Everyone is talking about Meghan Markle.
Personally, I’m enjoying the commentary from Black Twitter, happy to see the Monarchy and its racism getting exposed, and laughing giddily at the thought of the Monarchy possibly being “canceled,” due to Oprah and ’em. But that’s it, I’m not invested in it past that.
Though I think that this situation serves as the perfect time to provide context and nuance about race, colorism, and racism. So, here we are.
I’ve seen probably every opinion possible about Meghan and her racial identity, but there are a few things to note:
- How she identifies.
- How she presents.
- How Black people identify her.
- How non-Black people identify her.
How does she identify?
Meghan identifies as mixed race. Not Black, not white, mixed. When it comes to people who are multi-racial, there are a few different ways they identify: as solely one race, as mixed or multi-racial without really “picking a side,” and those who identify as multi-racial, but embrace each side individually and fully. I’ll admit that I only did a quick search to see how Meghan distinguishes, but from what I can tell, she classifies as mixed, living comfortably in the “in-between.”
How does she present?
I think that we sometimes forget that race is, at least in part, a social construct. When we talk about how someone presents; who they look like, is often who people “are,” to society, at least.
There are people that say she presents as multi-racial, there are people that say she present as white. I think most people would agree that she doesn’t present as “Black.” Why does this matter? Well, it doesn’t. Except for in conversations like this, where we’re talking about nuance. The nuance being, that there is some privilege that comes with how she presents.
Before anyone says it, yes, there is no one way to “be Black.” We come in all different shades, hair types, and features. But you know exactly what I mean, when I say she doesn’t necessarily present as Black, to people.
How do Black folks identify her?
There are two trains of thought here. One that subscribes to the one-drop rule, and one that does not.
The one-drop rule, which was a way for white people to classify and then discriminate against people with Black ancestry, said that a single drop of Black blood made you Black. Meaning, you could be 80%, 50% or 2%… you were still considered Black.
This “rule” is mad old. How old depends on the state, but it’s certainly not new. And though there is no legal place for it in 2021, the idea behind it persists. Which is a big reason why some Black people claim anyone with a drop of Black blood; regardless of appearance or passing. With this line of thinking and Meghan, there are those of us who consider her solely Black.
Then there are those of us who don’t subscribe to this rule. For this view, your “blood” matters, but so does how you present.
I’m going to split this group down further.
Because in it, you have those who say, if you’re white-passing or not unquestionably Black, you’re considered mixed/bi-racial. But also, those who say if you’re white-passing…well, you’re white. Even if you’re 50% Black, or more. Because of what I mentioned earlier about race being a social construct. *note that light-skinned and white-passing are not the same*
So what do we think? Depends on which of us you ask. She’s Black to some. Mixed to others. And white, to others still.
How do non-Black people identify her?
Rather than what they do identify her as, let’s talk about what they should do. Identify her as what she prefers. Dassit. There is no reason, for anyone non-Black to tell her what she is.
She says she’s mixed, so mixed she is.
Now, I can already hear people coming in with “but Black people..” Imma stop you there.
Black people have different views on this BECAUSE of how society treats us based on just how Black we are. The opinions we have, even if they seem to be opposed to each other, are all based on that. I’m not about to tell Black folks, how they should categorize Blackness. *exception to this is hotep foolishness and anti-Blackness, of course.*
The short version, non-Black people; it’s not ya lane.
There’s something to be said, however, about people telling other people who they can/should identify as. Should we be doing this? In theory, no. But because the world has Rachel Dolezal’s, culture vultures, and those who deny the benefit of being more closely aligned to whiteness, it’s necessary. (gatekeeping Blackness is worthy of its own post, so we’ll end this here)
All of these thoughts on how Meghan passes, her race, etc, contribute to how she was treated by the Monarchy, but maybe not only in the way you think. They also impacted how Meghan navigated and what she saw (or didn’t see) coming.
There’s going to be people who say that colorism and how she passes, doesn’t matter; because look at how she was treated. She STILL experienced racism. But I think that’s a bit of a simplistic view.
With an institution like the Monarchy, who you are and where you come from IS going to matter. It’s going to be looked into. There was no hiding her “Black blood,” which one could argue that Meghan could have(or rather could have just assumed the position society gave her without having to mention her identity) in other circumstances.
The royal family is still run and comprised of a bunch of (mostly) old white people, so no one should be surprised by the racism. We are talking about America’s parents, are we not? Estranged maybe, but parents still. As they say, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
What isn’t being talked about much though, is how her appearance made her acceptable enough to marry into the Royal family. The Royal family may have still seen her as Black, but not like.. Black, Black. Not the kind of unambiguously Black that would have stood out in a way that they couldn’t deny at first glance. The kind of Black, that they couldn’t delegate to the back of their mind. Meghan’s Blackness still posed a threat, but it was “workable.”
In no world, do I think that someone who looked more like, Meghan’s mom, for example, would have been allowed to marry into the fam.
In her interview with Oprah, Meghan mentioned that she thought she would be protected. And I’ll admit, that I scrunched my face up at that. Cause why the hell would she think that? But I believe that she truly thought she could “fit in.” I think the way she’s been able to operate in the world, due to how society generally perceives her, gave her a false sense of security. There’s just absolutely no way, that someone who moved as undeniably Black, would have thought that.
For as awful as they treated Meghan, can you imagine how considerably worse it would have been, if she was, say, a dark-skinned Black woman with profoundly Black features?
I get that this isn’t some kind of racism contest, but it’s willfully ignorant to ignore what colorism has afforded her, even in the midst of dealing with racism. It’s purposely only wanting to look at half of the equation, and that’s dishonest. Iont do dishonest.
That which allowed her in, is also what pushed her out.
Or as the viral tweet by @esthergbenz said “Colourism is what allowed Meghan to marry into the Royal Family and anti-black racism is what forced her out of it. That’s the nuance you’re looking for.”
When JanayB isn’t posting memes, scrolling through “wokebook” posts, ordering food and otherwise being your typical millennial, you can find her here destroying white tears and basking in her unapologetic blackness. Get in touch with her at JanayBsays@gmail.com