Black public figures empathise with Meghan after Oprah interview

Serena Williams and Amanda Gorman are among the celebrities who have commented on the Duchess of Sussex’s allegations of racism at the palace.

The duchess of Sussex accused the royal family of raising concerns about the colour of her son's skin [Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese/Handout via Reuters]

Several high-profile figures and thousands of social media users have thrown their support behind the United Kingdom’s duchess of Sussex following her headline-grabbing interview with US media personality Oprah Winfrey, as they denounced the “cruelty” she was allegedly subjected to by the British royal family and some sectors of UK media.

The highly anticipated interview, broadcast on Sunday in the US, was the first by Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry since they stepped down from royal duties a year ago.

The two-hour special included explosive revelations likely to reverberate on both sides of the Atlantic, with the pair describing controversial discussions in the palace about the colour of their son Archie’s skin, losing royal protection and the intense pressures that led the duchess of Sussex to contemplate suicide.

It quickly drew mass attention on Twitter, where several prominent public figures backed Meghan, a biracial actress whose mother is Black and father is white, for speaking out over the alleged discrimination she faced after marrying into the royal family in 2018.

Meghan’s close friend Serena Williams, the US tennis star, said she understood the “pain and cruelty” Meghan had experienced.

Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam titles, said Meghan had taught her “what it means to be truly noble”.

“I know firsthand the sexism and racism institutions and the media use to vilify women and people of color to minimise us, to break us down and demonize us,” Williams tweeted.

“The mental health consequences of systemic oppression and victimisation are devastating, isolating, and all too often lethal.”

US television host Nina Parker tweeted: “You know why Black women believe Meghan? Because we know exactly what micro aggressions look like. And how they slowly drive you insane.”

Others said Meghan and Harry’s withdrawal from royal duties symbolised the “cost of racism” for the country.

“Losing them … was a missed chance to deal [with] the legacies of slavery & colonialism and have a charismatic modern royal to boot,” US author Heather McGhee tweeted.

US poet Amanda Gorman, praised for her performance at President’s Joe Biden’s inauguration, tweeted: “This isn’t Meghan’s princess ‘happy’ ending. But sometimes change, the decisions that bring us the most hurt, aren’t about about happiness, but healing.

“Unclear if this will change the Royal family, but Meghan’s strength will certainly redefine family everywhere,” she added. “Think of the women who will be inspired to stand up for their lives, the partners who will be kinder & more courageous than the kin they were born into.”

Bernice King, Martin Luther King, Jr’s daughter, said Meghan’s experience showed “royalty is not a shield from the devastation and despair of racism”, adding such discrimination was a “traumatizing threat to the mental, physical, and economic well-being of millions and millions of people”.

“It’s not a difference of opinion. It’s not an illusion of the ‘woke.’ It is a pervasive evil. Let’s de-colonize our minds,” she tweeted.

Booker-nominated author Maaza Mengiste said Meghan’s expressions showed “trauma”.

During the interview, Meghan said she had not realised what she was marrying into when she joined the British monarchy and “went into it naively”.

The couple’s critics argue they wanted the limelight of royal life but were not willing to live with the attention it brought.

But to supporters, their alleged treatment is evidence of an outdated British institution.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies