• Stephanie Hinds

I'm biracial. Meghan Markle's interview helped me process my racist experiences.

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

It’s been one week since much of the world watched on as Oprah was granted a rare look into the deeply private Royal Family by none other than Meghan Markle and Prince Harry – if we can still call him that.

The groundbreaking interview was, for most people, the ultimate tea spill. It was a bombshell interview that revealed much of what we assumed, albeit without confirmation.

I had trouble writing this post because I felt like I didn’t know enough about the specifics of the Royal Family or the monarchy to even begin writing it. But I never intended on writing about the institutional aspect. I wanted to write about the strange, multi-faceted reaction and sense of validation I got from watching the interview.

The racial reckoning of 2020 has given me so much to think about. I’ve spent countless hours thinking of the right things to say, the right things to do, the right things to write – so much so that I haven't written anything since September of last year because of the sheer exhaustion of the identity Olympics in which I am only a semi-willing participant.

Reading this, you’d think I’m white. I’m saying all the things a white person would say while in a phase of extreme discomfort, particularly around race. Because what work does a Black person have to do to help eliminate anti-Black racism? (All of it, apparently, but that’s a conversation for another day.)

But I’m not white. I’m mixed. So this past year, I’ve had to sit with my identity in ways I never have before. I’ve had to confront my privilege, my biases, my blindspots – all while trying to process the racism and microaggresions I’ve experienced, questioning whether those were instances of racism or…something else.

This is the reality for a lot of biracial people. I am mixed and have suffered from anti-Black racism. But I’ve also been afforded privileges only given to people with light skin and hair of a certain texture. There is an extreme sense of guilt and imposter syndrome that comes with that, particularly while hearing about and reading first-hand accounts and headlines about how poorly dark-skinned men and especially women are treated in almost every space they enter in to.

In the midst of all this, I’ve tried to stand united with Black women. Dark-skinned women, in particular, who sometimes understandably have no choice but to laugh at the “plight” of light-skinned women, busy pulling out their Ancestry DNA results to showcase just how Black they are. And while doing this, I’ve spent a lot of time being critical about taking up space that isn’t intended for me – or at least would be better off taken up by someone else.

I work for a national television show. I make it a priority to feature as many Black women as possible – and not just to talk about Black issues and relive their trauma. I try to find Black contributors – fashion experts, legal and political commentators, business owners and medical professionals. Having worked in the news for five years now, it always shocked me that there is an endless reserve of white experts and commentators on such niche things, yet no Black shoulder to tap on when we need to talk about something other than race.

So seeing Meghan Markle bravely discuss the racism she faced in one of the world’s most prestigious institutions was reaffirming for me that yes, even the lightest, most white-passing biracial people have experienced anti-Black racism. And I have indeed experienced it too.

Let me be clear, that’s nothing to celebrate. And celebration certainly isn’t the aim of this post. And while being Black is a celebration, there are so many experiences embedded into the Black reality that are not celebratory.

I’m sure we’ve all heard that saying, “Everybody wants to be Black until it's time to be Black.” So easily, people jump onto our music bandwagon, our dances and our immense contributions to pop culture. We see women so tanned that it's pretty much blackface at this point. But does everyone want to be stopped by the police as often as we are? Does everyone want less access to jobs, senior positions, higher pay, housing and food because of the colour of our skin? Do people want to be followed around in stores by associates doubting whether they can afford anything in there? Like Oprah herself was followed in that shop in Switzerland almost a decade ago? No.

People have slammed Meghan Markle throughout the years. One of my own favourite Real Housewives, Bethenny Frankel, earned an unfollowing after this tweet, which was followed up with a lame, white, insincere apology just after the interview aired.

After unfollowing her, all along my social media feeds, I noticed that there was this communal offering of empathy for a terrible, life-threatening experience in this palace of secrecy and prestige. Much of this offering of empathy had to do with the fact that the interview hadn't aired in the U.K. yet and that I don't follow a lot of Brits. But there she was, baring it all, despite all that was left unsaid – and there were people accepting her testimony.

This was the part that was validating. Because I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to share a racist experience I’ve had and have it be fully accepted without questions asked, whether by myself or the person listening. I also can’t say that I’ve ever confidently recalled any instance of racism without downplaying it because I have always felt undoubtedly that someone out there had gone through worse, thus negating my own experience. The shade of my skin has cast a shadow of a doubt on my experiences – most of which I’ve only come to terms with in recent years as I’ve learned more about racism, internalized racism, and how it plays out in the different spaces I have filled throughout my life.

The day after the interview aired, someone on a live feed I was monitoring at work had mentioned spending some time in a Clubhouse chat after the interview. There was a Black woman in the room who brought up the peculiarity of Meghan not once referring to herself as a Black woman throughout the interview.

I instantly perked up at hearing this because I've had issues asserting my Blackness at times, in certain circumstances, too.

Here’s the thing. You put me in front of a white person and I can clearly state that I am Black. It’s easy to say in front of white people because I am what they are not – they are what I am not. There is such a clear distinction, a clear polarization. But in the presence of Black people, Black women, in particular, where they are so clearly what they say they are in asserting that they are Black women, I feel like I do not have the same level of skin in the game – literally.

It breaks my heart to write this. Because in my mind and in my heart, I view myself as a Black woman. I pride myself on being a Black woman. But in this strange way, I do not feel that I can confidently lay claim to that anywhere outside of my head, or except in the face of white people. Do you see what I mean when I say identity Olympics?

The other weird part of all of this is that if I can confidently say I’m a Black woman, albeit in certain settings, could I not just as easily label myself a white woman? If so, why have I never, ever done that?

It’s called the one drop rule – something Black people know all too well.

Blackness comes in so many different forms. So many different colours. But whiteness doesn’t work that way. We see it. We know it. And boy, do we feel it. The power. The privilege. It’s inescapable – especially when it's not bestowed unto you.

When Meghan Markle was rumoured to have been dating Prince Harry – it never dawned on a portion of the population that she would be the subject of intense racism. After all, she is white passing. I think it took some people who hadn’t known her as Rachel Zane, or even a Deal or no Deal model a while to realize that she was in fact, half Black.

It wasn’t until her mother, beautiful, graceful Doria Ragland, arrived on palace property, locks in tow, that Britons started to feel like the Black Brigade was coming to invade. Physically, Meghan’s features are incredibly white or European. But her Blackness became inescapable – and the foundation for how the press would write about her going forward – with no defence from the people who had so graciously accepted her into the family – at least when cameras were around.

This was the Royal Family’s chance to show their forwardness, their commitment to diversity – insert all other corporate buzz words here. But they engaged in the kind of racism that is the most dangerous: deep, private and misrepresented as acceptance and protection. Even in their lame, weak response.

It’s the kind of racism that I can now confidently say I’ve faced throughout my life. And seeing Meghan Markle bravely putting it on display for the world to see and condemn it helped me reconcile parts of my identity and parts of my life experience I didn’t know needed to be reconciled.

Meghan Markle’s interview affirmed for the world and me that biracial people still experience anti-Black racism. It affirmed that one’s proximity to whiteness doesn’t make them immune to racism – in the same way that someone’s proximity to Blackness doesn’t make them immune to being racist.

Black people have been tasked with calling out institutions for the racism that continually perpetuated for one reason or another. It takes so much courage to stand up to a person, an employer, and institutions. And as upsetting as it is that Meghan Markle experienced what she did, I think that she displayed such grace, such tact and such bravery standing up to the Royal Family for their Royal Racism.

And she helped me out along the way, too.

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