by Katie May Huxtable
Following the wedding of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry back in May 2018, a new definition could be associated with what it means to be British. The introduction of a Duchess within the Royal Family from a background of African-American heritage demonstrated that being bi-racial and being British could no longer be held as incompatible identities. However, the celebrations of societal progression soon became overshadowed by condemning press content rooted in problematic ideologies surrounding both gender and race.
The recent narratives of scrutinization through demonising content on Meghan have been deemed problematic – especially in regard to her ethnic background. However, this isn’t just a recent phenomenon. Even before their marriage, coverage of Harry’s ‘newest flame’ became so intrusive to the point that Harry was forced to release a statement in her defence. The real root of the problem, however, goes beyond the demonization of character and manifests in the difference between coverage of the actions of Meghan compared to those of other Royals.
“racism doesn’t stem from purely explicit statements”
Media content surrounding Kate Middleton in particular raises a cause for concern. Publications demonstrate obvious inconsistencies when reporting the actions of Meghan in contrast to the identical actions of Kate. An example of this was coverage in the Daily Mail surrounding each Duchess as they began to navigate motherhood. Kate was depicted as maternal from the get-go, pictured ‘tenderly cradling’ her bump during public appearances. Meghan’s decision to cradle her bump, in comparison, was depicted as an act of ‘pride’ and ‘vanity’. The differing coverage goes beyond their public actions, often touching upon their dress sense or choice of food – all of which feature Kate with preferential treatment.
Although these depictions may not be overtly racist, arguments that suggest that media coverage surrounding Markle doesn’t have racial implications creates a sense of ignorance to the fact that racism doesn’t stem from purely explicit statements. Racist undertones often manifest in the more subtle suggestions, and although British coverage surrounding Meghan isn’t necessarily outwardly racist it still holds the power to influence our social opinions. This month, Harry and Meghan announced that they were to step back from their roles to live a more private life – with press coverage inevitably playing a part in their decision. Yet, The Huffington Post noted that this decision was met with an outpour of racist tweets in response. The narrative of othering demonstrated in the British media has depicted Meghan as an outsider to the British public from the very start.
The racist undertones in the media are inevitably a bi-product of the fact that Meghan is a woman in her own right. A woman with her own opinions, a drive for a career and a previous romantic history to her name. She is a young woman trying to navigate a new marriage and motherhood in the public eye and does not deserve condemnation to this scale.