Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s story of racism, mental health struggles and the tearing apart of a family did highlight one bright spot: the strength of Black kinship bonds.
Consider producer, director and screenwriter Tyler Perry’s role in the at times grim fairy tale.
In early 2020, not long after they announced that they were “stepping back” as senior royals, Harry and Meghan decamped to Canada. But their newfound peace was short-lived.
“While we were in Canada, in someone else’s house, I then got told, short notice, that security was going to be removed,” Harry recalled to Oprah Winfrey during her two-hour interview that aired on Sunday on CBS. “Suddenly, it dawned on me: ‘Hang on a second, the borders could be closed. … The world knows where we are. It’s not safe. It’s not secure. We probably need to get out of here.’ “
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Salvation came from Perry, who offered the Duke and Duchess of Sussex his Los Angeles home and security for three months as the couple figured out a plan.
Perry’s generosity is touching in its own right. But the act is all the more moving for its cultural and political context.
Many factors contributed to Harry and Meghan’s decision to put distance between themselves and the palace. But the miasma of racism that hovered over Meghan was certainly one of the chief factors.
In one of the most jaw-dropping moments of the interview, Meghan revealed that someone in the royal family had expressed “concerns” over “how dark (her son Archie’s) skin might be when he’s born.”
Harry also discussed how his family routinely failed to support Meghan when the press pilloried her.
“I guess one of the most telling parts, and the saddest parts, I guess, was over 70 female members of Parliament, both Conservative and Labour, came out and called out the colonial undertones of articles and headlines written about Meghan. Yet no one from my family ever said anything. That hurts,” Harry said.
“I know first hand 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,” the tennis phenom wrote on Sunday. “We must recognize our obligation to decry malicious, unfounded gossip and tabloid journalism.”
It’s no little thing, then, that it was a Black person who provided sanctuary to Meghan and her family as they fled, on top of so much else, Britain’s abiding colonial legacy.
Even the interview felt like a collective act, a way for one Black American to prop up another.
“I’ve always valued independence. I’ve always been outspoken, especially about women’s rights, and that’s the sad irony of the last four years: I’ve advocated for so long for women to use their voice,” Meghan said. “And then I was silent.”
These days, when so many people can speak for themselves, the concept of “telling your own story” might seem insignificant. But as the interview made clear, authorship still holds great consequence.
In giving the Duchess a platform, Winfrey helped Meghan move closer to reclaiming her authority from a sclerotic institution.
Or as a friend put the communal feeling in a group chat, “Y’all, two Black women ‘bout to take down the entire royal family.”