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What colour do you think his skin will be – lighter or darker?’
I cannot tell you how many times I was asked that question while I was pregnant with my son last year.
It came from not only my sisters, who are fully black and darker than I am, but also from my husband and from me as we day-dreamed about what our beautiful boy would look like. ‘What colour do think his eyes will be?’ we’d enquire aloud. ‘Will his hair be darker or lighter?’
If it needs spelling out, no, I am not a racist black American, nor is the man who happened to marry me a racist Englishman.
Instead, we are parents, as my sisters were future-aunts, beyond excited to imagine who our bi-racial, multicultural child would look like.
So hearing Meghan Markle frame the questions about her son’s skin colour – however innocently intended – as racist ‘concern’ rather than harmless imagination made my skin crawl.
If you have seen a picture of Archie and you believe that he was ever the victim of anti-black racism, then I am a stranded Nigerian prince who needs you to send him your bank account details straight away.
At one point during the interview, Meghan, in comparing her experience to Kate Middleton’s, stated quite correctly that ‘being racist and being rude are not the same’.
The British press has been rude to Meghan Markle, of that there is no doubt, but they have not been racist.
Meghan’s race, which is not to my eyes even immediately discernible, was never at the centre of any piece criticising her.
That race would become a tool to deflect criticism of Harry and Meghan was, in my view, inevitable. In fact, I predicted just as much in these pages BEFORE the interview.
I also predicted that Meghan would explicitly present herself as a black woman just finding her voice.
Admittedly, never in a million in years could I have foreseen her likening herself to Disney’s Little Mermaid, who lost her voice after falling in love with a prince.
I was also correct in my forewarning that American viewers would end up distracted from some rather unusual aspects of the relationship – in particular, Harry’s sudden isolation from his friends, family and countrymen.
Remove Harry and Meghan from the equation and insert any individual into this plot.
Imagine if any person close to you confided that, after meeting his wife, he stopped speaking to most of his family and friends, including his father and brother, and that he now recognised his entire country was fundamentally racist. Would you at all be concerned?
But in announcing to Oprah Winfrey and the world that a member of the Royal Family was racist, the effect has been to further isolate Harry from his previous life.
Family is sacred. Rifts, which we all have, should never be exposed for public consumption. By way of comparison, it is worth noting that Meghan is half black. I am fully black – like both of my parents.
How is it, then, that I have not experienced the racism that Meghan so effortlessly speaks of during my many trips to the United Kingdom?
How is it that despite the British press having spent years covering my political commentary, and with at times deeply critical and mean-spirited attacks against my character, I have never interpreted such criticism as evidence of Britain’s inherent racism?
Maybe it’s because, through the school of hard knocks, I’ve come to accept that not every person is going to like me. I’m also perceptive enough to conclude that branding every person who dislikes me a racist might be the quickest way to ensure that I really am disliked.
Meghan does not seem to have worked through this equation just yet. Nor does she seem to have worked through the more obvious fact that the United Kingdom is not America. The near-obsession that the American media has with race and slavery is lost in translation over the pond.
Of most important note – the United Kingdom was among the first countries to abolish the trade across its many colonies.
Attempts to export America’s racial issues overseas have been flatly and rightfully resisted by the British people. Meghan is guilty of many things throughout her sit-down with Oprah Winfrey, but chief among them is intellectual laziness. Perhaps she does not wish to consider the many reasons why the British people do not hold her in high favour. Is that why she diagnoses them all as racist?
She is correct that American and British cultures show marked differences. When I met my husband’s parents – a Lord and a Lady – I was terrified. I didn’t know what the titles meant and feared I’d never quite fit in.
My apprehensions proved deeply unfounded.
Like Meghan, I fell in love with an Englishman, but unlike Meghan, I also fell in love with a country, its people, and its traditions. England is a wonderfully diverse nation with traditions that make it unique to any other place in the world.
I pity anyone who views Los Angeles, a purgatory of empty souls on a perpetual quest for fame, as some sort of reprieve from the United Kingdom.
I’m taking a shot in the dark here, but maybe what the United Kingdom dislikes about Meghan is her character.
Maybe it’s the inconsistency of a woman who once posed for tourist snaps outside Buckingham Palace but now claims to have had no idea who Prince Harry was when she fell in love with him.
Maybe it’s the disrespect shown to a family who, despite their flaws, have served their country in various ways and throughout the course of many decades.
Maybe it’s the cheap Hollywood spin of an innocent little mermaid who fell in love with a handsome prince – but wanted even more.
It’s certainly worked, obscuring an attempt by Oprah – the only winner in this train wreck – to help her friends be better received across the Atlantic than they were in the UK. And, of course, in America, race sells.
It’s just that I’m not buying it.