A couple of days ago, the news broke on Prince Harry‘s engagement to Meghan Markle; a biracial American. There were a lot of well wishes and excitement online afterwards…including a sentiment from the Black community mostly, that Britain now has it’s first Black princess. Besides the fact that she probably is not Britain’s first Black princess, the overall hoopla surrounding the news is lost on me.
My guess is that as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to see race as a social construct, and not a valid label for human beings. In the United States, there were laws that defined race. If you had one Black great-great grandparent, or 12.5%, you could be considered Black. Now I obtained an ethnicity profile on my DNA and I’m 10% European (which was a surprise). I’m also 20% South Asian (which was not a surprise). Does anyone look at me and say that I am anything other than Black/African-American? No. Why? Because of how I look.
Ms. Markle wrote a very erudite piece for Elle magazine a couple of years ago where she admitted that she had been advised (by a teacher) to identify as Caucasian…simply because that is how she looks. Or, she looks more European than African.
I am not British, in fact, I’ve never even been to the UK. But from what I hear, they hold similar ideas where a biracial person who is part Black is just lumped together with the Black community. But let’s be real here…if someone did not reveal Ms. Markle’s ethnic background to me, I would not know what race she is.
This cannot be said about our previous President, Barack Obama, who was also biracial, but ‘looked’ more like a Black man then anything else.
Coincidentally, Ms. Markle was previously married to, and is now engaged, to a White man. Mr. Obama’s spouse is Black. I’ve heard no one give a hat tip to Michelle Obama for being in an interracial relationship. Now, that is not a consequence of how they look physically…but it does influence their ongoing social perception. The true crime here is that biracial people are made to pick one side or the other; ignoring biology and ignoring their own wishes regarding self identification.
Let’s get back to the British royal family. European monarchs come from a shallow gene pool. Nevertheless, there were some more ‘exotic’ lineages; one of which was that of Queen Charlotte, Queen Victoria’s paternal grandmother, who was descended from Portugal’s royal family…which was said to have African blood in its ranks (not so far fetched…given Portugal’s proximity to Africa).
Now Queen Charlotte is at least 5 or 6 generations removed from Prince Harry. But it still demonstrates that most of us, even in the closely bred British monarchy, are not 100% of any one race. Even if Prince Harry’s racial classification is firmly Caucasian, that will not be the case for the children he sires with Ms. Markle. Or will it be?
You see where I’m going with this. When do we cease being Black? Why do mixed race people who have African ancestry need to be claimed by the Black community anyway? Frankly it is not fair and it certainly is not an ego booster to the African diaspora.
A friend of my son’s father saw him for the first time last month. He remarked to me that to be biracial, “He looks pretty White.” This wasn’t an earth shattering revelation to me, but I still did not like hearing it. It is like there is this preconceived notion of what a biracial White/Black person should look like. And that should not be. Just like there should not be any preconceived notion of what a Jew looks like…regardless of the shared physical features among the majority. Our appearance is just a teaser anyway…a hint of what we are made of. It is not the judge and jury of what we are.
That is the ideal anyway.
The reality is we are judged on how we look. And from the looks of things, Meghan Markle fits in just fine with the Windsors.
Now when one of them hooks up with someone that looks like Erika Alexander or Wesley Snipes, then we can revisit this topic.