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Meghan’s treatment: adding to Britain’s long history of dog-whistle racism

CW: racism
Many of you will have most likely seen the blatantly racist articles and rhetoric directed at Meghan Markle. Headlines such as “straight out of Compton” and “Harry to marry into gangster royalty” swept the nation leading up to the Royal wedding of 2018. The obvious racist undertones of these headlines speak for themselves. Despite this, following Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, there has been major debate over whether Meghan’s atrocious treatment by ‘The Firm’ and the British press had anything to do with race.

Prince Harry and Meghan told Oprah that there had been conversations about concerns over their then unborn child’s skin tone. Meghan also stated that whilst ‘The Firm’ had made statements concerning other stories circulating about the Royal Family, they made no efforts to protect her from the relentless racist media storm she faced. It is also interesting to point out that during the midst of media attacks against the Duchess, the palace found the time to deny claims that Kate Middleton had used Botox following her pregnancy whilst leaving Markle hang out to dry.

Whilst the headlines I previously pointed to are examples of overt racism, I have found in my personal experience that British racism tends to be more covert and this is the form of racism that Meghan Markle has predominantly faced. As a woman of colour, I am not shocked by the widespread denial of racism by many British people, who claim Markle’s treatment was not race-related at all. The dismissal of Markle’s experiences of racism and even her mental health is representative of so many BAME individuals whose racist experiences are constantly questioned and denied.

It is not Piers Morgan, Prince William or any Royal experts’ place to claim that Markle’s lived experiences are not valid; it is also very telling that Prince William was quick to deny claims that the Royal Family is not racist but does not care enough to defend Markle whilst the media continues to spew racist dog whistles.

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 “Dog whistle” comments refer to phrases or words which may appear incendiary to one group but goes unnoticed by casual listeners. It has been a common occurrence in politics and the media and now plays a large role in the racial attacks against Markle.

In my opinion, the British media in particular, has been complicit in spouting countless racist dog whistles about Markle, from Holme’s claims that Markle is “uppity” to articles in the Daily Mail slating her as ‘Dictatorial’.

Lawyer and Women’s Activist Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, presents clearly why this is so problematic. Mos-Shogbamimu outlines the “Angry Black Woman Trope” which presents Black Women as aggressive and hostile and is rooted in the legacy of slavery; as it “demeans, dehumanises and silences black women”. This is why she argues the old bullying claims which have conveniently resurfaced against Markle around the time of her Oprah interview, are so problematic.

Shola claims the word “’Bully’ has colour” and I agree with her: it is not a coincidence that Markle is being smeared as a bully by the media and ‘The Firm’.

The British people can deny Markle’s lived experiences of racism all they want and Britain’s history of denying its racism speaks for itself: The most brazen example being the monarchy’s own rebranding of its disturbing colonial empire to the more palatable ‘Commonwealth of Nations’.

It is no coincidence that Markle is the first woman in the Royal Family to have her unborn baby’s skin tone questioned. It is also not a coincidence that Markle is one of the only women in the Royal Family to have herself and her child’s title questioned. No one but Markle herself can know the racism she faced and to suggest otherwise is extremely damaging not only to Meghan Markle but to every BAME person who is afraid to speak out against racism in fear of this same backlash.  

Image: Meghan Markle via Wikimedia Commons

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