My decision to reject this moment as a victory is rooted in my desire to love myself over the ideals of class and race elitism.
A black princess. An American in the royal family. A person of color as British royalty.
My social media feeds have been inundated with variations of these three proclamations throughout the hours following the announcement of Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle. Women of color, especially, have rejoiced at the upcoming addition of a black woman to what is one of the most illustrious royal families of the historical politico, citing this engagement as a marker of racial progress.
As a human, I am happy for Meghan. I truly am. Finding love—finding a partner with whom you decidedly wish to spend all of your tomorrows—is a timelessly difficult pursuit and the sanctity of their union is by no means discredited. But as a woman of color, I simply cannot muster the same excitement as many of my peers in reaction to a woman of color joining a family that has directly contributed to the devastation of countless communities of color throughout the world over the course of history. The optics are not enough.
I understand that today’s royal family is, arguably, not the same royal family that should be made to answer for the crimes that I will cite. The royal family has lost the political gusto of absolute monarchy in favor of a constitutional monarchy, meaning sovereigns no longer make exigent political decisions like the yester year choruses of, “off with his head!” Rather, the government and parliament make such political decisions while the queen gets to keep her face printed on haphazardly sized British bills. Nonetheless, I find the royal family no less dangerous than when they held an absolute, blood-drained grip on vast corners of the world.
My decision to reject seeing this moment through the lens of progress is directly informed by the historical realities of the British monarchy and how even the darkest of those realities have buried themselves in the passages of history textbooks without as much as an acknowledgment from the descendants of the perpetrators of those horrors. My decision to reject this moment as a victory is rooted in my desire to love myself over the ideals of class and race elitism. This desire prevents me from experiencing this moment as one of success. I cannot gawk at their dresses and crowns without thinking of all of the ways my family’s blood has granted them their riches—my foremother who was a slave in British Guiana or my countless fore-parents who labored as indentured servants for British planters. I cannot see their faces without thinking of the ideological aftermath that still plagues my community in the forms of perceived white supremacy and consequent collective self-loathing.
I do not find Meghan’s proximity to this legacy to be anything worthy of celebration. In fact, I find the celebration of a person of color joining an institution toting the banner of imperialism and conquest to be of superlative derision. The blood on the proverbial hands of the royal family is enough to render them war criminals by the standards of today’s international criminal courts. Their continued silence with respect to this legacy, for the sake of upholding their ornamental wealth, renders them as dangerous as their fore-parents who ravaged my own.
I want to be excited for Meghan Markle. But I cannot be. She is joining a family that has taken so much from me, over the course of centuries. As a multi-racial woman of color, I carry many nations within me. All of those nations have shed tears and blood because of the British monarchy. I cannot beat the drum of victory for a family that my ancestors haunt.