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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Protecting a real Black princess

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I watched Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Princess Meghan. (I don’t know if they still have these official titles, but I don’t care about the esoterica regarding how they’re bestowed — or rescinded.) I am far from a “royal watcher.” However, I recorded the interview because their story is compelling.

I was not at all surprised by the racism of the unnamed family member who wondered aloud how “dark” their son, Archie, might become. (I was amused that race is, apparently, more important to this person than the history of incest in the “House of Windsor.”) Nor was I surprised by the intra-family intrigue and pettiness. And, of course, I was not surprised by the actions of the vile, gossipy and racist British press. (“Megxit”? Seriously?)

I was surprised to learn that there is an omnipotent and omnipresent company, “the Firm,” which oversees the royal family’s operations — from quotidian tasks to security. (Given the Firm’s responsibility to be gatekeeper of all things royal, it is interesting that no one taught Princess Meghan to curtsy in preparation for her initial meeting with Queen Elizabeth.) One might argue that the Firm is ultimately responsible for the couple’s departure.

It’s fair to say that I’m not a romantic movie guy. So, I was surprised that watching this real-life romantic drama left me somewhat “in my feelings.” What resonated most with me is the fact that Prince Harry acted decisively to protect his wife and son. It’s not uncommon — in the movies — for chivalrous men to walk away from wealth or even royalty for the woman they love. (Or … so I’m told.) It was quite moving for Harry to have done so in real life.

Of course, it’s impossible to ignore the role that race plays in this affair. For example, while it’s true that the British press can be monstrous toward any royal or celebrity, the implicitly (and explicitly) racist manner in which they have treated Princess Meghan is beyond the pale — pun intended.

Conversely, the love and concern that Harry has for her is genuinely touching. Specifically, while it’s not surprising that he loves his wife, his acknowledgement of how much racism has been a factor in this royal reality show speaks volumes about who Harry is as a man. I’m sure that he would admit how much his eyes have been opened since he started dating Meghan.

It’s one thing, for example, for white people to go to a couple protest marches and chant “Black Lives Matter.” It’s another thing to viscerally understand the phrase, “I can’t keep calm. I have a Black son.” (If Dave Chappelle were to update his “racial draft” for 2021, there are a lot of Black folks I’d trade for Harry.)

Of course, I should reference the fact that Meghan — who is biracial — does not have a history of closely identifying with African Americans. She attended an elite, predominately white university, not an HBCU. She joined a white sorority, not one of the Divine Nine. As far as I know, she has only been linked to white men in her dating life and her previous husband is white. For these reasons, her story has not resonated with some Black folks. (That should not be surprising; we’re not a monolithic group.) Some have even accused her of turning to Blackness out of convenience.

Meghan Markle, Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, Kamala Harris and others who identify as more than one race eventually are forced to come to terms with being “Black.” There is an understandable sensitivity regarding this topic for those who don’t have that identity crisis. To fail to understand the sensitivity of this concern is to fail to understand what it means to be Black in America — or any majority-white nation.

For me, a Black man who nobody would mistake as biracial, it is important to embrace our brothers and sisters who may not necessarily identify as closely with us as we would like. If they don’t explicitly disassociate themselves, we shouldn’t disinvite them from the proverbial cookout. Some people use sex, drugs or alcohol to escape the pain of their reality. Some Black folks deny or ignore their heritage to try to avoid the reality of racism. Let’s leave a seat at the table for them. And let’s protect our princesses and queens. All of them.

Larry Smith is a community leader. Contact him at larry@leaf-llc.com

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