With every overtly racist tabloid article or sorrowful interview from the pair, it became increasingly obvious that the world wasn’t ready for their barrier-breaking royal romance. But it wasn’t until the publication of their recent biography Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family that I understood Harry might not have been ready either.
The Meghan and Harry biography takes an intimate dive into the love story, family drama, and eventual royal departure of one of the world’s most famous couples. But as the book paints a suspiciously positive picture of their whirlwind romance, I quickly realized it fails to dig into one of the most obvious rift-causing facts: For Black women, dating white people can be really freaking hard.
The disdain falls on both sides of the aisle. A test of implicit bias toward Black-white interracial couples conducted by Allison Skinner, a psychology researcher at Northwestern University, and her collaborator James Rae found that both Black people and white people took longer than people of mixed race to associate interracial couples with positive words, suggesting they likely possess greater implicit biases against Black-white couples.
The researchers also found Black people showed a less positive attitude towards interracial couples than white people did.
That may be revealing in itself. It wasn’t too long ago that Black women were raped by white enslavers (and are still pummeled with racist stereotypes and denied femininity and humanity) and Black men were branded as ruthless savages from whom white women should be protected (this too has arguably never stopped).
The case of the “Central Park Five” (now known as the “Exonerated Five”) featured a group of innocent Black boys jailed on the racist assumption that they raped a white woman. One can even argue that the movie King Kong has racist undertones with the depiction of a white woman needing protection from a big black creature.
Kamala Harris has felt the backlash from having a white significant other, and she combatted the criticism by declaring her love for her husband and reminding those that may doubt her “Blackness” based on her spouse that, “I'm proud of being Black. I was born Black. I will die Black.”
Despite the currents of disapproval, there are happy Black-white couples in the world like actors Joshua Jackson and Jodie Turner-Smith who just welcomed a baby. But even the Queen and Slim actress alleges she was called a “bed wench” by online trolls.
In the Black community, Black women can also fall victim to a double standard in interracial dating. While it’s more easily accepted for Black men, Black women are more often chastised. But for a group that comes in at the bottom of the dating hierarchy, even with Black men, why should we restrict our prospects by placing ourselves in a box?
For Meghan, she took control of her love story no matter the repercussions.
The book displays the racist tabloid references that described Meghan as being “straight outta Compton,” having “exotic DNA” and being born to a “dreadlocked African American lady from the wrong side of the tracks.” It made me think of the many times in my life people had made assumptions about me based on very little understanding of who I am.
While I’ve dated men of a variety of races and they’ve all said something ignorant to me at one time or another (I clearly don’t discriminate when it comes to who can waste my time), there’s a particular moment when I briefly dated a white man for the first time in my life that stands out as one of the most ridiculous displays of idiocy.
It was 2014 after a few weeks of dating this white European guy I met in Brooklyn. During a conversation, he mentioned he’d heard a song that reminded him of me and wanted to play it. I expected a beautiful ballad, but what I heard was a tune about a young woman with a struggling mother and abusive, absent father.
For the record, my mother is a hard-working, God-fearing Black woman who was always able to provide for our family and my relationship with my father was nowhere near the level of toxicity he believed it to be based on what I can only assume was the fact that I’m a Black woman, like Meghan, whose parents are no longer together.
But honestly, what stood out to me wasn’t the racism. I’m very familiar with the disgusting, nationalistic brand of European racism Meghan faced. What gave me pause was the fact that, as the book points out, this was “new territory” for Harry.
It’s unsurprising that the average privileged white prince wouldn’t be familiar with racism on a personal level, but throughout his life, Harry had spent a considerable amount of time in Africa (a continent he has a particular fondness for). Yet somehow it seems he had not seen or educated himself on the anti-Black racism that exists there—or even closer to home in Britain itself—to prepare himself for dating a Black woman.
But as many women of color like myself can attest to, dating a white person can be difficult in a world where colorblindness cannot and does not exist.
Some Black people have even unknowingly dated flat-out racists—or found out well into a relationship that their partner would likely have been better off with a white person.
As a Black woman, not only have I had to explain why I wear a headscarf to bed or openly reject any attempts at appealing to my Blackness through hip hop discussions (I pray no white man ever tries to corner me into a Biggie discussion at a bar again), I’ve had to deal with judgment from outsiders and had to watch out for many of the same scenarios Meghan has fallen prey to.
Luckily, Meghan had a partner that was a quick study and willing to “confront those close to him” and if necessary, go to “war” for the woman he loved, going as far as to leave behind the only life he knew in order to defend her.
Actress Tika Sumpter advocated for this sort of protection during the height of the protests following the death of George Floyd, reminding her followers that white partners of Black people need to “fight for us.” And if they take issue with discussing racism, then “you have a bigger problem on your hands.”
One scenario I’ve been blessed enough to not have encountered myself was dealing with any white significant others’ racist family members. (This is luckier for them, because I will, without hesitation, tell off someone’s racist grandma. I don’t care how “different things were back then.”)
Megan wasn’t so fortunate. Some of you may remember the infamous Blackamoor brooch worn by the Queen’s cousin by marriage, Princess Michael of Kent, to a Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace in 2017 attended by Meghan.
The piece is widely known as racist and insensitive and Princess Michael of Kent had a history of racist language, so it raised a few eyebrows—including that of the future Duchess of Sussex. An apology was later made, but as the book explains, a few aides questioned its sincerity.
Finding Freedom doesn’t go into detail about how Meghan or Harry responded beyond Meghan’s rightful confusion, but I do wonder if Harry had any idea a member of the royal family would ever do something so untoward in the presence of Meghan.
I’m sure most people don’t realize how racist people in their family are until the opportunity to act on their racism presents itself. And that’s not the first time I’ve heard of people dealing with that kind of blatant disrespect from their partner’s family members when they’ve dated white people.
A biracial friend once told me she dated a man for several months when she finally went to meet his family. Once they learned that my white-passing friend was actually mixed with an African-American, she told me the family pushed for them to break up.
Beyond the tabloids and the Christmas banquet fiasco, the book, at several points, describes the many stereotypes and double standards that separated Meghan from the white women Harry’s dated in the past.
One senior royal allegedly referred to her as “Harry’s showgirl,” a description that plays into the hypersexualized, jezebel stereotype that plagues Black women from childhood. And Prince William referred to her as “this girl.” Harry, who the book claims had learned not to be judgmental thanks to his military career, found the phrasing “snobbish.”
But whether blatant or subconscious, his brother’s words go further than that. This is an example of the prejudice one encounters at the intersection of racism and sexism, calling back to a time when enslaved Black people were denied the respect of being called “men” and “women,” and dehumanized.
While the connection was clear to me, it was striking that the book doesn’t mention Harry’s realization of the racial dynamics even in a simple description like that. That suggests Harry might have still lacked some understanding of just how insidious racism can be.
Nonetheless, Harry has been “extremely protective of Meghan,” regardless of his understanding of racism’s covert presentations.
Meghan also received considerable heat for wearing dark nail polish despite there being no nail polish protocol—and even though Princess Diana, Princess Eugenie, and Kate Middleton have all done the same without issue. Considering Princess Diana was subject to ridicule arguably equal to or beyond the level of Meghan, there’s only one big difference between the four that could have led to such heightened scrutiny.
Meghan was even described as a “tough boss” by aides and rumors spread about her allegedly harsh treatment of the royal employees. While this could very well be true, Finding Freedom seems to lean toward the contrary (but as I mentioned, this book paints a suspiciously positive picture of the couple). Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of her perceived demeanor was colored by the prejudice I know all too well.
As the book quotes from Michelle Obama’s Becoming tour: “[Black women] are too angry. We are too loud. We are too everything…..How dare I have a voice and use it.”
It also seemed like the duo’s popularity made the palace uneasy as Harry and Meghan-related searches dominated Google. There was even some fear the couple was beginning to eclipse the entire institution.
What can one say? Black women are just dope.
Sure, there are all kinds of loud, tabloid headlines within the pages of Finding Freedom. But it also tells an all-too-common story of women of color, particularly Black women, who find love with a person whose race prohibits them from ever truly understanding the issues their partner may face and leaves them ill-prepared for the potential for harm the world often has lying in wait.
Now, if the book is to be believed, Meghan found a partner who was willing to take up arms in her honor no matter how difficult the rocky waters of racism are to navigate. Not everyone has been so fortunate. But maybe their story can inspire other interracial couples, or those facing the challenges of interracial coupledom to “find freedom” from any disrespect, mockery, and outright objections they may face.