Why Meghan Markle’s Interview Highlights the Problems with Racism and Attitudes to Mental Health
I have never been an avid follower of the royals or Meghan Markle but when the interview with Oprah aired on International Women’s Day I was drawn into it. The response to the interview showed a clear divide between the supporters and those against.
I immediately felt that the words being said in this interview come from the truth — Meghan and Harry have left everything behind, their family has cut off communication and financial assistance so they have nothing else to lose by doing this interview. They are independent and free now to speak out against the problems in the UK and the “institution”.
It’s true that since Meghan and Harry announced their engagement, the media have bombarded them with negativity and falsehoods. This is how the UK tabloids are — they print nonsense to draw people’s attention away from what is really going on in the world and unfortunately, that is what sells. The media have demonised Meghan.
We have heard of the stories about Meghan’s father, criticisms of the way she dresses, her “feud” with Kate, these are all stories which whether they are true or not have really nothing to do with the public.
People are very quick to judge her for coming out about her experiences with the media, racism, and problems with attitudes to mental health, and the anti-Meghan people have argued that these are all private issues that should not be aired publicly. The same argument can be said for the press that print false stories about her or anyone else.
What we can learn from the interview:
Parallels with Princess Diana’s interview
Anyone who has seen Diana’s interview with Martin Bashir will see the similarities with Meghan’s interview. The Press hounding her, the way she felt when she was locked up in the palace, the removal of her freedoms, and the lack of assistance from “the institution” or members of the royal family.
There are so many parallels with Meghan and Diana’s words and more than 20 years on it’s clear that there has been no change.
The difference between Meghan and Diana is that Diana’s break away from traditions much like Meghan is not coupled with race.
The comments about the colour of Archie’s skin tone are shocking, to say the least, but if anything shows us the systemic racism in the UK. Again those that are anti-Meghan have argued that it was probably just a passing comment or that it is a private matter or that it can’t be true. The fact of the matter is that these responses are the very definition of white privilege. People who respond in that way simply do not understand the struggles that people of colour face in the UK and that systemic racism is so embedded in the culture, in the way that we speak, and in the way that we behave to others.
Eugenie’s baby was given a title when he was born and shows us once again with the removal of Archie’s birthright to a title, the differential treatment that the two are given. There is legislation that does not give an automatic right to a title however, how does one explain the differential treatment in this situation. If anything Archie was much closer to the crown than Eugenie’s baby.
Meghan Markle was an opportunity for the royal family to show their change in attitudes to diversity and to modernise the monarchy. But I think it’s clear that they are not ready for that. If they are not ready now then when will they be?
Mental health struggles
Anyone can suffer from mental health problems, depression, and suicide, it does not discriminate between poor and rich people. No matter how much money anyone has or what their status is in the public eye they can suffer from mental health problems and if they ask for help they should know where to go or who to talk to. Denying someone help or making a mockery of them for airing their mental health problems is what people have been advocating against after all.
The response to this was the fact that as a member of the royal family and patron to many charities and having access to money, that it cannot be true that assistance was not available or that she needed help.
What people forget is that as patrons of charities, they play an important and active role in supporting and effectively marketing worthy causes but that does not mean they necessarily have more access than we do. They are expected to turn up, give speeches and put on a happy face no matter the circumstances and then go back to the enclosure of the palace. Looking back again at Princess Diana, this was the same case.
Being offered help may reach its way to the press and in their eyes risk reputational damage. Something which is more important to manage than the mental health of their family members.
Instead of looking at Meghan Markle as a person of privilege, what we need to learn from this and what we have not learned from Princess Diana is the way that the press treat people, the work we still have to do on outrooting racism in the UK and improving our understanding of and attitudes to people with mental health.
We need the press to print stories about the truth not about the colour of someone’s dress and instead of printing stories about how she made kate cry we need to know the positive and uplifting stories. For example, Meghan and Harry’s charity work with HIV sufferers in Africa and their work with helping women gain an education in deprived countries.
This interview and events leading up to it have shown the levels of toxicity and racism in the UK and now it has developed a reputation worldwide for being so.