Whatever you think of the royal family, the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was just a tiny bit affirming for those of mixed-race descent…
In a world where so many of the people in power are white, where story books and Disney and the media are obsessed with white princesses or female leads, and where the narrative around multi-culturalism and inclusivity seems fraught, it made a bloody nice change to see the tabloids get excited in a good way about the prospect of a non-white female foreigner entering our country and fawning over what an influencer this person would be.
Said foreigner is of course Meghan Markle, soon to be the bride of Prince Harry, and Duchess of Sussex if the gossip about her royal title to-be is correct. For those of you who have been living under a rock (and frankly I don’t blame you considering some of the drivel the Daily Mail comes out with) Meghan is a US actress, most famous for playing Rachel Zane in the TV drama Suits, as well as a humanitarian who has done work with the UN and World Vision Canada.
Meghan is also half African-American (through her mother’s side) and half Caucasian (through her father). And, she has spoken vociferously on the topic, of how it made her initially confused about her identity, how it affected casting decisions because casting directors didn’t know what race box she ticked and how it made her angry when her skin tone was lightened and freckles removed through airbrushing for marketing purposes.
Now, I love royal history, because I’m a geek, but I have mixed views on whether as an institution we should keep the royal family. However, as someone who is mixed race (Thai mother, English father) – I must admit I did an internal skip of joy on hearing the news that Prince Harry, ginger, pale skinned, Harry, from a line of aristocratic families that are alarmingly interbred has decided to screw royal convention and marry someone who is half African-American.
I didn’t think it was important growing up to have role models who had a similar background and colour to me. I didn’t think it was until I read the amazing young adult book ‘Eleanor and Park’ by Rainbow Rowell, which follows two teenage misfits who fall in love. Park is half Vietnamese. And in reading that book and identifying with so much of Park’s thoughts on his parents and fitting into Western society and the stereotypes his classmates assigned him, I realised that really I had been missing seeing heroes and heroines in the narrative that I could identify with. I just didn’t realise it because I was so unused to it.
So now I know what I’ve been missing, I am unashamed to admit some excitement that we’re going to be getting Meghan as a British princess. It reassures that love is colour-blind. It gives hope that if something as fusty and traditional and as far removed from ordinary people as the English aristocracy can accept someone who is mixed race with non-white skin (as I suppose technically the royals are mixed race, in that various white European families intermarried throughout their history), then perhaps this will translate further into different industries, circles of society etc. And, as much as I loathe the idea of equating prettiness with being a necessary virtue of a woman, I very much hope that this marriage helps reassure women all over that beauty comes in all forms and colour.