A lot has been said about what the Royal Wedding meant or means for black women, both in the UK and in the rest of the diaspora. For many of us, we watched the event and the surrounding hoopla with mixed feelings. Unsure of whether or not we were allowed to partake in the joy of the moment, or whether we should instead point to the false manufacturing of that joy. In our writers’ group, we discussed how we felt as it happened, and whether or not we should have watched it in the first place. Here are a few thoughts from Of Africa writers.
The Thoughtful Sceptic
Stacey Mac Donald Of Africa Writer and Editor; Netherlands:
I read this comment written by Elaine Welterothl in which she reflects on the racial aspects and the way in which the media seems to embrace the concept of being bi-racial… It triggered me and initially, I honestly was a bit annoyed by it… But I do think she makes a good point.
Read Elaine’s post here:
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I am admittedly not a big #royalwedding aficionado, and I realize some will say it’s an unpopular time to call attention to this, but (YOLO) what I found fascinating about the media blitz surrounding #MeghanMarkle had nothing to do with her status, her dress, or her freckles (although they’re adorable, as is she). It is the media’s sudden embrace of the term “biracial” that has intrigued me most. It marks a first in my lifetime actually. Think about it: in the case of virtually every other “biracial” celebrity we know—many of whom marked historic “firsts,” from President Obama to Halle Berry—the media has used the term “black” to describe them. In most cases, they self-identify that way, too. While we know race is a social construct and racial identity is personal to an extent, in America, one’s lived racial experience is mostly dictated by perception. Your skin tone, hair texture, and other physical characteristics ultimately determine how you are seen, labeled, and treated in the world. In a society that once imposed the “paper bag test” and the “one drop rule,” most of us were never given the chance to choose. We were labeled. Until recently, U.S. Census forms still asked us to check a box: black or white. This in spite of an awareness of the rise of interracial families globally. But, until now, it seemed we weren’t ready to acknowledge them. With the emergence of Meghan Markle, who could arguably pass as “white,” we are forced to see the nuance of racial identity, and to finally embrace the pronounced existence of mixed-race families as part of the beautiful tapestry of our history. On one hand that, to me, feels triumphant and necessary. Seeing a white-passing woman with her black mother as they are ushered into the royal family is an image that will have an indelible impression on us all—whether we verbalize it or not. On the other hand, and some might call this cynical, I can’t help but wonder if Meghan’s skin tone were a few shades deeper, or if she had worn her naturally curly hair, would we be making space for her biraciality? Would the royal family have been ready for its first unequivocally black princess? The moment begs the question.
The Enthusiastic Critic
Julia Chanda Zvobgo Of Africa Writer and Editor in Chief; Netherlands:
As someone who watched Meghan in Suits, I did feel like: ‘hey my girl is getting married!’ but I also didn’t want my predictable self to get sucked up into this vortex. But I did. I don’t think there is anything wrong with celebrating this day/moment because you can go along for the ride and still be critical/aware. When I looked at her crown I was thinking ‘man they sure did swipe some nice jewels…’ but I also saw that their wedding did reflect and celebrate her heritage and that’s a big deal. I’ve replayed and will keep replaying Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir’s ‘Stand by Me’ because it was EVERYTHING! The vocals, the looks (hair, makeup, clothing) and the facial gymnastics 😍. Plus Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon touched on aspects of the dark history by referencing the slave trade. This wedding doesn’t cancel out the past but does give those of us in the present some visual representation, a chance to talk about other related issues such as respectability politics, and colorism.
And of course more Trevor Noah:
The Reluctant Hypocrite
Naliaka Odera Of Africa Writer and Managing Editor; Kenya:
For me, the race of Meghan Markle (now Duchess of Sussex) is I think a big reason why I have been so much more interested in this wedding than the William one. There is a type of savage pleasure I have at the idea of some of the stuffy, racist colonialists of the past learning that there is a trace of black in the Monarchy. But that is also a knee-jerk reaction. When I think about it actually, in reality… this is still a colonial way of thinking. Like that she has ‘made it’ or that we have achieved something, or that her acceptance means a forced global acceptance of black people. None of this, of course, is true. At the end of the day, many of us are still living with conditions, both macro and micro, that have been enforced by the Monarchy. And not just the monarchy in the sense of a large, intangible entity, but the monarch herself, the sitting Queen, oversaw countless colonial and racist decrees. I wonder at the success of the Royal Monarchy’s propaganda all while I tune in to the wedding stream and remark at how beautiful the bride looks. In this, I am a hypocrite to my beliefs. And acknowledge it fully and I’m just here sitting in that discomfort.
The Unabashed Cheerleader
Tasha Tagoe, First time Of Africa Writer; Ghana:
I was excited about the royal wedding, not because of Meghan Markel from Suits, but because I have been excited about Royal weddings since Diana and Charles (1981). I reached peak excitement with William and Kates wedding (2011), even going to Buckingham Palace to see the dress on display and buying the DVD! I’m a fan of Royal Weddings. So on May 19th 2018, there I sat with my long-suffering partner, me squealing and shouting with delight at the screen. You would have thought Ghana was playing in the world cup finals the way I was behaving. After the wedding, I wanted more more more, so I turned to social media. Social media sigh. My eyes had to roll every time I saw some referral to Meghan Markel’s “blackness”. The lady is mixed race, just like Obama is America’s first mixed-race president. I believe it is important to acknowledge all parts that make a person. One can’t just ignore 50% of a person’s genealogy, this isn’t 19th Century America, the “one drop” rule, does not apply. Not only that, we are all more than the colour of our skin. Can someone remind social media that this is 2018, not 1918?
I found the rhetoric of the first royal black wedding over the top. First of all, you could count the number of black guests on one hand (ok, maybe two). If you watch the gospel and classical musical interludes closely, the musicians performing were all mixed, white with a sprinkle of colour (classical) and colour with a sprinkle of white (gospel). It was the Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby) who invited Bishop Michael Curry to preach at the wedding, and Bishop Curry is the first African American to serve in the capacity of Bishop in the Episcopal Church, in other words, Bishop too was coming from a multicultural church, not a “black” church. And finally, the wedding started precisely on time …show me one black wedding anywhere on the continent or in the diaspora which has started on time! If anything at all, I felt the wedding did a good job at illustrating Britain’s multi-cultural nature. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will be purchasing copies of Hello magazine for keepsake and yes, buy the DVD. Harry and Meghan fell in love, both love doing charity work, are now Mr. and Mrs. let’s simply wish them well.