simple Google search shows that the way in which the press has portrayed Meghan, where compared to Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has been vastly different. The constant vituperations that Meghan has faced have included the criticism that she faced for serving avocados and therefore by proxy “fuelling drought and murder”. Alternatively, the search results for Kate Middleton and avocados show that they were her “morning sickness cure”, “weight loss hack”, and her and her sister’s “everyday breakfast”. This defamation of Meghan and the entirely opposing viewpoints on the exact same issues when discussing Kate Middleton, highlights the institutionalised racism in the British tabloid press. Even the dubbing of the recent announcement as “Megxit” perpetuates sexist stereotypes and assails and delegitimises Meghan.
From the search results of Kate Middleton that I have linked above, it may seem like this establishment is beginning to accept the ‘normal’ women who are marrying into the family.
However, the portrayal of Meghan shows that the conditionality of this acceptance rides on the woman being white and remaining silent and never expressing her own views or diverging from any party line. Women are only accepted if they do not pose any challenges to the establishment that seeks to vilify them. These events played out with Diana and now repeat themselves with Meghan; it is clear that the Royal family and the tabloid press cannot accept women that are unafraid to speak up.
The brash racism that Meghan has faced has come at a time when Britain has just elected a Prime Minister that has made countless racist hate comments, for which he is wholly unapologetic. According to the Independent, “Islamophobic incidents rose 375% in the week after Johnson compared veiled Muslim women to letter boxes”. Last year, seventeen years after saying that black people in Africa were “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, Boris Johnson could not manage an apology and instead said that the terms were used “in a wholly satirical way”.
Before the last election in a speech in Parliament about language that incites hate crime, Labour MP Paula Sherriff said “we must moderate our language and this has to come from the Prime Minister first”. The Prime Minister’s response was merely “I have never heard such humbug in my life”. As long as he remains in power, his comments are legitimised. If the office bearer of the highest elected position of power is so openly and unapologetically racist, then what does that say about this country?
This week, daytime TV show Loose Women invited people to phone in if they feel they are “worried about what they can say in their own home”, for fear of their “woke children criticising things they say or do”. Intolerance and bigotry should have no place in our society; surely young people should be encouraged to challenge it wherever and whenever it presents itself?
I think it is time that this country has a serious look at the institutionalised racism and bigotry that the establishment and the media continue to perpetuate. The Harry and Meghan situation has presented an opportunity from the top of this country’s establishment to consider the racism present in our society. If, like me, you come from a position of privilege, use this and call out racism and bigotry when they present themselves. Challenge what you see and do not let others face what you would not accept yourself.