Ever since news surfaced that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were romantically involved, the UK’s Daily Mail, along with a lot of other British media, seems to have found itself unable to discuss the relationship without straying into full-blown racism.
Last November, for instance, the Mail ran a story about Markle’s upbringing with the headline: “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton: Gang-scarred home of her mother revealed — so will he be dropping by for tea?” And now that the two are actually betrothed, the Mail has really stepped up its game.
In an article with the headline—I kid you not—“Now that’s upwardly mobile! How in 150 years, Meghan Markle’s family went from cotton slaves to royalty via freedom in the U.S. Civil War... while her dad’s ancestors included a maid at Windsor Castle,” the Mail traced Markle’s African American ancestry. Because it’s the Mail, the genealogical chart of Markle’s mother’s side was titled “MUM’S SIDE: DIRT POOR IN DEEP SOUTH.”
While the accompanying text did mention Jim Crow-era segregation as context for the poverty faced by black people post-emancipation, using the term “dirt poor” is a huge and gross oversimplification of the situation. I suppose it’s exactly what we should expect from a place like Mail though. The story also said that the Civil War happened because of “the determination of the Confederate states to cling on to their slaves because the cotton fields needed them, and the wealth of the South depended on cotton,” which is also a pretty big oversimplification!
This is par for the course, really. British coverage of the engagement has been laced with either a strange fetishization of American blackness, inextricably tied to poverty or concocted salaciousness (pointing out that Markle’s uncle is younger than her) or colonial nostalgia for the continent of Africa:
Prince Harry has already had to address the racist rhetoric launched at his fiancée, but it seems as long as Markle is a biracial woman, publications like the Daily Mail will only continue to serve up racially insensitive material.