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Tuesday, Apr 20, 2021

Meghan Markle’s experiences illustrate the reality of so many black and brown people in white homes

Meghan Markle’s experiences illustrate the reality of so many black and brown people in white homes

I started my week by watching the Meghan and Harry Oprah interview. Meghan perfectly encapsulated the lived reality of so many black and brown people in white homes and relationships.
I know how isolating it is having experiences around race ignored by those closest to you, while living with the baggage and beauty of a racialised identity every day. I know about the existential experience of being told you are not “really” black enough due to your phenotype in some spaces, while having this same phenotype grant you privileges in others.

The feeling of internal dislocation that comes from having part of your racial heritage ignored is where the title of my book, Raceless, comes from: you feel raceless.

If you’d have told me in my early twenties that I’d be launching my first book in the middle of a global pandemic to critical acclaim, I’d have laughed you out of the room. Those years were characterised by chaos and turmoil. I lost my father to cancer shortly after graduating from university, which fractured my family. Then my sense of self was obliterated when, a year later, I discovered through DNA tests, that there was no biological link between me and my amazing father.

I had grown up in a white household with no explanation as to why I looked different and I’d been working on my identity alone for years.

Dad’s death was the catalyst for uncovering the truth about who I was, but it also set me on a journey of examining why there is so much shame associated with black identities in all-white spaces.

I was disappointed with the Palace’s response on Wednesday — “recollections may vary” seems like racial gaslighting to me. But I bet that Meghan kept her receipts. The truth always comes out in the end. I hope that those in mixed families can talk more honestly about the nuances and complexities of navigating race, racism and privilege in their relationships. It seems we’re at the very start of these discussions.

Piers Morgan’s comments around Meghan’s suicide on Good Morning Britain were reprehensible: so many men have a problem with believing women when we simply recount what’s happened to us, and fame and fortune is no protector against suffering from poor mental health.

Piers quitting the show was also a huge display of hypocrisy: he’s slammed Meghan for leaving the Royal Family after years of relenting media abuse, but he couldn’t handle two minutes of gentle critique from co-presenter Alex Beresford who reminded him that his obsession with Meghan began when she cut off contact -years ago. His obsession has now cost him his job.

For my book I interviewed adoptees in white families, parents unsure of how to discuss race with their children, others whose identities have been destroyed with DNA surprise results and people who have uncovered long-held family secrets around their parentage. These things are far more common than you’d think, and the effect of uncovering life-altering information as an adult is similarly debilitating — PTSD, depression, body image issues, grief and anger are all common.

Including these experiences was key to tackling shame and stigma around identities that are formed in hard to describe spaces while educating others on the dangers of family secrets.

We need to answer those questions that are becoming increasingly urgent: what constitutes a personal identity? And how can white people take a colour conscious approach to their intimate relationships, instead of a colour-blind one?
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