The upcoming release of the book, Finding Freedom, a biography about the events that led to Harry and Meghan stepping back from working roles within the British Royal Family has reignited an ongoing conversation about how Meghan has been treated by the royal family, its establishment and British media. The central theme that is emerging is racism; that the house of Windsor, its working palaces and their media friends decided that Meghan was a non-starter, unsuitable, and thus every step of the way, they have found something wrong with her. The media and the family vehemently deny this. They are in denial.
Amidst covid-19 uncertainty and angst, the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers who ignored his pleas and cries that he couldn’t’ breath. The officer knelt on Floyd’s neck and suffocated him to death. It reinforced that some are more equal than others and black lives do not matter. This triggered a series of #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) protests, that became worldwide in reach and still continue today in some US cities. What is being sought is the dismantling of systems of oppression that are woven into the fabric of society, and disproportionately and unfairly victimize and disadvantage people of color.
In that supercharged environment, many in the media who have built careers on racially abusing Meghan suddenly had “epiphanies” and jumped on the BLM bandwagon for clout, clicks and profit. Of course in the ecosystem of transient heightened racial sensitivity, they did not want the attention that would come from being accused of racism against the only non-white member of the royal family and arguably the most famous in the world. Some made social media posts about #BlackOutTuesday and non-apology apologies devoid of accountability. Some in the British media went as far as giving credit to the British royal family for the highly lauded 2020 graduation speech by Meghan to her alma mater in which she made powerful remarks about BLM, in a sense that she perhaps spoke for the family.
The obsessively fixated Piers Morgan, who has spent the last 2 years demonizing Meghan, and was instrumental in the destruction of her relationship with her father shed his skin. He was not only talking about BLM, but in an article, suggested that Trump could take notes from Meghan’s speech to her high school alma mater. I didn’t know hell froze over. But the thing is, snakes habitually shed their skin, and this fleeting moment of lucidity was just that.
Tatler magazine which wrote multiple negative and bilious articles about Meghan in their crusade to prove just how much of an outsider or ‘social climber’ she was, momentarily lost their snark, when they did a factual article about Meghan’s recent speech. What was the difference between the Meghan they wrote about pre-BLM and post-BLM that suddenly didn’t warrant their special brand of snobbery and bigotry?
Then came the trendy mea culpas from a section of white women who created an online economy from othering Meghan. I cannot forget Elizabeth Holmes, who had so many thoughts, but regrettably none of those thoughts were that, maybe, just maybe, constantly nitpicking and criticizing Meghan’s appearance and actions, and enabling the same on her platform, was not just in poor taste but would be a source of stress to Meghan during her pregnancy. If anyone would have had that thought, it should have been E. Holmes, because she was herself pregnant for a good portion of that period. Is she just a callous person by nature or was it just something about Meghan that made it impossible for E. Holmes in particular to empathize? Pay attention to her statement and the comments below it.
A lot of these media types have been called out by a multitude of people over the years. They did not heed the calls, and continued to monetize their hatefulness against Meghan. All of a sudden, with BLM at the fore, and people facing actual economic repercussions for their racist behavior, they saw the light. I hope it was a genuine moment of self-reflection and conviction for them and not a self-serving performance, especially as a couple of them had books coming out and wouldn’t like their fortunes negatively impacted. We live to see.
Before Meghan announced her pregnancy, the British media wrote chapter and verse about her age and how a pregnancy would be a geriatric and high risk pregnancy, “should she be able to conceive” because a 37 year old woman getting pregnant is completely out of the realm of possibility, apparently. I don’t know why her reproductive health was even subject to public debate but hey…we’re talking about the British media here. Intrusion is their ethos. Once, the pregnancy was announced, there were exactly two weeks of calm before the storm.
95% of the British media incessantly bullied and tormented The Duchess of Sussex while she was pregnant. Her charges ranged from inane to malignant. There was not a thing about her being or existence that escaped criticism. It was brutal and relentless.
Around her six-month of pregnancy, it was so bad that, some of Meghan’s friends anonymously gave an interview debunking the media tales that were being spun to harass her. Of note, they debunked the narrative that Meghan had not been in touch with her father since the wedding. The ensuing publication by the Daily Mail, of her correspondence with her father is now the subject of an ongoing privacy/copyright suit.
Even George Clooney got hell from the British press when he suggested that, they could be less harsh and allow her the peace to go through her pregnancy.
In one batch of responses submitted in the ongoing suit against the Mail, it was revealed that, Prince Harry had written to the media, asking them to moderate their tone, as it was stressful for his pregnant wife. Obviously, they declined.
Outside of that, none of the women and mothers within the royal family, including those who claim to advocate for maternal and early childhood well-being, voiced concern or offered any support. The farcical never complain, never explain policy doesn’t excuse the royal family’s absence of support because, over the past 6 months or more and especially now, with the serialization of Finding Freedom, we have witnessed the defensive arsenal of the firm in full swing.
So-called journalist, have abandoned their independence and objectivity and gone to bat for the firm. It turns out that, if you don’t have an obviously poor hair extension job, a miraculous ability to disappear your well-grooved wrinkles on a whim, allegedly be having some off the books ‘platonic suppers’ or were not engaged in illegal conscious coupling with people’s children, then you are on your own! Even when you are carrying the seventh in line to the throne.
In the past, and since excerpts of Finding Freedom were released, the media and their briefing agents within the royal households have offered all kinds of excuses or reasons why Meghan deserved their angst; she’s difficult, she’s preaching to us, she’s cradling her belly, she won’t tell us every little detail of her life, she has rich friends, she’s conscious of social injustice, she’s a competent orator, her work pace was too fast, she’s too confident!
The most difficult thing for me to comprehend is the lack of compassion and the inhumanity of Meghan’s treatment by the British media while pregnant, compared to others who have been in the media spotlight.
Recall when Rebekah Vardy was outed by her friend for allegedly selling stories about her to the SUN tabloid, there was quite a bit of excitement about it, with a bunch of stories being written and a huge social media response. The were calls for the media to show compassion towards her as she was heavily pregnant and all that stress was bad for her well-being. Even pierce Morgan pleaded for consideration.
Similarly, when it was announced that Carrie Symonds was pregnant with Boris Johnson’s child, there was quite an unpleasant response on social media and some sections of the media. Again, there were calls for kindness, as it was her first baby and what not. Notable among her advocates, was Sarah Vine, head queen of vileness, whose favorite pastime was dissecting and cutting pregnant Meghan to the bone.
By now you already know that when Kate Middleton was pregnant, she was protected. She was allowed to cradle her blossoming bump and eat avocados sans controversy. All the concerns about stress for these pregnant women were in order.
The adverse impact of stress on pregnancy outcomes, is a real thing. It can lead to pre-term birth and low birth weight babies, with the attendant complications. Further, the exposure of babies to high levels of stress in utero, is thought to cause changes in immune regulation that makes them prone to infectious and inflammatory diseases in later life. Also being exposed so early to a high level of stress hormones, primes them in a sense such that, they have high stress reactivity- it doesn’t take much by way of stress to overwhelm their body.
So, to be clear, those in the media are aware that, stress can negatively impact a pregnant woman’s well-being. This is more so for black(POC) women, who are at an increased risk for poor birth outcomes. Research has put it down to a phenomenon called weathering-the cumulative effect of stress from the experience of racism over their life course. It is a wear and tear that is akin to constantly revving an engine.
The body’s response to the constant stress causes an elevated level of stress hormones, that not only can adversely impact the pregnancy, but which black women at a higher risk of other systemic diseases, e.g. hypertension, which can further complicate pregnancies. Socio-economic status does not reduce the risk. Two notable examples in Serena Williams’ and Beyoncé’s experiences drive home the fact that wealth and status don’t appear to shield biracial and black women from worse maternal health outcomes.
For a pregnant Meghan Markle, add on top of her already increased risk, the immense stress of dealing with the British media nonsense and what is now being revealed as her disparate treatment within the royal household, who failed defend her and did not allow her to defend herself. Even without the benefit of knowledge of the additional risks for black women, one has to wonder why there was no concern for pregnant Meghan’s welfare? If you ever thought that there was a sinister plot afoot, you wouldn’t be wrong given the circumstances.
To recap, human, woman, pregnant, public figure, royal wife; check, check, check, check, check. All things Meghan has in common with the 3 women previously discussed. Did I miss anything? What is it about Meghan that made her undeserving of consideration by the media and sections of the public that joined in the abuse, or of protection by her “family”? Why were they so cruel?
While Meghan was postpartum, the vilification continued unabated. There were 451 articles in the month of May 2019 published by the Daily mail, while Meghan was on maternity leave with no public engagements. And the BBC thought that the best gift for a new mother will be a racist caricature of her, FOR LAUGHS. That’s right. That was after their employee had compared Meghan and Harry’s two day old baby to a chimpanzee. Now we’re talking vicarious racism, where the parents experience stress and anxiety about the racism towards their child.
To me, the quote below by Brene Brown captures some of what drives the callousness towards Meghan.
There is a lack of empathy because, they fundamentally don’t see her experiences as valid. Why won’t Meghan’s discomfort be like any of the other women they empathize with?
Around the time of the widespread protests, Princess Martha Louise of Norway, whose boyfriend is a black man, posted a very powerful and enlightening statement about her experience. Take a moment to read it below.
“Racism is not just the obvious…How friends assume he lies about everything. That he is evil for being kind… making it perfectly clear to him that he does not have a natural place at the table… How it is assumed that Durek is not a good person who actually loves me, but has manipulated me into loving him and keeps manipulating me in our relationship. How he will exploit me financially”
Where have you heard similar themes? She is too nice, there is just something about her that I don’t trust, she is manipulative, can’t bear the thought of taking direction from “An American TV Actress”.
If you are fundamentally viewed suspiciously, how can your experience be seen as valid or for exactly what it is? And how then can you receive empathy? The fact that you had three decades of life that is well documented, and is diametrically opposed to all the justifications for your poor treatment does not matter. They were slowly snuffing the life out of her, but it didn’t matter to them.
It is time for the House of Windsor, their royal establishment, media friends and enablers to have a real moment of introspection and reflection. What is it that makes them so selectively callous? It’s time for them to face their demons.
A certain Prince who witnessed racism through his wife once suggested that people might want to examine their biases. It did not go well. It reminds me of an anecdote came across. Suppose you’re talking a walk on a busy beach with lots of activity, and you hear the life guard shout, ‘hey stop running’. If you were not running, will you keep going or you will turn around and confront the life guard for wrongly telling you to stop running? As the say elsewhere, a hit dog will holler.
I’m thrilled Harry and Meghan stepped back from being senior royals to seek financial independence. Even better, I’m thrilled the myopic and unimaginative strategists in the monarchy advised the queen to turn down their offer to keep working part-time for the monarchy. While the media will continue to stalk them, they now have autonomy and the ability to fight back. More power to them.
If you would like to learn a little more about racism and poor pregnancy outcomes, you can view this short video.