Meghan Markle and the ‘Mixed’ Reviews
*Note* While the surface topic of this piece is Meghan Markle, the bigger conversation is on colorism. Because the issue is raw, heavy, and uncomfortable (and, foreign, if you’re white), some may want to do some light reading on colorism and how it affects people of color. Check out this brilliant article that breaks down colorism in detail, written by Jenna Graham.
As Buckingham Palace gets ready to induct its first woman of color to their royal legacy, Black women across the country are going there.
It all started when a sister on Facebook questioned Meghan Markle’s natural beauty. Particularly, her nose. Was it natural, or, did she get work done? My initial response was an eye roll. Then, I remembered, a woman of color heading to Buckingham Palace! With Scandal on its last leg, Queen Sugar wrapped up until 2018, and Michelle island hopping with Barack, suddenly, I had something to say about Meghan Markle’s nose.
After several comments agreeing Markle had work done, I was the first one to go there. “I think she looks the same, she just relaxed her hair. What struck me as odd was that she stopped going by her first name Rachel and went with Meghan. Like… Rachel just wasn’t white enough.”
“This feels a lot like picking her apart to verify her level of blackness,” one sister responded a few moments later. Is that what we’re doing? I wondered. I thought we were trying to determine how we related to her Blackness.
I’m here for all the Markle mystery. I threw shade on Meghan’s stage name. I also use more than one dialect, switching up when I’m around white co-workers, white friends, and everyone else. I’m a mess. This is an ugly part of my thirty-five year old Black self that I’m only reflecting on because a sister asked me what I thought about Meghan’s nose. The initial question may have been corny, but the answers were plentiful and the candidness was relevant. There was good meat on the bone.
Another sister doubled –down on the alleged nose-job, explaining why rhinoplasty would be a sign of Markle striving for racial ambiguity. She claimed that the nose job was evidence of Markle not wanting to be claimed by Blacks, thus, we shouldn’t be too quick to claim her. That’s when the conversation got bigger than Prince Harry’s wifey. Other sisters admitted to feeling uneasy because of the issue of colorism we were dancing around.
“The thing is, I’m not as interested in her as much as I am in how we receive her. I hold the same sentiment for other celebrities, like Beyonce and Tiny.”
I know Meghan Markle is biracial. I know next to nothing about the biracial experience.
What I do know about is choices. Like the choice my Afro Cuban father made when he arrived to New York in the late-’50’s. He knew very little and owned even less. What he did know was that his skin color would matter more to this country than his accent. Even today at seventy-one, when asked what he is, he’ll tell you, “I’m a Black man.” His accent will be dripping off of each sylable. That’s a choice that he made. Without realizing it, I adopted his choice for sake of having an easy answer. It’s a choice that’s leaves me shifty anyone ask me what I am. A choice that has disconnected me from half my lineage, because I chose to only claim my Black side. When people ask me what I am, I ask them why they feel the need to ask. And then, I tell them I’m Black.
Only now am I realizing that I have been subliminally expecting biracial people to check only one box, solely because I felt I had to. That’s deep.
Back to Markle.
One sister said we were doing a disservice to Markle by dissecting her Blackness (which many of us either weren’t, didn’t realize, or didn’t believe that we were). She was mad about it too. This is the Buckingham buzz that white women have never experienced. Imagine, calling out Princess Diana of Wales for not acting white enough. Or defending Sarah, Dutchess of York from people who feel like she doesn’t seem proud enough to be white.
Two days later and we were no longer speaking about Meghan. We were going there. There is a conversation about colorism that can only be entered by people of color. There is when I have to ruin a perfectly good brunch to tell my mother to stop making fun of my post-vacation tan. I go there with family and friends, rarely, with strangers. There is the place Black people go to when we close the door to cocoon ourselves from white America and deal with our ugliest issue.
I know how corny it is to talk about anybody’s nose. I can stand in that truth without budging. But, I won’t apologize. I want to talk about her nose, I want to talk about what high school she graduated from, I want to know what her favorite hobby is. I want to judge her high school prom picture. I want in on all that corny shit I’ve seen white ladies participate in. It’s tradition! And if we, as women as color, are having in on this tradition, I want it with all the fixings.
I’m going to enjoy a brown sister navigate her way from Hollywood to Buckingham Palace. I’m going to sip my tea and maybe even dust off my church hat when I watch the nuptials. I’ll gush over her wedding dress like all the Meghan’s before me, trying not to question the Blackness of her bridal party. I won’t wonder who performs after the ceremony — besides Elton John. I will look for me in her babies. I will defend her to any non-person of color who dares come for her. I won’t be surprised if she attends next year’s BET awards, and, I won’t judge her if she doesn’t. Above all, when I come for her Black card, I’ll remind myself that it isn’t any of Meghan Markle’s choices I have an issue with, it’s my own.
Tamela J. Gordon is a writer, community organizer, and creator of the women’s empowerment group, Sisters with Aspiration, as well as SWA’s Book Club. Support Tamela’s work and gain access to exclusive content by FOLLOWING HER ON PATREON and joining SWA’s Book Club! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org