LONDON (AP) — When accomplished, glamorous American actress Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in 2018, she was hailed as a breath of fresh air for Britain’s fusty royal family. That honeymoon didn’t last.
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Now the couple wants independence, saying the pressure of life as full-time royals is unbearable. And a debate is raging: Did racism drive Meghan away?
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Prince Harry, who is sixth in line to the throne, began dating the “Suits” actress — daughter of a white father and African American mother — the media called it a sign that Britain had entered a “post-racial” era in which skin color and background no longer mattered, even to the royal family.
U.K. Labour Party lawmaker Clive Lewis, who like Meghan has biracial heritage, says the royal rift shows that Britain still has a problem with “structural racism.”
“We can see it with Meghan Markle and the way that she’s been treated in the media, we know that this is a reality of the 21st century, still,” Lewis told Sky News. “After 400 years of racism you can’t just overturn it overnight.”
Frederick W. Gooding, an assistant professor of African American studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, said it would be “disingenuous” to claim race had not been a factor in Meghan’s treatment.
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“She was always going to be an outsider,” he said. “There was always going to be this barrier because of her race.”
From the start, some in the media wrote about Meghan using racially loaded terms. One tabloid columnist referred to her “exotic” DNA. A Daily Mail headline described her Los Angeles roots as “(almost) straight outta Compton” and claimed she came from a “gang-scarred” neighborhood. A TV host described Meghan as “uppity.”
Meghan was criticized for everything from eating avocados — which the Daily Mail claimed fuel “human rights abuses, drought and murder” — to wearing dark nail polish, apparently an etiquette faux pas.
Morgan Jerkins, a senior editor at Zora, a Medium.com site for women of color, said that because Meghan was “an outsider, culturally, racially, and socioeconomically, she has been the royal family’s scapegoat.”
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