I do not mean to rain on Black women’s celebratory barbecues, which is a signal to ready the umbrellas. Look, Meghan Markle is not Keisha Kaepernick. In other words, she is not proclaiming a Black identity or racially politicizing her wedding or her marriage for a social cause like she is the female version of Colin Kaepernick. As a matter of fact, she does not identify as a Black woman. She identifies as a biracial woman.
She has not positioned herself as a Black feminist leader standing her Black and female ground to push back against any mainstream society and dominant cultural oppression. She has disapproved racism and divisiveness without using a clearly defined Black social or political perspective.
By the way, it is her right to do so.
Not all Black people expect her to by virtue of walking, talking, and breathing.
The announcement of actress Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry has generated buzz and excitement, particularly in the Blaccommunity (one word). I am excited for them, too. Marriage is sacred and beautiful, and I cheer for couples choosing to share their lives together in this union. Plus, I really like going to weddings. I have read the comments and posts flooding the internet from Black people about Meghan Markle coming to the Black community barbecues, as a bonafide Black woman. Do Black people-women need a shero so badly that we turn her engagement into a racial turf war? Don’t get me wrong, droves of White people are identifying her as Black as if it is a curse. All of us can benefit from reviewing our racial thinking and living.
Nevertheless, I cannot help but wonder why Black people- women are adamantly “claiming” Meghan Markle as Black, when she chooses not to identify this way.
Why are Black women making Markle’s upcoming nuptials so much about Black women’s love relationships.
I think it comes down to a longing—a desperation.
You got it.
Remix that Desperado song with a tight beat, bring in a pop star and hip hop star to collaborate on it, and you have the song of the moment.
It seems that to numerous Black women, Meghan Markle embodies hope and inspiration out of this deep-seated cultural longing.
I believe this longing persists because throughout history, Black women have endured quite the troubles from the world. We get excited when we see a Black woman defy the odds.
We want us to live in victory.
We want to speak back to the dominant norms, messages, and stereotypes.
I do, too, but not so badly that I ignore reality and lower my sense of dignity.
Well, at least, I strive not to.
I do not want Black women, or any woman, to be so desperate for progress, a Keisha Kaerpernick, or a shero that we project a racial project on people, who are not even on board with it. I do not think it is a healthy approach.
I want us to consider a few ways Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry reveals this longing- desperation.
1) Ignoring the Woke Issue
A certain sector of Black people, who act like they constitute a “woke government,” arresting, judging, and condemning people, particularly Black people, at how “woke” they are to varied forms of societal oppression. Some of these woke government agents are so excited about having a Black woman to be British royalty, that they are overlooking Markle’s alleged woke criminal offenses because of their desperation for another Black shero.
I want to draw your attention to one of the many nuggets of insight into Markle’s journey in embracing her choice to self-identify as biracial from her Elle Magazine essay, Meghan Markle: I’m More Than An ‘Other.’
According to Markle,
On the heels of the racial unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore, the tensions that have long been percolating under the surface in the US have boiled over in the most deeply saddening way. And as a biracial woman, I watch in horror as both sides of a culture I define as my own become victims of spin in the media, perpetuating stereotypes and reminding us that the States has perhaps only placed bandages over the problems that have never healed at the root.
Drawing from Markle’s thoughts, imagine if a prominent White or Black actress said, the following, about the aftermath in Ferguson and Baltimore—that both White and Black people were “victims of spin in the media, perpetuating stereotypes and reminding us that the States has perhaps only placed bandages over the problems that have never healed at the root.”
Many of these woke people would drag these individuals through the mud and then the social media fire. The White person would most likely be deemed a racist and the Black person would be condemned as a sell-out. If a Black person even says “All Lives Matter,” it is enough to have Black identity privileges revoked. No barbecues or family reunions. Forget about the little things like taking the corner piece of baked mac and cheese at mama’s house, too.
Imagine if President Trump said these words. Numerous Black women who are sending Markle invites to their church’s Black history month program would feel outraged at the audacity of saying that White people were also victims of the media during Ferguson and Baltimore.
It would not matter how much Markle spoke about Rodney King, racism, or her beliefs about Donald Trump as divisive. If she was a White woman making these remarks, she would inspire thought pieces about the limitations of White feminism.
But this has not happened.
It is not because Black people or women no longer engage in these practices.
It is for something far deeper compelling an uneven hand in their own compass of justice.
It is desperation.
Markle does not choose to live out this woke move of Black consciousness. I cannot stress this enough: It is her choice, so do not make one up for her life.
Many people with a Black consciousness typically recognize and embrace the social aspect of being read as a Black person. They embrace Black as a symbol of honor and to speak back to historical, economic, and social forces that deem otherwise. While there are Black people who move into using their identity as separatists, others do not choose to identify as Black as a way to reject other racial groups. Hence, why some biracial people (of Black ancestry) identify as Black without feeling a sense of shame or rejection of their nonblack racial identity. Then there are biracial people who recognize the social aspect of being read as a Black person, but refuse to take on a Black identity for various reasons- confusion, shame, political statement, etc.
This aspect of race involves how the world reads you. I discuss revisit this concept later. Markle lives and embraces her racial ambiguity, which has impacted her life. Not all biracial people deal with this ambiguity. Some look clearly White or like a person of color.
Nevertheless, I do not foresee Meghan Markle throwing up a Black Power fist in solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement on her wedding day because she is #wokeroyalty. I could be wrong.
2) Claiming People Who Do Not Want to Be Claimed
Different Black women are laying claim to Meghan Markle as a Black woman marrying British royalty. However, Meghan Markle is not even claiming to be a Black woman. Black women in the claims department might want to reconsider the Black American Princess block parties. Besides, I think it gives reason to revisit this drive to “claim” people for race like property. This desire for people across race to claim people like a racial gold rush robs each other of our very personhood.
Let’s elevate the conversation above claiming and rejecting, as well. I am not calling for the masses to reject her. Markle does not reject her Black heritage or White heritage. Can we respect the fact that she does not identify as a Black woman or an African-American woman? She self-identifies as a biracial woman.
Not the same thing.
Bobby Brown once sang a timeless song about this issue: It is her prerogative.
I think some Black women are so desperate for good news and a solid stick it to “the man” moment that we are willing to claim people as a shero who are not rushing to put on a cape to save our day or hour or minute.
In the same essay for Elle, Markle stated, “To say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman.”
Markle did not even give the rallying cry of “I am a strong Black woman,” so why are so many Black women rushing the land like Sista Bravehart?
I see more than my fair share of Black women basking in “Take that, Becky!” joy. (What is with calling all White women, “Becky,” anyway?)
I am concerned about Black women preserving a sense of dignity in these kinds of matter. It is like Black people have not learned from Tiger Woods: If people do not want to identify as Black, then bless their hearts and let them be, which leads to the final way the desperation shows up…
3) Celebrating Instead of Reading
Celebrating Markle as a “Black woman,” when Markle contends that she is not a Black woman but a biracial woman, in matters of a collective Black womanhood positions us in a needy place. There are plenty of women, including biracial women, in the world who embrace a Black identity and do not perceive or use it to reject other people. If Black identity is that important to you, seek them out.
Celebrate them for their unabashed Blackness.
If you align with Markle’s racial politics of biracial identity, celebrate her for it, too.
In other words, align with the beliefs that truly connect with your values.
I think we need to respect people’s politics for what they are instead of forcing one on them. Teach, guide, and listen.
Self-Identity: Does Markle Provide Clues to End the Race Wars?
I believe all of us have the right to self-identify. Also, I think we need to be prepared with ways people within our social world identify us. That is, other people might identify us with a race aligning or misaligning with our self-identity.
Race is system of social organization with a problematic origins rooted in greed, murder, pride, fear, lies, abuse, etc. It does not stop us from shifting the way it works. There is no biological connection to one’s skin pigment. Because race remains a way of socially categorizing people, people who choose a particular racial identity for themselves, still contend with how those around them perceive them. Therefore, race functions more about how people see and attach a racial identity to you. Even racially “colorblind” people read and identify people by race in their minds.
It is human identify someone Black because you socially and visually read or perceive her/him in this way. It is problematic when you take this reading and project a racial agenda counter to their politics. To use an extreme example to drive home the point, what is next, taking White supremacist and making them spokespeople for American Indians because they have a great- great- great-great grand parent who was American Indian?
I hope not.
When it comes to having a healthy racial identity, much depends on one’s growth and depth of understanding about race. There are multiracial people who identify as Black and it is not out of a rejection of their White parent or heritage.
People who identify as biracial or multiracial because they feel shame about part of their racial identity, or have unresolved issues with their own identity need more support in developing a more healthy identity.
If I self-identify as White or bi-racial, it has little bearing on when I walk in a room and people see that my features look like a Black woman.
This reading is not necessarily a bad thing, except to those who have limited understandings about it or assign negative meanings to it.
This aspect of race explains why no matter how Meghan Markle self-identifies, she still contends with people in the social world who see and identify her as Black.
Interestingly, Markle’s choice to self-identify as biracial could be useful in helping people to stop the race war. It is too soon to tell. She is choosing to push back against the social norms in her message that both are valid and have a place. It is something worth considering. When it comes to racial, multiracial and biracial identity politics, the truth of the matter is this:
The entire human race is multiracial. All of us are multiracial.
I think there is something to be said for being able to see the racial and ethnic diversity in our parents or relatives like Markle. This immediate presence of visually experiencing a multifaceted humanity can amplify the struggles and feelings of racial belonging within different groups. Markle’s self-identity could be something that grants her more inner peace, as she deals with a racially warring world.
And don’t we ever need to preserve our inner peace?
As she begins another part of her life journey, in the name of peace, rejoice with Meghan Markle, as our fellow woman of color, woman, and human.