WHY MEGHAN MARKLE & PRINCE HARRY’S ENGAGEMENT MATTERS

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Image of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Engagement shoot

They're engaged! It's not about being a Royalist or Hollywood fanatic or god forbid a celebrity junkie. Beyond the glamour and tabloid gossip is a simple act of love that can and will help inform racial attitudes in Britain. We're delighted to congratulate Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on their engagement today. Not only is their engagement and pending marriage cause to celebrate as a young couple, but also what it may mean for race perceptions in the UK.



Meghan Markle is an American actress who was born to an African American mother and Caucasian American father in Los Angeles. In addition to acting, she's also been known for speaking out on social issues and her humanitarian work. Prince Harry has over the past few years shaken off his tabloid playboy image and is increasingly known for his devotion to a number of charitable causes. It's no surprise then that when the glamorous actress and the good-time Prince got together, it caused much excitement and interest. Even more so because of Meghan Markle's mixed-race background and outspoken past on this and other social issues.

Unfortunately, since their relationship first came to light, it has also exposed an ugly underbelly in conservative media outlets whereby derogatory comments and dog-whistles were used to allude to her biracial background. Uncharacteristically this prompted a formal press release with a rebuke regarding the sexist and racist undertones of the abuse directed at Meghan. It's this latter point that makes the Meghan Markle's future marriage into the Royal family potentially so powerful for race relations in the UK. Like it or not, the Royal Family are incredibly popular in modern day Britain. Yet despite their public support of a diverse range of charitable causes, they've tended t0 stray away from social and even more so racial issues. Having Meghan Markle as a member of the family makes them a stakeholder where racial harmony is concerned. Thus in the same vein, this forces them to challenge racism both directly where Meghan is concerned and indirectly through her marriage into the Royal family.

Another important point is the perception of black women and black beauty by society in general. Throughout recent history, black and brown women's voices have been stifled either by being ignored or misrepresented with offensive and inaccurate stereotypes. In 2017, we've begun having incredibly important conversations regarding diversity in beauty. This has ranged from Edward Enninful captaining British Vogue, calling out racism or calls for greater representation of women of colour. Whilst Meghan Markle has eurocentric features, she is incredibly proud and vocal about celebrating her biracial identity. She's consistently called out publications that lighten her skin colour and is vocal about racial discrimination that she has and continues to experience. Even more importantly, through her experiences, she expands on the race debate with nuanced analysis of her identity in the context of colourism. This struggle to find a place in either of the racial groups she belongs is one that many a mixed-race person can identify with. Its also a conversation made even more necessary and relevant by the ongoing increase in interracial relationships and an increasingly mixed-race population of Britain.

Unusually for someone marrying into the Royal family, Meghan also has a career and long before meeting Prince Harry was involved in promoting social causes including race relations in America, women's liberation and economic inequality. Whilst she has quit her role in Suits, the very fact that Meghan Markle had an established profile before marriage into the Royal family is in itself quite rare. This is likely to mean that she will continue to be vocal about championing her causes and we hope to exercise more independence than traditional Royal Wives.

We're not for a second suggesting that Meghan Markle will single-handedly tackle the issue of racism in modern day Britain. Nor do we expect there to be a sudden change in attitudes towards interracial relationships, racial diversity or people of colour. However, the symbolism is powerful. If an institution that is for many seen as fundamentally British like the Royal family can embrace a biracial woman of black heritage, then it dismantles long-held misconceptions regarding Britishness and race. For now anyway, this actress, entrepreneur and humanitarian seems to have won over the British public. We can only hope that even in some small way this is a win for diversity and a sign of things to come. Ultimately, its a coup for diversity and interracial relationships.

 

If you've enjoyed reading this article, check out our post on how social media is championing diversity in beauty.

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