Movie Clip from Lifetime's Harry and Meghan: A Royal Romance
We have created race to socially define which groups belong in which category. Race is not about what part of the world you are from. It is not about your DNA. Race is and has always been about defining who will be the have’s vs. the have not’s? In America, The 1924 Racial Integrity Act defined race by the “one-drop rule,” characterizing “colored” persons as anyone with ANY African or Native American ancestry. This law was created in order to place the White population at a higher social status than ALL other people. While the law was overturned, the rule still applies in our society today in terms of determining privilege. Those who look “White” receive higher social-status than those who have “one-drop” of African or Native blood.
Meghan Markle is the child of an African-American mother and a European-American father. Based on how race has been socially constructed in our society (and in the world at large) with one African-American parent, she is a member of a historically and modern-day stigmatized group. To not be White and grow up to be a member of the Royal Family shows how far Europe and the world in general have come. The monarchy has generally been reserved for members of elite White families. However, there is evidence that Meghan is actually NOT going to be the first woman of African descent in the Royal Family. In fact, in 1761 King George the III married Queen Sophia Charlotte (Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz) who was of Portuguese-African descent. She was a direct descendant of Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a Black Branch of the Portuguese Royal family. There are descriptions of Queen Charlotte, such as Sir Walter Scott’s writing that she was “ill-colored”. A prime minister referred to the Queen by saying: “Her nose is too wide and her lips too thick”. During this time, Europe was dealing with anti-slavery politics. Sir Thomas Lawrence (an anti-slavery intellectual) was an artist who painted Queen Charlotte. His beliefs against slavery led him to paint her exactly how she was…a woman of African descent with beautiful thick hair and lips. While many (including the Royal family) did not want to acknowledge her African descent, this painter thought it was important to show her BLACK features in order to promote anti-slavery.
Queen Charlotte paved the way for Meghan Markle to become a member of the Royal Family. Although Meghan is not the first woman of African descent, she is the FIRST to be acknowledged to be Black (outside of a painting) and to have her Blackness celebrated around the world. We have come a long way! Meghan and Harry will be getting married on Queen Charlotte’s birthday (5/19) at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, the site of Queen Charlotte’s grave. The Lifetime movie, Harry and Meghan: A Royal Romance, also paid tribute to Queen Charlotte with the clip seen above where Queen Elizabeth tells Meghan about Queen Charlotte’s African descent. Because of Meghan Markle being celebrated today, hidden histories about powerful women of African descent are being revealed.
What About the Children?
I have conducted studies showing that by age 5, young children hold stereotypes that White characters are of a higher-status (i.e. smart, pretty, good, preferred to play with, liked more) than characters of color (Black, Brown, Latino, Asian). While times are getting better and we finally have one Black Disney princess, one Black superhero and have even had one Black president, there are still a lack of positive representations of people of color in high-status positions. We need more!!!! The more examples that children get to see of people color being considered smart, pretty, nice, princesses, kings, queens, superheroes and presidents the more children and adults will embrace people of color. Humans have the tendency to stereotype because the brain likes to categorize in order to learn about the world. Its human nature. But in order to stop stereotyping and learn knew information, we must see and experience new things. The more we experience positive examples of negatively stereotyped groups, the more we have to incorporate new knowledge into how we view people. Queen Charlotte and Meghan Markle are new information for the world to see and learn that women of African descent in the past and TODAY can achieve whatever they put their minds to. Queen Charlotte made it possible for Meghan, and Meghan is going to make it possible for future little girls of African descent.