Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Shot Heard 'Round the World

On the Sunday morning before the great Harry and Meghan interview, one of my Facebook friends posted that if one is going to take aim at the Crown, they better not miss. On the morning after, my response was:

Once again proving that America was right to disentangle itself from that Empire of inbreds and soggy tea bags.

As every Black man on social media shook his head and reminded us that we (Black women) should have known better than to have thought that the British Royals had evolved, I just want to remind them that we have also been telling everybody to listen to Black women, because as confirmed by Prince Harry, it saved his life.

Now, this won't be a finger wagging versus pearl clutching piece, because all of that was done in the moment. What Harry and Meghan did was remarkable, not for what they said, but that they actually said what they said. It was astonishing that they were willing to take aim at the Establishment, considering that it has likely led to permanent exile. And they seem fine with that, which is exactly the same energy we got from Princess Diana years ago when she gave her tell-all eff you interview that similarly revealed the dingy lace doilies under the Windsor tea sets. 

I won't re-state too much of what has already been said because the so-called Royal watchers and gossip columnists who make their living as the 'anonymous palace sources confirm' on any given topic have already done that. Some of them even started in on Meghan and Harry days before the Oprah delivered the goods. And even though we knew that the royal media reaction from the usual suspects was going to be anti-Meghan, who knew it would be so personal Piers Morgan and Megyn Santa-is-white-and-Jesus-too Kelly

There were bombs bursting in air aplenty, but there was also a lot that was unsaid. I want to know why Harry felt it was no big deal to drop that bomb about his Dad not taking his calls, but shut down and refused to discuss his brother. I want to know why Kate Middleton made Meghan cry the week of her wedding over flower girl dresses. I want to know how many pieces of silver the Thomas Markle branch of the family tree was paid to feed these destructive narratives to the British tabloid press about our American Duchess. I want to know which bitch in the House of Windsor had the audacity to question how the world was going to respond to my ginger brown nephew and forthcoming niece. 

(Yeah, Harry has now officially been adopted by the Diaspora, so Auntie YaYa is ready to throw hands.)

I know that we aren't British subjects and that most of you woke folks don't care. And that's your preference, even though y'all care a whole lot about Beyonce and her overpriced Ivy Park underwear. You can judge me or judge yo mamma.

Let's start with the Windsor family drama of son versus father (future King) versus brother (future future King). Prince Harry, who has known all of his life that he would never ascend to the throne, assumed it was his job was to make the others look good for their future roles. So he and his bride got to work, attending fancy dress parties and watching the soldiers march back and forth. Then the Queen sent them abroad to Australia, where even the kangaroos and the dingoes were charmed by them, so methinks somebody got all jeally. Suddenly Meghan is a baby-bump rubbing bitch who is draining the world of its water to supply her avocado toast cravings. And poor Katie M's feelings were hurt over some flower girl dresses worn at a wedding that wasn't hers to micromanage. Someone had herself a little Bridezilla dare she?

Mind you, none of those little darlings came from the bride's family. Not her little cousin Imani or her nephew Freddie because they couldn't make the multiple trips overseas for the fittings. In fact, the only member of Meg's family to attend the wedding was her Mama because her Daddy acted up and got himself disinvited. Imagine how that conversation went down, so yeah, Katie, I'm the bride. Because if my Aunt Ruthie was here...oh yeah, that's right, I can't even invite my own family to my own damn wedding. She and the rest of my Cali folks have to wake up at 3am to watch it on TV. Woosah!

And as Meg stormed off to dry her face, a confused Katie M wonders aloud: whatever was that about and what is a woosah? I think she insulted me. Who does she think she is? I am the future future Queen!

We know the deal. Make a white woman cry and everybody has a handkerchief.

Sometime during that transition between trimesters when all hell breaks loose because of hormones, and Meg is trapped in the house with nowhere to go because they have her car keys, her driver's license, her credit cards, and her passport, she questions her existence. She looks in the mirror and sees that belly, the changes in her appearance, and endures all of the various ailments that accompany pregnancy in the midst of strangers. Then she looks at the news and sees the unflattering pictures and divisive headlines, and she wonders how did I get here. So she senses that she's on the edge and asks for help, but some bitter lemon with too many hairpins in her chignon reminds her for the umpteenth time that you, actress Meghan Markle, are lucky to even be here. A million girls would kill to live in this palace. And after hearing that sentiment spat at her for the umpteenth time, Meghan snaps at a member of the household staff for not doing something the way she had asked for it to be done, always nicely, but persistently for months.

The rattled staff member huddles with the others after hours to gossip about the Duchess and her moodiness of late. They joke that she's eating a lot more ice cream and how she looks heavier than Katie M did when she was at the same point in her previous pregnancies. That's the Black half of her asserting itself, it's in the genes. And they all snicker, but in that space after the laughter stops, someone asks does that mean the baby will have big lips or a broad nose? Unbeknownst to the gathering, Harry has come home and overhears part of the conversation. Three staffers are dismissed.

Later at some informal event attended by the future King and the future future King and other assorted royals, Harry mentions that he let some of the household staff go for making insensitive remarks about Meghan and the baby. An awkward silence follows, broken by the query that later becomes his great awakening...well, have you thought about what the baby will look like, how dark will it be? Harry's eyes narrow, and he abruptly but politely excuses himself to go home. 

Meghan is sitting in the dark in their bedroom, alone and crying. One of the Markles is on television again. Earlier in the day, Mrs. Bitter Lemon Curd let it slip that their child probably won't get an official title, because what is the precedent for such a thing? And once again, Harry hears another dehumanizing reference to his unborn child. When Meg tells him that three staffers quit and Mrs. Lemon Curd suggested that it was starting to reflect poorly that she couldn't get along with the household staff, Harry reassures her that he will handle it (hence another reassignment the next morning). In the middle of the night as he tosses over the references made to his unborn child as an 'it' and 'such a thing', he finds his wife sobbing in the bathroom. And in the jumbled way that the pregnant mind expresses itself, she asks, am I that terrible for wanting this task done as I had asked for it to be done so many times? Was it a breach of protocol to make such a fuss? Do you see how they talk about you in the press? Maybe you would be better off without me. 

And two days later, after the picture of Meg in the blue sequinned dress is published, he informs her of his plans for their escape.

After thinking through what it must have been like for them in that fishbowl, I am amazed that they lasted as long as they did. The most common refrain I've read: she should have known what she was getting herself into. As if. Among those who are reading this and are/were married, did you know? Did you walk down that aisle into the happily ever after you dreamed it would be, or did you wake up to bills, kids, in-laws, illnesses, and other assorted drama? What should she have known--that after the grand spectacle of a wedding and the eyes of the world upon them, the press would decide that they could sell more papers by pitting her against her sister-in-law? The sainted Katie M, who already had the advantage of having been William's college sweetheart and mother of the future future future King? Meghan just wanted to enjoy her fairy tale and Harry thought he knew his family.

Having just watched and written about Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, the Windsors have proven to be the real life Drayton family. They were welcoming of Meghan in the beginning, because what other choice did they have? Who was going to tell Harry otherwise as we were all taken in by the whirlwind of excitement (I certainly was). And even when there were less careful and thoughtless faux pas, like when that cousin showed up for brunch wearing that tacky Blackamoor brooch, we turned the other cheek and assumed she was an outlier. But no, that's still Meghan who is the raisin in their milk. 

Turns out, there is a precedent for granting official titles to divorcees who marry into the Queen's extended family. Meghan married into the immediate family in the direct line of succession but is not a princess for whatever archaic reason, and we're supposed to believe that the Queen doesn't have the authority to waive protocol. Regardless of their personal affection for each other, in my mind Meghan was right to feel some kind of way about being expected to work on the level of a senior royal without any of the perks (other than a closet full of designer clothes).

So let's go through the checklist of disappointments and microaggressions: the Firm's golden padlock on their gilded cage; unfair comparisons to Katie M in the press; untrustworthy and disloyal household staff; the betrayals and bullshit from her own father; and the wounded ego of some dude who bought her drinks five years ago.

If your reaction to all of that is to shrug and dismiss her as some spoiled rich chick with royal problems, Auntie's got something to say about that as well. We care about all kinds of business that isn't ours, but when it comes to a Black woman in distress, suddenly the world is all cried out. All of this emotional bandwidth for the Queen and Katie M--also two rich chicks with royal problems, but hint that the difference in responses might have something to do with race, then we're being unfair. Y'all get madder at the implication than the facts. We are talking about a family that symbolizes a global colonial empire. She's not the only commoner in the ranks, nor is she the first American. But...

I won't say it, but ask why everyone is so polarized. Ask why her choices become full-blown scandals that would otherwise be written off if she were someone else. Even her jewelry is controversial despite the fact that half the Crown jewels were mined from former colonies of the Empire in Africa and Asia. Shall we talk about where they get their tea and sugar too? But go on and tell us how Markle is just a pampered princess; nevermind that y'all still wouldn't have any more sympathy for a poor Black woman. You would berate her for her bad choices. You would tell a middle class Black woman who spoke up about her mental health issues during her pregnancy to go home, light a candle, and meditate--and then possibly watch her die in childbirth. You complain about the tax dollars being wasted on public housing, Head Start, and food stamps for people who work for minimum wages. But corporate welfare and propping up an archaic monarchy aren't proof of any kind of implicit bias.

Your lack of empathy for Black women, regardless of class isn't a revelation to us. But Harry's love is. 

And the shot heard 'round the world is that Diana's baby boy is a better man and a real Prince, with or without the formal titles. I read Her Majesty's statement. Protect your Crown madam, while your grandson protects his wife and children. And don't trouble yourself to investigate who said what, because the allegations alone are an indictment of the institution, rather than individual actors. That you would make this statement now, but said nothing until now is the point.

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