Prince Harry, Meghan and Markle’s half-sister Samantha.

Editorial Comment Lead Opinion South Africa

Nationalists on both sides of the divide of race make the same demands on Britain’s next princess

Clyde Ramalaine 

Is Meghan Markle trapped painted with ‘black’ and ‘bi-racial’ princess demands for her identity? The world awaits the much-publicized wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry to the USA born Suits actress and TV personality Meghan Markle, scheduled for May 19. It is believed, if William, his older brother resembles his mom in facial looks, Harry in every aspect of what some call personality controversy reflects the late Princess Diana.  The one who lives on the edge and is comfortable to stir controversy. As is typical with royalty secrets the world may never know what internal controversy Harry unleashed when he decided to propose marriage to Markle.

In whose interest is it that Meghan remains black or biracial as a means for her identity classification as the spouse of Prince Harry? In any normal society, the marriage of these two would have been celebrated as two love-birds, each with their own histories and life paths, finding their own melody and rhythm in the journey of love they create for themselves. Then again, we don’t live in a normal society, ours is a society that is class informed, race directed and captured and since Harry is considered aristocracy when Meghan is for some in Britain less than a commoner, there was always going to be raised eyebrows and unsavory comments

While class and culture may be real challenges for some, nothing underscores the abnormality more than the ongoing belief in race – a discredited scientific enterprise premised essentially on the Rassen Articles of Immanuel Kant published in 1785. Kant, therefore, was the first to formally introduce us to race in which, white is considered superior. By the time Kant dared to publish his German articles he and those who shared his mind already had opposition to this narrow interpretation of what makes for identity. Nevertheless, Kant, supported by Carl Linnaeus and others continued with the myth of race for a definition of a distinct identity for human beings who share a common humanity. By 1945 at the end of World War 11, eugenics was debunked for the myth it is, yet seventy years beyond this race flourishes and has many carceral in our daily discourse, race lives in our daily interactions, race informs opportunity and access, and race remains a stubborn reality albeit in a claim of its social constructionism foundation.

Why are the same qualification demands not made of Harry? Commentary on the upcoming wedding swings from opposite poles of absolute admiration to horrendous insult interspersed with what I choose to call strange statements for a definition of bi-racialism. The center of what I deem peculiar statements and wild claims as to be expected centers on the identity of Meghan Markle. Notice, the identity of Harry is not in question he is identified as royalty, with a number in line for the British throne. He thus free-wheels in the identity debate and is exonerated from any questions about his identity, he is accepted as white, in pristine sense of clarity and without any labels of qualification of a biracial description. The feminists do not ask why this discrepancy, I guess they do not see this because they too have race as the departure point for identity. The true feminist cannot be silent when a woman is subjected to explain her identity at the hand of a questionable race notion when her male counterpart is given a free pass because his identity and social standing in whiteness is not up for question.

Can Meghan be afforded space and time to be heard in self-defining or is her identity a fate she cannot escape? Markle finds herself caught in the cross-fires of the vocal protagonists of white and black nationalist identities who each deem it their inalienable right to define her, leaving little space if any for her to have her own voice to stand as her father advised her when the white teacher at school encouraged her to tick the Caucasian box since her looks aligned with a white identity. Her daddy’s advice was to ‘draw your own box’. Strangely this was considered profound though her daddy’s advice of an own box is automatically understood and assumed and quantified for biracial as if that was the intent. Incidentally, Meghan’s character in Suits is Rachel. Let us not forget that another American woman Rachel Dolezal tried to draw her own box and the same crowds of nationalist crusaders of race on all sides attacked her till this day. If only the forever bickering race self-appointed police trapped lot regardless to black or white for their bold description can afford others to draw their own boxes? But they won’t relent because their own uncertainty as to who they are is apparently exposed by those who want to draw their own boxes and self-identify.

From the start, Meghan was subjected to a combination of USA race uphold crusaders and the typical British stiff upper lip public scrutiny. In an Elle interview back in 2016 Markle captures the reality of her experience in what she calls a ‘’verbal dance’’ with the following words ‘What are you?’ A question I get asked every week of my life, often every day. ‘Well,’ I say, as I begin the verbal dance I know all too well. ‘I’m an actress, a writer, the Editor-in-Chief of my lifestyle brand The Tig, a pretty good cook and a firm believer in handwritten notes.’ A mouthful, yes, but one that I feel paints a pretty solid picture of who I am. But here’s what happens: they smile and nod politely, maybe even chuckle, before getting to their point, ‘Right, but what are you? Where are your parents from?’ I knew it was coming, I always do. While I could say Pennsylvania and Ohio, and continue this proverbial two-step, I instead give them what they’re after: ‘My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American. I’m half black and half white.’

Meghan’s story is the story of many in a digitally advanced yet growing intolerant and increasing primitive world-society where some deem it their inalienable right to restrict everyone in binaries of black and white for the totality of identity articulation. For them nothing matters but race to describe human beings one way or the other. It is not new for her, yet it now is on the world stage since a British aristocrat decided to fall in love with her and her in turn with him. Love the most natural experience between two human beings anywhere, is not as simple when race is forced into the same space and equation. The story of love is now relayed through the arduous and complicated means of white and black identity frequencies that violently reverberates louder than the common humanity of these two lovebirds, holding the innate potential if not intended to disrupt their love, because race has only regard for itself.

What threat does a self-identifying individual hold for those who defend a group identity in an uncritical claim of either black or white frames? Meghan found herself communicated through the prism of her divorced parents. This later shifted to the issue of her own divorce yet nothing features more prominently than her identity understood in the frame of race. Not that divorce in the British or any other royalty is new, Harry’s parents, direct number one to the throne were divorced after numerous scandals. Harry’s uncle Andrew divorced his wife. Despite this Harry was considered ultra-controversial since he is marrying an American who is black, or as some argue biracial and divorced on top of that. Meghan became a ragdoll for some who are obsessed to demand of her that she owns up to her black princess status and those who want her to be the first bi-racial princess in the history of the monarchy. Both these groups for their own interest fail to afford her any means of an identify devoid of their shared race prism. Dolezal found out that that the world is not ready for self-identification.

Does the evolutionary development of the slaves that came to the United States of America’s identity over more than a century from negroid, to colored later in the 1960’s to black and ultimately in this epoch to African American frames qualify to be disregarded in this conversation of race with convenient binaries of black and white? Those who uphold black for a means of an identity often have the Black Power movement of the 60’s as a departure point for a black identity defense, a time when blacks rose in forms of resistance to assert blackness as the opposite of what whites have portrayed and made known. castigates her for playing down her blackness and accuses her of living up to whiteness. She is accused of aligning more to whiteness by those who want her to be only black their black princess, their black hope to a white a throne. They even go as far as saying Meghan is the type of black, all whites would want blacks to be. Unfortunately both those who defend a black identity and those who claim a white identity for themselves continue to uphold the sick old American one-drop rule, a social and legal principle of racial classification historically prominent that any person with even one ancestor of sub-Saharan-African ancestry (“one drop” of black blood) is considered black (Negro in historical terms), its implications of racial purity being that anyone unable to pass for white in the context of the US racial hierarchy is assigned the lower status of being non-white or colored. The danger of this uphold be it in original or in an appropriated sense is that has the same negative impact for those identified by it.

This one drop blood is on another level made relevant as extended further beyond the proverbial pond, since it is clear some have a ‘’problem” with royal bloodline being ‘tainted’ via Meghan, and the royal family becoming not as “pure” white from then onward. No one is ever asked actual scientific information on blood types (A, O, AB, B), it is as if black ‘blood’ is from a separate and shamed species, like wolf blood or something in that form. Does it not even dawn on anyone that Harry and Meghan might have the same actual blood type for all we know.

Can Meghan just not be a princess why the qualification? Interesting enough both the right-wing hardliner group and the professing liberals who claim and defend a white denotation for their identity also seek to deny her an identity, they too are proactive in not affording her a claim on whiteness. For all of them, Meghan can only be black, she can only be of mixed race or bi-racial, and she must be reminded to own up to these descriptions for her identity since these constitute her real identity. Unlike Kate Middleton, Williams’s spouse Meghan Markle cannot just be a princess in the British Royalty but warrants a qualification of either black or biracial description, not because either she or Harry demands this but those extended themselves custodianship of the global identity police.

Why do we continue to ask people – what are you, until they are compelled to oblige to tell us what we want to hear with race as the anchor tenant? In the short space of publicly dating Harry, Meghan went from first a white to black than mixed and now we are told she is biracial, the latter is peddled in every advert or reference to the upcoming wedding. We are not sure what biracial means unless it is understood directly extrapolated from the binaries of a white and black race frame. Commentators on CNN categorically refer to her as bi-racial, Meghan, herself, also speaks of her being biracial identity. We not sure if that is in self-identification sense, a right she like all of us is entitled to, or if she merely is yielding to the pressure of what the contesting sides in synchronism of race in both black and white may demand of her.

As her interview leads, upon being asked who you are, she chooses to define herself in many ways with helpful tools of a career, interest other than the obdurate race frame, while she knows the forever lurking question, remains, …but really what are you? She concedes telling people you are a writer, actress, a researcher or receptionist is not enough until you identify in the frame of what they have determined an identity. Elaine Musiwa in November 2017 in an opinion piece in Vogue wrote, Meghan Markle is half black. She is biracial. Her father is white, and her mother is black. These categoric, simplistic and close end easy answers on a complex identity is paraded as final when we know social scientists have long concluded identity is not a fixed construct but lends itself increasingly to a more fluid means.

Meghan is only identified by some with the epithet of bi-racialism understood to mean she is of two races for having a black mother and white father. The challenge with this biracial notion of an identity is its narrow application. Firstly, it is borne out by an upkeep of an indebtedness to race as a means to define a common humanity and secondly it is understood in the constricted straight-jacketed sense of white and black colors as singular poles for the claims of race.

At another level for most of these groups bi-racial is only understood in black and white race frames, they do not tell us if this applies to any other inter-marrying groups such as for example a German and a Spanish. We are not sure you if bi-racial is relevant or not in these instances? If one is bi-racial if one is of mixed race descent why is this even an issue when we know the British Royalty in history is hardly Arian but of mixed descent? Why is race narrowly drawn in black and white cloaks? Should we uncritically embrace and bow before race as the means for our identity only because history has determined that so, or can we argue against the maintenance of race for our common humanity?

I wish Harry and Meghan a love rollercoaster they both will enjoy and have natural pleasant memories of, free from the outdated unscientific and toxic racial frames others in their low self-esteem of self-identifying want to force upon them. I wish Meghan to be another princess in the British Monarchy, not a black princess neither a biracial princess but one who will be what she always has been in her heart and beliefs. Can we leave this couple to celebrate love and free them of the cancer of race that hitherto keeps a world constipated and perpetually poor to appreciate a common humanity?

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator & Writer Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation

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