When American actress Meghan Markle and Britain’s Prince Harry announced their engagement, liberal classes rejoiced. The queen’s grandson, a pillar of the royal family, would not only be marrying a mixed-race woman, but a foreign national — with no royal title — at that.
For many, the union was a sign of hope against a bleak backdrop of heightened racial tensions sparked by the U.K.’s political instability. It was a break away from the establishment’s history of white supremacy and elitism — a modern marriage that would bring the royal family screeching into the 21st century.
But it was also suffocated by relentless scrutiny from tabloids — and frequent racist dog whistles. When the couple started dating in 2016, Harry broke with royal protocol to warn the media about its treatment of Markle, citing “racial undertones of comment pieces” and the “outright sexism and racism of social media trolls.” But the dog whistles kept coming. Markle was labeled “uppity” and a “show-off.” Her nail polish and shoes were “inappropriate.” After the birth of the couple’s son, Archie, in May, papers even speculated about how “Black” he would be.
Last week, the couple announced plans to “step back” as senior members of the monarchy and work toward financial independence.
The announcement was hardly surprising to Black Britons. They understood why Markle would want out — after all, this is the U.K. they know, one in which thinly veiled racism has always been a part of daily life.
Meghan and Harry’s decision seems even more justified following an exclusive data investigation by HuffPost U.K. that discovered an outpouring of racist and misogynistic abuse aimed at Markle in the aftermath. Some 400 tweets were captured in the the most severe category of abuse, containing phrases including “self-loathing race traitor,” “trailer trash,” “meghan the queen, of monkey island,” “the woke Meghan bint” and “poisonous cow.”
For reporter Nadine White, the statistics speak to the scale of Britain’s race problem.
“Parts of the mainstream media would do well to support Meghan and those cowed by racist abuse, instead of fanning the flames and gaslighting victims by suggesting we live in some sort of utopian society,” she says. “For many, Britain is a dystopia. The statistics speak to that.”
So how did an American actress-turned-duchess expose Britain’s race problem? Nadine says it’s simple: “Meghan might be afforded many privileges — but as a biracial woman, being exempt from abuse is not one of those.”
Do you have thoughts on how the royal family can move forward? Or is it high time for the British monarchy to be abolished? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Signing off from London.
Until next time,
Lucy Pasha-Robinson, Opinion Editor, HuffPost U.K.
For more on race and social justice in the U.K., follow Nadine White on Twitter (@Nadine_Writes)
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