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Questions of racism linger as Harry, Meghan step back

Jamaica Gleaner 2020-01-15 07:18:00
AP Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan.

LONDON (AP):

When accomplished, glamorous American actress Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in 2018, she was hailed as a breath of fresh air for Britain’s fusty royal family. That honeymoon didn’t last.

Now the couple wants independence, saying the pressure of life as full-time royals is unbearable. And a debate is raging: Did racism drive Meghan away?

When Prince Harry, who is sixth in line to the throne, began dating the Suits actress – daughter of a white father and African American mother – the media called it a sign that Britain had entered a “post-racial” era in which skin colour and background no longer mattered, even to the royal family.

From the start, some in the media wrote about Meghan using racially loaded terms. One tabloid columnist referred to her “exotic” DNA. A Daily Mail headline described her Los Angeles roots as “(almost) straight outta Compton” and claimed she came from a “gang-scarred” neighborhood. A TV host described Meghan as “uppity”.

Meghan was criticised for everything, from eating avocados — which the Daily Mail claimed fuel “ human rights abuses, drought and murder” — to wearing dark nail polish, apparently an etiquette faux pas.

Others point out that Meghan is hardly the first royal to get a rough ride in the media. The press and the royal family have an intense and often toxic relationship going back decades.

HARSHER TREATMENT

Still, Meghan’s treatment has sometimes seemed harsher. Last year, the Daily Mail ran photos of a pregnant Meghan cradling her bump under the headline: ‘Why can’t Meghan Markle keep her hands off her bump?’ Months earlier, the same paper had described a pregnant Kate as “tenderly” cradling her bump.

Unlike other members of the royal clan, Meghan and Harry have pushed back. As long ago as 2017, Harry criticised “the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”

Now the couple has had enough. They plan to move part-time to Canada, withdraw from royal media-coverage arrangements, and seek financial independence. The queen has reluctantly agreed to let them become semi-detached royals in order to avoid a damaging family split.