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The Markle Sparkle  — What Will It Say for Race in the UK?

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I’m on a photoshoot on Nantucket but when I can, I will definitely be tuning into the royal wedding and having my mum record it for me. What can I say? I have gotten swept up in it. Having guest contributed to Meghan Markle’s blog, The Tig, I knew her as a lifestyle blogger with a message and a penchant for humanitarian causes before I knew her as Rachel Zane on Suits (I must admit, I’ve never watched an episode, but my mum was very excited when I was working with her as she does). Then the world knew her as Prince Harry’s girlfriend and now, an “American Princess.” I’ve met royals before, faux-jaded, I pretended I wasn’t very interested in their lives save a retrospective docudrama. Then, I found myself saving my UK Metro when Harry & Meghan’s engagement was announced (much like I saved the President Obama announcement), eagerly watching the couple’s BBC interview, eyeing her every look and fondly looking back at her emails to me and then — true rock bottom— this week, watching a Lifetime movie about their courtship. I watch all of this with a truly serene smile on my face. Meghan brought me such a sense of joy and calm. I always was a fan of Prince Harry and hoped that our paths would cross. Weirdly, I found myself as happy for them as I have been for friends in their relationship. But why?

I don’t actually see her as “my black Princess.” She’s not the first European black princess, nor will she be the wealthiest…. I relate to Meghan on many levels, her desire to do good, her ride or die relationship with her mum, her passion for travel…. I must say I did snicker that it was white side of her family that’s a HOTMESS. She is proudly biracial and I think that’s dope. Do I wonder if Harry’s ever seen her hair curly, and what that conversation was like? Sure! I’ve had it myself! I am so excited for what she’s going to do with this platform and the causes that she and Harry will champion. But, as we say in Through Our Lens, Representation Matters, and for little black girls to see a black princess, on that level of fame and pop-culture is marvelous. One who didn’t spend her life waiting for her prince — who lived a full life before him and he’s adding to it. Especially little girls in the UK.
Race is a funny thing in the UK. Home of the OG colonizers. On the surface, especially in black, white relations, don’t seem as fraught with tension. Get Out and Black Panther’s Daniel Kaluuya phrased it perfectly in a video with W magazine. “British culture is more reserved, so it’s more systematic.” (The video is very short and absolutely worth a watch.

In the UK (actually most European countries), I’m American first, and the good and the bad stereotypes that come with that. Sometimes there’s relief in that, sometimes you’re wondering, “is there something I’m missing?” Sometimes, I felt London to be a utopia, with a seamless blending of people from different races and cultures. Much more so than New York. I thought it, “the empire effect.” What it is is money. Yes, you can go to a cocktail party in Notting Hill and mandarin, Arabic, French, Portuguese and English flow freely. Guests are from all corners of the globe. People of colour seemingly well represented. But this is what we’d call in America, the one percent. Many of these people went to the same schools, holidayed in the same area, are patrons of the same artist. And at the end of the day, oft marry each other. There can be a vileness, but you have to know what you’re listening for. Especially as an American.

Race relations in the US are ugly, festering, raw because slavery was on US soil, the Civil War happened here. In the UK, slavery was banned earlier and it was in lands unseen. India was far away, the Caribbean… And British culture still lingers in these places of the commonwealth, in colorism, classism and perhaps the reservation to discuss these unsavory issues. I’m sure Meghan would have a lot to say on these issues. My story on Bordeaux was one of the last to go up on the site before it closed and I must say, I miss her perspective and voice and the easy access to it there.

Meghan is a breath of fresh air for the monarchy — Stand By Me and Etta James will be sung at the wedding and a gospel choir! And unfortunately, just by being who she is, the color she is, she represents a lot. She can’t just be a beautiful woman marrying the love of her life. Prince Harry ushered the palace into the woke age when he called out the racist undertones of the coverage and attacks surrounding Meghan.

The universe has a way of working things out. Some years give us Trump… others give us the Markle Sparkle.

 

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photo by Alexi Lubomirski

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