Meghan Markle Faced Racism. Where Does That Leave the Rest of Us? | Opinion

"As a light skinned, educated, biracial woman myself, I know how palatable I am for many," I tweeted last night, referring to the bombshell Meghan Markle and Prince Harry interview with Oprah Winfrey. "Now imagine how dark-skinned people are treated, and then add how classism and racism would make it nearly impossible to navigate this broken system."

Black Twitter knows all too well the tight rope walk Markle found herself in.

In the interview, Markle revealed that there were conversations in the royal family surrounding how dark her son Archie would be and the problems that this may cause for them.

Meghan Markle, Zendaya and Beyoncé have become synonymous with Black beauty. While these truths are self-evident, it leaves one to wonder, what does prejudice look like for darker skin men and women who are not celebrities? Where are our darker skinned beauty icons?

I am a biracial woman with long hair. I have a PhD and I am an author.

This weekend for my tenth wedding anniversary, I went to a swanky hotel in downtown Denver to celebrate. I saw a jazz night promotion in the lobby and asked two different people working near the concierge desk if there would be a table available for me. Both workers told me tables would be available around 6:30 p.m.

I went to the hostess and asked for a table after 6:30 p.m. She looked at me and looked at her list and told me no tables were available.

"For the whole night?" I asked.

"Nope, none. I am so sorry," she said with a smile.

I am a communication professor. I study verbal and nonverbal messages for a living. I had an uneasy feeling that this woman was lying to me. As soon as we got to our room, my husband called the jazz hall desk and asked if any reservations were available.

"Several," we were told, unable to see my skin color. "What time would you like?"

When my husband spoke with a manager, he couldn't believe the hostess would tell us there were no tables available. When we left (because I couldn't stay in this hotel), we did notice she was no longer manning the reception desk. I am not sure if she was sent home or just put in the back. I hope a critical conversation transpired.

I don't know for certain if the woman who denied me service did so because I was Black. I just know that I was the only Black woman in the lobby at that time. She lied to me about not having any reservations available. I'm not a detective, but this felt suspiciously painful.

Racism is still prevalent today and Meghan Markle reminded us of that last night.

If light skinned, beautiful celebrities are not close enough to whiteness to receive protection, what do we think would happen to dark-skinned men like George Floyd?

 Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle attends the Commonwealth Day Service 2020 on March 09, 2020, in London, England. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

If Meghan Markle, a literal actress, couldn't be protected, who is going to protect the Breonna Taylors? What about the Black men and women without social status or wealth, who can't secure an interview with Winfrey? Who is protecting them?

A 2009 study from the University of Georgia found that a significant correlation exists with a person's complexion and whether or not they were favored for a job. The authors found "that skin color is more salient and regarded more highly than one's educational background and prior work experience."

Most Americans would agree that there are racial issues in our country.

A 2019 Pew Research Center study found 58 percent of Americans believe racial issues are bad and eight in 10 Black people say that the history of slavery has negative impacts on Black Americans till today. If the majority of us agree that racism is still an issue, perhaps we should start having honest conversations about colorism.

If you Google colorism, the definition that pops up is "prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone." This is exemplified in the comments Markle heard regarding her son—questions surrounding how dark he would be and what he would look like. Colorism is a relic of slavery, where lighter skinned slaves—usually of mixed descent—got special treatment by slave owners when compared to slaves with darker skin.

The book Caste by Isabel Wilkerson makes the case that America doesn't have a race system, but a caste system, where Black people are allotted the lowest possible status.

Some stats that support this highlight how Black people are five times more likely to be stopped without cause than white people. And while white people make up a little more than 60 percent of the total U.S. population, they only account for 41 percent of police shootings that end in death. Black people, however, are only 13 percent of the population and make up 22 percent of fatal police shootings. These figures do not account for police brutality.

"He won't be given security, he's not going to be given a title," Markle said about her son Archie during last night's aired interview.

For many Black men and women who watched, Markle's sentiments felt very surreal and relatable.

If Meghan Markle, along with her white, royal husband—with their supposed net worth of $50 million—are not able to escape the strongholds of white supremacy, where does that leave every day Black Americans without such resources?

If racism can be found at the very top, we are fooling ourselves to think it isn't sucking the life out of those of us who aren't royalty.

Dr. Heather Thompson Day is associate professor of communication at Colorado Christian University and an interdenominational speaker and contributor for Religion News Service, Newsweek and the Barna Group. She runs an online community called I'm That Wife. She is the author of the forthcoming title It's Not Your Turn (June 2021).

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

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