If you have the Vice channel, you might have caught an hour-long special which aired Tuesday night called Meghan Markle: Escaping the Crown. It tackled the real reason why the Duke and Duchess of Sussex left the UK, and why there was a torrent of abuse, smears, microaggressions, blatant aggressions and more against Meghan from the beginning: because of racism and sexism. Period, the end. Vanity Fair had a lengthy piece about Vice’s special, and VF conducted their own interviews too. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:
British journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown worried about Meghan from the start: “This is such a racist country. In America racism is not qualitatively better, but at least nobody denies that there’s racism. In some ways it is more difficult for those of us people of color who live here, because it is insidious and hidden, and people don’t want to talk about it or accept it.”
Alibhai-Brown thinks Americans don’t understand Britain’s race problems: “I don’t mean to be insulting, but most Americans have very dreamy images of this country from films like Notting Hill…and they’ve seen the gardens and the palaces. But they have never known the underbelly of Britain.” Alibhai-Brown’s other concerns for Meghan were that the royal family is “ruthless and cruel—and our press is even worse. So I feared for her. I really did—thinking that she was [moving here] with this romantic image and, boy, was she going to hit the rocks.”
Alibhai-Brown on Diana: “When Diana took up with two Muslim lovers, one after another, this country was apoplectic. A potential brown-skinned stepfather for [Prince William and Prince Harry]? What was going to happen to the universe? Prince Philip is well known for his commentaries. I once met him. I was a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and there was a big royal event. My husband’s English; I’m of Indian background but was born in Africa. And he was passing through this line of people, and he points to me and says to my husband, kind of with his eyebrows up, ‘Is she yours?’”
The royal bloodline: Alibhai-Brown said that some Brits still fiercely consider anyone “other than white” marrying into the royal family as being a “contamination of the bloodline.”
Why Vice did this special: “A lot of people view the royal family as a guilty pleasure or as a fantasy or gossip,” Vice Television executive vice president and general manager Morgan Hertzan told Vanity Fair. “But there are also really large underlying issues at play here, and that’s what we wanted to get into”—issues like the racism and sexism Meghan has faced. “To many people around the world, this is not just gossip and escapism.”
The Queen never defended Meghan: Alibhai-Brown pointed, “If the queen had once said, in her way, ‘Hey, guys, this is my grandson and his wife. They just got married. Back off and let them build a life for themselves,’ the hounds would have backed off. But she never did. And she still hasn’t. I find that unforgivable, actually, since she has the power. They absolutely worship her in this country.” She compares that with the Queen’s treatment of Prince Andrew, saying: “After this long, quite shameful TV interview, where you could see that this man is not to be trusted, the queen—the same queen who said nothing about Meghan—made a statement by bringing Andrew to church with her to show the world, ‘This is my son and you will not change that.’ But she never did that with Meghan and Harry. What does that tell you?”
Whether the Windsors will ever accept a non-white family member: Alibhai-Brown said no. “You can see how they operate. Diana—and I don’t know how she had it, because she was born into a very dysfunctional aristocratic family—yet this woman had an instinctive inclusiveness. She really didn’t see differences between white and black, people with HIV and us, the poor and us.… But I don’t think this family will ever lose this…The whiteness, actually.”
I completely agree with Alibhai-Brown across the board, but especially what she says about Meghan walking into Britain somewhat blindly, and not really understanding the depth and nuances of British racism. I’ve always said that Meghan lied when she pretended to have not studied the royal family, because it was always abundantly clear that Meghan DID study Diana’s life and she thought, perhaps, that she could avoid some of Diana’s mistakes and pitfalls. But in doing so, and in living her affirmational/only-positive-vibes life, she walked in blind to how differently she would be treated (as compared to Diana) and all of those dusty racists crushed her. I’m not saying it’s Meghan’s fault, of course. But I am saying that the hurt and damage was magnified by just how unprepared she was for all of it.
And yes, the Queen never protected Meghan and Harry. Probably because the Queen’s courtiers were doing a good chunk of the smearing.
Photos courtesy of WENN, Avalon Red, Backgrid.