He could hardly have picked a time when his ambitions would be more welcome. England, the United States and much of the Western world are being rocked by ethnonationalism, Brexit politics, immigration issues and other diversity headaches. It’s not hard to see why some of us might look to Meghan and Harry for some signs or symbols of cross-cultural civility and political goodwill.
Yet many are understandably skeptical. Kehinde Andrews, a sociologist teaching black studies at the Birmingham City University, has claimed the monarchy will do all it can to ensure that Markle “passes for white” as Prince Harry’s wife, according to The Spectator.
Unfortunately there always are some cynics who presume that a person of color like Markle — labeled “ethnically ambiguous” by Hollywood casting directors in the 1990s, she recalls — would not be tolerated by the royal family if she really speaks her mind. We should give Markle a fair opportunity to speak for herself.
Judging by her speeches and essays, she understands racial struggles firsthand. In an essay for Elle in 2015, titled “I’m More Than an ‘Other,’ ” she described the slurs that come from racists on the street and the annoying questions from well-meaning young liberals who had not lived around black people before.
She recalled the racist tweets that came in to her account after Wendell Pierce was cast as her African-American father on “Suits”: “Ew, she’s black? I used to think she was hot.”
In seventh grade she had a particularly memorable confrontation with a census form in her English class. Faced with a choice of boxes to check for ethnicities — white, black, Hispanic or Asian — but allowed to choose only one, she didn’t know what to do.
“My teacher told me to check the box for Caucasian,” she recalled. ” ‘Because that’s how you look, Meghan,’ she said.” Markle couldn’t bear the thought of how sad that would make her mom, if she found out. So, Markle wrote, “I left my identity blank — a question mark, an absolute incomplete — much like how I felt.”
But when she went home that night and told her father what had happened, “He said the words that have always stayed with me,” she recalled: ” ‘If that happens again, you draw your own box.’ “
She’s been drawing her own boxes ever since, she says. That’s good advice for Harry and the rest of us too.
Writes for Tribune Content Agency.