In my part of the world, an African woman who gets married to a White man is often mistakenly assumed to be after his money and the good life. Rarely would most want to believe that it is indeed true love that has brought these two persons together in a marital union. If the Mzungu (White man) is way older, then to many, the African lady is definitely a prostitute.
If it’s the other way round and an African man marries a White woman, then the assumptions and conclusions often depend on certain factors. If the White woman is significantly older, definitely, the assumption will be the African man is after the White woman’s money or she is simply corrupting the young African man in question with her “dirty” Western influence.
If the interracial couple just happens to be close in age then some will take offense over how the African man treats his White wife with claims of the treatment being way better than how he would treat an African wife. Almost as if there’s a standard way that African men are automatically expected to treat all African women. And if it’s an interracial union comprising of an Indian and an African, then Kenyans may well be aware of the threat of the Indian automatically becoming an outcast and the whole religious difference argument.
In my research for this article, I stumbled upon the Kenyan blog www.catemukei.com dubbed The Diary of a Madwoman and a particular post on it titled Ujinga! Myths about Interracial Relationships. In it, Cate Mukei tries to debunk certain myths concerning such particular relationships. Ujinga translates to Stupidity and from its inclusion in the post’s title, we can quickly tell that there’s some level of frustration concerning how those in interracial relationships and unions tend to be treated in society. The introductory line of the post aptly captures this: Despite the rising rate of interracial marriage, mixed-race couples not only continue to face scrutiny and disapproval but sweeping generalization from outsiders.
I find myself thinking back to the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and how Bishop Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church kept insisting on the Power of Love in his chosen sermon. Could it be that he was aware of the persistent negative attitude toward interracial unions and therefore, felt compelled to insist to the newlyweds and all present that love, was the only thing guaranteed to help them successfully navigate through some of the negativity they were likely to face with regards to their ethnicities as a married couple? Meghan, a product of an interracial union, I would like to believe, probably did get into this union with a knowledge of some of these damaging attitudes. In her 2015 Essay for Elle Magazine, I’m More than an “Other”, Meghan candidly speaks on her experiences growing up as a biracial child and how her mum, Doria, would often be assumed to be her nanny stating;
And there was my mom, caramel in complexion with her light skinned baby in tow, being asked where my mother was since they assumed she was the nanny.
I can only imagine how this was indeed frustrating and annoying to Doria Ragland, a woman of African descent who by virtue of her skin tone, could not manage to convince strangers on the street that her biracial baby was indeed hers. It is something that is often replicated in countries with a black majority where the complexion of the child is often expected to match the complexion of the mother and if it doesn’t, then eyebrows are raised; Another form of Colorism, a close cousin to Racism.
Roslyn, Thomas Markle Snr’s first wife is quoted by media outlets as having revealed how her daughter and estranged half-sister to Meghan, would refer to Doria as the maid when she got married to her father. This in itself is proof that the interracial coupling of Meghan’s parents wasn’t entirely devoid of the negative assumptions and attitudes toward such. They may have shielded their daughter from it and wisely so, but we can make a guess that they did face it themselves.
A misleading narrative we have seen being peddled around by sections of the British Media and Tabloids is that of The Duchess of Sussex being a social climber. Wikipedia defines Social Climber as a person who is anxious to gain a higher social status. I would like to point out that this is just one of the vile and racist ways that Duchess Meghan has constantly been vilified in the media. I would also like to relate this to how a pure African woman (and I mean one without white blood in this case) is likely to be mistakenly assumed that she’s getting into a relationship with a White man for his money and ultimately to elevate her status as a result.
If you come from a once colonized country such as mine, you may already know that the European colonialists did a good job in ingraining the fact that they were superior and of a higher social status to the colonized Africans.
We had clubs in Kenya for example, exclusively for the White population. I am reminded of a Mau Mau Veteran being interviewed on TV a couple of years back and clearly stating that in the colonial times, if an African just as much looked in the direction of the terrace at the Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi, where White people were having tea, as he passed by, he risked jail time. The superiority belief in the colonialists meant that anything associated with the African was indeed inferior and primitive. Sadly, certain deep rooted mentalities are yet to completely go away and there is still that African, who believes the White man is superior and can therefore not fathom how an African woman and White man can get into a union genuinely, or the other way round.
I choose to use African and White in this case but it is common knowledge that interracial couplings are not only exclusively between these two particular races. And that still, there’s some level of suspicion whenever people of different races not necessarily White and Black come together romantically. Why I choose to relate the social climbing aspect to specifically, colonialism in Africa, is because, when the Duchess of Sussex is branded a social climber, we can sense a whiff of the colonial mentality in it and it’s downright ugly in this day and age. The section of British Media and Tabloids doing this are in essence trying to disrespectfully deny the fact that Prince Harry ( a “superior”) can genuinely fall in love with Duchess Meghan, of mixed race and a Woman of Color ( an “inferior”).
Some of the things that happened to colonized Africans on the African continent were downright racist and intended to drum into the African that he/she can never measure up to the colonial masters. Carina Ray in her book Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex and the contested politics of Colonialism in Ghana makes a point of discussing how interracial unions were viewed in the Gold Coast (Colonial Ghana) in relation to statuses between the British and Africans at the Gold Coast among other factors.
By calling Meghan a social climber, whether subconsciously or knowingly, these particular bullies are using the fact that with African blood in her by virtue of her mother being African-American, she definitely had to latch onto a White man, Prince Harry, to elevate herself. In Cate Mukei’s blog post, Ujinga! Myths about Interracial Relationships, we equally learn that White men married to Black women are not entirely spared of this vilification and are assumed to be rebelling against their families.
Prince Harry has gone as far as being called a race traitor, the perpetrator, currently jailed. He is often branded a rebel with an article on one of the UK Tabloids going as far as claiming that little Archie, a product of Harry and Meghan’s interracial union may end up struggling to follow royal protocol. Absurd claims which were attributed to an astrologer. This was before Archie was even born and it begs the question; were there such kinds of predictions for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s children before they were born? Or better yet, the other members of the entire British royal family?
What these particular persons seem to constantly forget when calling Meghan a social climber is that Meghan Markle, prior to royalty, worked her way up the actress ladder. From her days on Deal or No Deal, to using her Calligraphy skill to generate an honest income, to moving from one audition to another, never tiring in spite of the setbacks, to getting small roles in movies and TV Series, to eventually landing her character, Rachel Zane on Suits, to working with humanitarian organizations, Meghan Markle had clearly put in the required work and more to rise to the top.
She was definitely not latching onto men to get free passes and had she not met Prince Harry, her next roles on screen would probably have been in high grossing films. She may have ended up eventually winning an Oscar or an Emmy, appeared on covers of high profile magazines and landed lucrative endorsements. She did not need a British Prince to rise and this is indeed clear with the way she gave all that up for love.
The life Meghan lived prior to Prince Harry was equally as glamorous and no social climber willingly gives up glamor for royal duties involving charitable causes. Looking at the kind of treatment the royal couple has continued to face to date, I think we can safely conclude that the world is still a long way from genuinely embracing interracial unions and sadly, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have not been spared from this unwarranted criticism.