‘Exotic’ Meghan Markle: Offensive race narrative continues after Prince Harry engagement

Prince Harry and fiancee Meghan Markle

Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle earlier in November 2017 after a year and a half of dating (Getty Images)

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s engagement has injected a new lease of life into the often archaic royal family. Just like Prince William and Kate’s wedding in 2011, the latest royal love story has interested a younger generation and Hollywood alike. However this time, there is a huge stomping elephant in the room for those who are still uncomfortable with a modern relationship… Markle’s race.

When it first emerged that Harry, 33, was dating the former Suits actress in 2016, it naturally generated a huge response from the media and fans. After all, a senior member of the British royal family who is fifth-in-line to the throne was dating a fairly well-known TV star from the States. But quite infuriatingly, it also generated some rather seedy tabloid headlines about Markle being “Straight Outta Compton” and what they deemed to be “exotic”.

Markle is proudly mixed race – or biracial, if you prefer – with her mother an African-American and her father Caucasian. In 2017, it is certainly not unusual to see an interracial couple walking down the street or holding hands. Dare I say it, it is actually normal.

Still for some reason, the press couldn’t seem to fathom why the prince would want to date a woman who wasn’t blonde with blue eyes and fair-skinned like many of Harry’s previous girlfriends. The disgusting racial undertone found in many articles prompted Harry to release a rare and personal statement defending Markle and lashing out at the media’s unacceptable coverage.

Harry’s stern warning seemed to have an effect for the most part. That was until the smitten couple announced their inevitable engagement on Monday (27 November). In their first joint interview, the newly-engaged couple addressed the rarity of a mixed race woman marrying into the royal family and the scrutiny she has endured.

Markle told BBC interviewer Mishal Husain: “Of course it’s disheartening. You know it’s a shame that that is the climate in this world, to focus that much on that , or that that would be discriminatory in that sense.

“But I think you know at the end of the day I’m really just proud of who I am and where I come from, and we have never put any focus on that we’ve just focused on who we are as a couple. And so when you take all those extra layers away, and all of that noise I think it makes it really easy to just enjoy being together and tune all the rest of that out.”

Markle might be able to tune out the racial narrative but we can’t.

Engaged Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle addressed the race issue in their first interview together

During live coverage of the engagement on Sky News, one of their reporters just happened to chance upon an interracial couple in Kensington Park, which, fair enough, could easily have been a coincidence. But the reporter’s true intentions became clear when she suddenly mentioned that Markle “isn’t your typical addition to the royal family”. After fumbling around her words, the interviewer then explained how Markle isn’t “typical” because of her celebrity status.

Those who are wise to the racial undertones in the media realise what the reporter truly meant.

It’s become insulting that, rather than boldly state the obvious, some media outlets would rather force us to read between the lines.

Yes, it’s lovely and refreshing to see that Harry has chosen to love who he wants without seeing colour. And those of us in the black community are obviously applauding the fact that Markle is mixed race. But, the media’s negative fixation on her skin colour is laughable considering the true history of the royal family.

In their engagement interview, Harry spoke on having a mixed race woman in the royal family stating: “I don’t know if it’s something new…” Well, he is absolutely right about that because it’s possible there was once a black woman in the royal family, something conveniently omitted from many history lessons across the UK.

Queen Sophia Charlotte was queen consort of the United Kingdom and wife to King George III of Britain in the 18th century. A quick Google of Queen Sophia Charlotte will show images of a fair-skinned woman and small facial features. However, an investigation by PBS puts forward the theory that the queen was a direct descendant of the Sousa family, a black branch of the Portuguese royal house.

Allan Ramsay, an anti-slavery artist, is said to have always painted Queen Sophia Charlotte’s true appearance – darker skin, full lips and larger facial features – despite many artists being told to tone down “extreme” features of their subjects.

Was Queen Sophia Charlotte black?

Queen Sophia Charlotte’s so-called true heritage was pointed out by comedian Gina Yashere in her rant against the racial discrimination of Markle.

During her Channel 4 appearance, Yashere noted: “[Markle’s] not exotic. She’s American. Black people have been in America for centuries due to people theft… She’s not from a tribe in the Amazon. She’s American.

“I say that she’s the first acknowledged person of colour in the royal family because I don’t know if some people know, but wasn’t Queen Charlotte Sophia, Queen Victoria’s grandmother, wasn’t she supposedly Mulatto? The African Portuguese side of the royal family which was never really acknowledged [sic].”

Yashere continued: “She’s the first acknowledged person of colour and I think that’s a wonderful thing. But I don’t think that it’s a massive step forward. It’s the royal family stepping into the future which is awesome. But it’s not like he’s trying to marry Lupita [Nyong’o] or Serena Williams.”

Exactly. If you’d never seen Markle’s photo and only read the outrageous headlines, you’d think Prince Harry was marrying a dark-skinned woman like Nyong’o or Williams.

So now that the world’s most eligible bachelor has finally put a ring on it and we’ve accepted the fact that Markle is not his “typical” type, can we all get over the race issue and look forward to what will be the biggest wedding of 2018?

Although we must admit, the memes from ‘black Twitter’ are priceless…

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engagement: Funniest memes

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