Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are the new international “it” couple, which is due to their unusual family histories: Meghan Markle is a biracial woman of black and white descent while Prince Harry is from pure white ancestry. Their story has been receiving substantial backlash from all sides. The racial charge in many of the comments on their relationship has gone so far that Prince Harry had to release a letter from Kensington Palace urging the nation to discontinue criticizing Markle’s race. What the incident tells us is more than the racial division in the world we live in. It tells us that white beauty is still the dominating stereotype when it comes to dating for, unfortunately, and sadly, both black and white people.
Markle has shaken up not only Great Britain but the entire world when revealing to the public that she was dating Prince Harry. It was never a thought to most people that the royal family would branch out to date someone outside of their race. The image of a black woman does not fit the “right” beauty (or more accurately, the “white” beauty) associated with royalty, which fueled much of the animosity toward her relationship with Prince Harry. Sadly, the criticism is not only from the white. On top of many misconceptions about and distortion of the image of the black female that drives many white men from dating a black woman, it is still a taboo among the black community for black women to date outside of their race.
There is a certain way of conduct when you are a male and female from the black race. These two groups, although of the same race, have different standards on not only how to interact with one another but also with people of lighter skin. For example, it is more acceptable for a black man to date a non-black woman, but a black woman is expected to date another black man. Mixed-race couples are becoming more and more common due to the idea that mixed-race children have more opportunities in America not only to survive but also to thrive and succeed with the help of a lighter skin. Being mixed race, creole or mulatto affords that child a better chance or a head start in a world that is fearful of color. However, among those mixed-race couples, black men are still more common than black women.
There is a rationale that the influx in interracial dating is due to the social stereotype that black women are loud, rude and hostile, thus not attractive. Black women are told that they should wait for the black men to “be ready” for a relationship, that the black men are just “messing around” with other races, especially white women, and will never bring them home to meet their family, and that the women should only patiently wait when the men “turn around” to settle down. Needless to say, this socially constructed custom of dating is detrimental to every party involved, the men and the women, both black and white, and sends all kinds of wrong messages. To black women, they are not attractive enough to have their choice of partners. To black men, all women are expendable. To the white women, they are simply meaningless.
Black women still struggle to find their agency in the fight for equality. For them, the problem is not only to be considered equal to their peers of a lighter skin but to be equal to the men of their own race. For so long have the black women been told not to complain and to silently wait and endure. There are many platforms for racial issues in general, fighting for the equality between the black and the white, but such a platform for gender issues dedicated to black women are hard to find.
An example of the detrimental impacts of a lack of platform in properly communicating black’s women struggle is the highly sexualized image of racism against black women. As Patricia Hills Collins explained in “Black Feminist Thought,” gender inequality for white and black women are world different. The white women may be seen as objects, but still well within the human realm, while black women are debased as animals and dehumanized.
This contrast gives rise to the white ideal of beauty as it characterizes white women as pure and whole, while black women are ravenous and invalid. In other words, the idea of beauty, as perceived by men of all skin color, is built as the opposite of the black women. Collins also points out in her book that people of many races choose not to be with black women because of their independence, education and strength, which are all desirable qualities but obscured by the bias against black women as aggressive, sexual, animalistic and passive.
The recent rise of black feminist thoughts has contributed to pointing out the white ideal of beauty behind interracial dating. Black women should not have to change who they are or follow a certain image in pursuit of a relationship, even if it means going against what society expects out of them in a relationship. Apparently, black women dating outside of their race is synonymous to them stepping out of their given, or rather forced upon, role and character, shattering the social stereotype of passive beings and fight for their own rights.
Meghan Markle is a capable woman with agency, but because she is engaged to a white man, she is reduced to something lesser than herself in the public eye. She goes against the norm in pursuit of her own love and is seen as a traitor to her culture. The whole issue surrounding Meghan and Harry’s relationship tells us that our society is not as progressive as we think and that when we all seek racial equality, we may have left the black women behind with their own problem of gender equality.