8 Powerful Women Who Spoke Out Against Racism Following Oprah’s Meghan & Harry Interview
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry sat down for a two-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday to discuss the microaggressions and racist treatment that led them to step away from the royal family.
The interview comes a year after the couple announced their plans to give up their royal titles and move out of the United Kingdom and outlined details of how the royal family and members of the institution — referring to the whole group of people who manage the monarchy, including senior advisors — created a toxic environment for them.
Markle discussed some of the effects the events she experienced had on her, most notably bringing up an instance where an unidentified person wondered how dark her son Archie’s skin would be when she became pregnant with him in 2018, and what his skin color would mean for the royal family.
Around the same time, the institution relayed to Prince Harry that Archie would not have security or be given an official royal title after his birth.
Around the world, people bear witness to the damaging effects of racism on a daily basis, from institutional barriers that prevent the achievement of equality to the mental and physical toll taken on people who experience racism every day.
While Markle discussed the effect of racism on her personal mental health, her experience is not unique. Here are five reactions from powerful women of color that show support for Markle — and highlight the need for action in combating racism worldwide.
In a short yet powerful message on her website, Beyoncé has shown her support for Meghan Markle following the eye-opening interview.
“Thank you Meghan for your courage and leadership. We are all strengthened and inspired by you," Beyoncé said in her statement.
This isn't the first time she has shown her support for Markle, in 2019 she and husband Jay-Z paid tribute to her by accepting the Brit Award for Best International Group — in the midst of America's Black History Month — in front Markle's royal portrait. Earlier this week the artist also included Markle in a post on her website that salutes “The Rule Breakers” for Women’s History Month, commending women who are challenging the status quo in order to tell their stories.
2. Serena Williams
American professional tennis player Serena Williams tweeted her support for Markle on Sunday night, writing of her own experiences with racism.
“I know firsthand the sexism and racism institutions and the media use to vilify women and people of color to minimize us, to break us down, and demonize us,” Williams wrote. “We must recognize our obligation to decry malicious, unfounded gossip and tabloid journalism."
Racism against Markle has been a consistent theme throughout the couple’s relationship. When she and Prince Harry first began dating in 2016, both blatant and subtle abuse in the British media caused Prince Harry’s communications secretary to issue a statement on the couple’s behalf, writing that a line had been crossed.
“Some of [the abuse] has been very public — the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments,” the statement said.
The couple said that one of the most upsetting parts about the royal family’s treatment of Markle is that they never condemned “the colonial undertones of articles and headlines written about Meghan,” while members of parliament made an effort to denounce the racism she experienced.
3. Amanda Gorman
Meghan was the Crown's greatest opportunity for change, regeneration, and reconciliation in a new era. They didn't just maltreat her light--they missed out on it.— Amanda Gorman (@TheAmandaGorman) March 8, 2021
During the interview, the United States’ first National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman tweeted that the monarchy could have set an example for future generations by welcoming Markle into their family, but that their actions instead did the opposite.
“Meghan was the Crown's greatest opportunity for change, regeneration, and reconciliation in a new era. They didn't just maltreat her light — they missed out on it,” Gorman wrote.
4. Roxane Gay
One thing is qwhite clear. The royal family desperately wants to be popular but they cannot stand when someone marries into the family and soars to popularity they will never, ever have. They are big mad that Meghan modernized the monarchy. Or would have, I guess.— roxane gay (@rgay) March 8, 2021
Roxane Gay, American writer and social commentator, had a similar response to Gorman, writing that Markle could have modernized the royal family had they decided to reject racism and indifference.
“One thing is qwhite clear. The royal family desperately wants to be popular, but they cannot stand when someone marries into the family and soars to popularity they will never, ever have. They are big mad that Meghan modernized the monarchy. Or would have, I guess.” Gay tweeted.
5. Brittany Packnett Cunningham
Up thinking about how real racial trauma is, how it takes years off our life, and how so few systems-mental health care included-are prepared or are even trying to be prepared to support people through it.— brittany packnett cunningham has 3 names. (@MsPackyetti) March 8, 2021
American activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham tweeted in response to the interview throughout its 180-minute airtime, writing about the mental toll that experiencing racism has on people of color everywhere.
“Up thinking about how real racial trauma is, how it takes years off our life, and how so few systems — mental health care included — are prepared or are even trying to be prepared to support people through it,” she wrote.
6. Bernice Albertine King
Racism is a traumatizing threat to the mental, physical, and economic well-being of millions and millions of people.— Be A King (@BerniceKing) March 8, 2021
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.
American minister and CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Bernice Albertine King, shared a similar sentiment, writing about the evils of racism and how ignorance will only allow it to prevail.
“Racism is a traumatizing threat to the mental, physical, and economic well-being of millions and millions of people,” King tweeted. “It’s not a difference of opinion. It’s not an illusion of the ‘woke.’ It is a pervasive evil. Let’s decolonize our minds.”
7. Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott says accusations that Meghan bullied a member of staff feel like "tit for tat", adding "I deplore bullying, whoever it is from, but I think there's a degree of scepticism around these belated claims against Meghan Markle"— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 8, 2021
Read the latest: https://t.co/TXQNwySKhDpic.twitter.com/bMnDsTZq5t
Britain's first ever Black MP knows a thing or two about abuse.
Data from Amnesty International revealed that in the run up to the UK general election in 2017, half of all the abuse sent to female MPs was directed at Abbott. And in response to the royal interview, she spoke out about how she related to Markle's experience.
“The relentless negativity and abuse is awful," Abbott said. "It’s not just any one article or tweet, it’s knowing that day after day, there are going to be abusive tweets and stuff on Facebook. Day after day, you’d open a newspaper and see an article, or a news story, which completely distorts your position. And above all, there’s a presumption that you’re not human.”
Abbott urged Black women to be more open about their struggles with mental health — and criticised the trope of the "strong Black woman" as an ingrained image that prevents people from seeking support.
8. Leigh-Anne Pinnock
.@LittleMix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock shows love and support to Meghan Markle on #InternationalWomensDay:— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) March 8, 2021
“Too often we disregard a woman’s emotions and mental strength. No more.” pic.twitter.com/4W2tgxfASH
The Little Mix star is known for speaking out against racism.
She filmed a documentary exploring colorism in the UK with BBC Three last year, and shared her own experiences facing racism as a child in a Channel 4 documentary called The Talk.And on Monday, she praised Markle's strength and determination for making her voice heard.
"Too often we disregard a women’s emotions and mental strength. No more," she wrote on Instagram. "Today, I urge anyone within a position where by they feel silenced, underrated, overlooked, or less than, to speak up and speak out. It was the best thing I ever did and I know there are women all around the world holding pain within, out of fear of not being heard and taken seriously."
"We owe it to each other as women to stand together and put a stop to gender inequality and race inequality," she added.