Meghan Markle Is a Uniquely American Hero | Opinion

"I feel so bad for both of them, especially Meghan," my mother texted me first thing this morning. Like much of America, she was outraged on Meghan Markle's behalf following the explosive interview the Duchess of Sussex and her husband, Prince Harry, gave to Oprah Winfrey Sunday night.

Americans have developed a visceral attachment to Markle since she married Prince Harry in 2018. And it's tempting to see this attachment as nothing more than our culture's obsession with fame; are our feelings for Markle so different from our fascination with Paris Hilton in the '00s or Kim Kardashian in the '10s?

They are, though. There is something more to Meghan's story, which places her somewhere between celebrity and folk hero in the minds of many Americans.

And Sunday night's interview proved it. Not since the Sons of Liberty stormed Boston Harbor has so much tea been spilled! With shocking frankness, the Sussexes detailed the racism they experienced from the British royal family and the toll it took on their mental health, including driving Meghan to thoughts of suicide. It was hard not to sympathize with the Duchess, even as she sat in a millionaire's mansion talking to a billionaire.

Speaking truth to power in such a candid way is so innately American it made even me—a socialist who once cheered on England in a World Cup match against the USA—ready to fight the Second American Revolution on the behalf of a wealthy aristocrat. Meghan was in turns gutsy and vulnerable, but always unflinchingly honest as she detailed the alleged abuses made against her by a powerful, wealthy, and white establishment.

Americans love an underdog, and a Black girl from inner-city Los Angeles taking on the British Monarchy is the epitome of a David versus Goliath tale. And David versus Goliath tales are the stuff American legends are made of.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex Rosa Woods - Pool/Getty Images

Most Americans don't have the deep-seated respect for the monarchy and for social hierarchies that the British have; we are raised to be suspicious of, not deferential to, the powerful. The actual rules of a monarchy are anathema to us. But the romance of a prince giving up everything to marry his princess, now that we understand, thanks to a steady indoctrination by Disney.

It only added to our love for Markle that the slights she faced on the regular were so racist, like when a BBC broadcaster compared Meghan's son Archie to a chimpanzee, shortly after he was born. And it was a shock; Markle "didn't do any research" before marrying into the family and didn't even know she needed to curtsy to the Queen in private. In other words, she was a typical American.

And we Americans love an underdog, an outsider, a rebel. From the outlaws of the Wild West to hippies of the Haight-Ashbury, we celebrate those who challenge the status quo.

In that way, Meghan's interview ticked all the boxes of a great American fable: a powerful, snobby elite versus a plucky but powerless heroine; a racist power structure versus righteous anger; an American fighting a foreign adversary. All of this, and with a beautiful Hollywood actress in the leading role.

The reason Markle's story resonates is because we see ourselves in Meghan Markle. She didn't come from wealth or privilege, yet she managed to achieve both before the age of 40. In a society that pretends it values neither, but which intrinsically worships both, her story is as aspirational as it is inspirational. Were it not for the royal title, we'd point to her and say to our daughters "that can be you, too" but "only in America."

It wouldn't be true; the very real barriers of race and class and sex that worked against Meghan in the Royal family work even harder against average people at most levels of society. But American fairy tales don't have to be true. They just need to be compelling. Regardless of what you think about Meghan Markle or the Royal family or structural racism or hereditary privilege or any of the bigger political questions raised by the Duchess of Sussex, her story is certainly that.

Skylar Baker-Jordan writes about the intersection of identity, politics, and public policy based in Tennessee.

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