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meghan to the queen: “you must not know ’bout me”

January 22, 2020
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Meghan Markle is a beautiful, classy, successful woman who seemed to bring much-needed new energy to the business that is the British royal family. All families are a business at some level: you’ve got to work together to bring in money, manage it, and, if possible, to grow the wealth. But if your family is a bodega in the hood, the House of Windsor is Apple. We pay taxes to live in our country, while they are paid via England’s taxes to live in theirs. 

Queen Elizabeth II’s clan is a globally watched, generations-old drama that fuels a massive tourism industry which brings loads of revenue into England, more than the country pays to the family. People travel from far away just to see Buckingham Palace, which is kind of like traveling to see the set of a favorite movie, while doing a Hollywood Maps star tour, and seeing the gated mansion of your favorite movie star. Just like an epic, never-ending theater production or a hifalutin version of any long-running soap opera, every so often a new character must be brought in to reinvigorate the show and launch the new cycle of epic events like giant posh weddings. Markle seemed to be the perfect new character for this show, in part because more than any “royal” since Diana, she captivated the American market. It was nice watching Diana’s sons grow up, and, sure, William’s wife Kate is cute, but Meghan made American hearts flutter. 

Here, finally, was a Royal the Yanks could really like. And as the first mixed-race member of the family, she seemed to instantly modernize that old house. But alas, now that she and her husband have fled the palace — leaving behind rank, status, country, and a truckload of money, in exchange for freedom — Markle seems to be proof of something many of us in America have also known for a long time. Her brief time inside the House of Windsor is proof that respectability politics doesn’t work. You can’t conform yourself past other people’s racism. Even if you do everything right, they’ll still hate you.

Many have blamed Markle’s need to escape her in-laws on the racism of the British media. One referred to her as “(almost) straight out of Compton,” when in fact she grew up in Hollywood, the daughter of a cinematographer, and attended private schools. Another likened her newborn son to a chimpanzee. But I wonder if there’s something larger going on, something more pernicious than carping from people hungry to sell papers, or ads.

Great Britain is the historic home of white supremacy. It is the nation that traversed the globe looking for nations of Black and Brown people to conquer, dominate, and “civilize.” Modern England has a Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who has spoken of Black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” (as if someone with perpetual bedhead hair like his isn’t living in an aesthetic glass house that obviates him ever throwing stones). Modern England has a citizenry that has voted repeatedly to Brexit, and thus sever itself from Europe, plunging itself backwards politically and economically in order to escape the impact of immigration and globalization. Has there ever been a larger example of cutting off your nose to spite your face? I think not. This isn’t a country that seems prepared for the modern world. The Brexit ideology is a close cousin of Trump’s white supremacist movement, and we know how galvanized, traumatized, and triggered they were by a Black President and a Black First Lady.

I bet that if Markle were ever to tell the real story — like over wine late at night in the Hollywood mansion they pick up after signing a multimillion-dollar deal with Netflix — she’d talk less about the media and more about things that happened inside the family. At the official brunch where Markle was introduced to the extended cast, I mean, family, some cretin named Princess Michael of Kent (who, we must stop to note, was officially below Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, on the royal hierarchy — and who just happens to be the daughter of a prominent Nazi) showed up at the brunch wearing a brooch that was unmistakably racist. That’s not even a microaggression. She might as well have walked in with her middle finger in the air and a Klan hood hanging out of her purse. And I bet the family’s response was less than supportive, leaving Meghan to say no amount of money is worth my soul. 

I’m sure the divorce from the family was painful — or maybe the lead-up to it was, the end may have been a relief — but the third act of Markle’s life will be the most interesting. Like Diana, she has the love of most of the world and a boundless galaxy of opportunities. And Netflix’s seemingly infinite bank account to raid. I know likening young Markle to the Saintly Princess Diana and the legendary Colin Kaepernick may seem like a stretch to some, but stay with me. Like them, she joined a globally-famous institution, felt mistreated and broke with them for principled reasons, and in leaving, has become larger, more beloved and more respected than she ever could have by staying. The cast of the House of Windsor thought that Markle was beneath them, but she’s going to live out the ex-girlfriend fantasy of proving that they needed her more than she ever needed them. I can see her now up in that Netflix mansion, blasting Beyoncé with Beyoncé, as the two of them sing, “Don’t you ever for a second get to thinkin, you’re irreplaceable!”