In Defense of Meghan Markle and ‘Angry Black Women’
Allegations of bullying levied at Markle remind us that our character will be attacked by folks uncomfortable with our existence
I’ll never forget the time a former manager, an older White woman, remarked how I wasn’t my usual “peppy self” and hadn’t been smiling as much. Now mind you, this was shortly after the 2016 presidential election, so there wasn’t exactly much to smile about.
It didn’t take long (16 months from my hire date, to be exact) for me to go from “office pet” to “office threat.” My work exceeded expectations, but my temperament apparently didn’t satisfy my manager’s “perky” criteria. Given the mostly White work environment and the cultural climate of the times, I was maintaining the best that I could yet not looked at favorably by my boss. The recent hubbub surrounding Meghan Markle made me think back to my past work experience this week. To be clear, I’m not equating my life experience to that of the duchess of Sussex. After all, people aren’t picking apart my every move on a global scale. But the pressure to perform and play nice in an effort to avoid being labeled the “angry Black woman” is resonant.
This past Wednesday, just mere days before Prince Harry and Meghan’s highly anticipated CBS interview with Oprah Winfrey, bullying allegations against the duchess were published in The Times, sparking online outrage and rightfully so.
As writer Samantha Powell tweeted, “Why even comment on this royal family mess? Because misogynoir infuriates me.”
Same, Samantha. Same.
I’ve been a Meghan fan since day one (okay, maybe not her character on Suits, but still). I shrieked in the doctor’s office when I learned of her engagement to Prince Harry. I woke up early to watch the royal wedding in 2018, and I celebrated last year when a colleague broke the news during lunch that Meghan and Harry had given the royal family a royal “eff you.”
I want them to win. Specifically, I want Black women to win — to be free, to be happy, to be able to be unapologetically ourselves in whatever space we’re in. Sadly, not everyone shares that same desire.
The timing seems more than a bit suspect. Why now? Why the week before the big interview with Oprah that is sure to spill all of the proverbial royal tea?
Harry married an American Black woman, rejected the monarchy, and now the Brits are big mad. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was one big smear campaign, a last-ditch effort/hail Mary, if you will, to tarnish Meghan’s reputation once and for all.
I find it very hard to believe that in the centurieslong tradition of the royal family that suddenly there are HR complaints. (Who knew they even had an HR department?) And I’m not even going to get into the earrings because I know a conveniently packaged PR story when I see one. Allegedly Meghan’s young aides were “pushed to tears,” and two of the staffers were “driven out.” And I’m curious to know if these young staffers were White women.
It shouldn’t matter, but we all know it does.
As someone who has inadvertently made White women cry before (and knows all too well the power behind White Women Tears™), I can’t help but wonder if the same dynamic was at play.
Nothing can go up against those tears, not even a duchess.
Now Buckingham Palace is launching an investigation because the royal household “will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.” Oh, really? And we’re just going to act like Prince Andrew and his reported temper tantrums never happened. Then again, it’s okay for White men to express anger, but heaven forbid a Black woman ever raise her voice.
I’ve been tone-policed a time or two. I hate the notion that I have to watch what I say and how I say it as a Black woman. That I am not afforded the luxury to be angry even when a situation warrants it. I long for the day when Black women are able to express a full range of emotions without judgment, scrutiny, and punitive actions from others.
A source close to Meghan told Harper’s Bazaar: “I hate to say it, but find me a woman of color in a senior position who has not been accused of being too angry, too scary, too whatever in the workplace. It’s sad that it’s happening, but I’m not surprised. These claims are so far from the woman I know.”
And let’s take it a step further because we also know that not all women of color are created equally. Meghan is a Black woman and, if history (shoot, even the present day — hello, Madame VP) has taught us anything, people have a problem with Black women in power.
In a clip from the Oprah interview, Harry admitted he “feared history repeating itself.” After all, his family didn’t protect Diana; why would they protect a Black woman? I don’t know why I expected any different.