Nigerian-British Actress and dancer Kelechi Okafor pens an open letter to applaud Meghan- Duchess of Sussex’s choice to live happily-ever-after on her terms.
She has a large online following talking about issues affecting black British women.
When you were a little girl, did you, like me, wonder what happened after the princess married the prince? Did you think it would be what you’re currently experiencing? Probably not. Following the news of you moving to Canada with Harry and Archie, I want you to know that as a Black British woman, I get it.
When people think of Britain they often don’t think of racism. The conversation around race happens more openly in the USA. Racism in Britain is insidious. It festers just under the surface of literally every institution and system that we navigate but we hardly speak about it because, in line with British sensibilities, it is simply impolite to talk of such things.
When it was announced you’d be marrying Harry, I wondered if absolutely anybody had talked to you about the history you’d be joining and the ways of a country you would call home. I kept thinking of that line from Ghost where Whoopi Goldberg’s character deadpans, “Molly, you in danger girl.” From your interview with Tom Bradby, it seems your British friends warned you, still you didn’t think it would be this bad. It’s a shame you had to see a glimmer of the racism Black people continue to face in Britain.
I can’t imagine the frustration you’ve felt watching your integrity be questioned by people like Piers Morgan, who are hellbent on using dog-whistle terminology to communicate their dislike of you which is inextricably linked to your proximity to Blackness. Oh yes, they pretend it’s nothing to do with race. They use cunning means claiming it’s the fact you’re an actress, or you’re American, or in some cases they flat out say they “it’s just something about you.” I wonder what that “something” is?
Probably that same “something” that led to our first Black Female MP, Dianne Abbott receiving 45% of the hate mail sent to all female politicians. The tabloids and ignorant British public claim Abbott’s treatment isn’t “about race” either. They say they just think she’s “incompetent” even though her track record proves the stark opposite.
The very sophisticated nature of racism, and why it thrives in Britain, is that there’s a concerted effort (due to lack of accurate history being taught in schools) to ensure the public is perpetually unequipped to discuss race and racism. Whenever a blatantly racist incident happens, the media fall over themselves to organize inflammatory debates about whether that blatantly racist thing was in fact racist. It’s an elaborate game that the public is incapable of resisting.
I feel sad for the British public really because you seemed rather nice in my opinion, and as much as I have my reservations about the monarchy due to its imperialist past and present, I think your presence could’ve actually helped their image. For a country so desperate to prove their “tolerance” of those deemed as other, embracing you would’ve been their chance to prove that they’re not in fact prejudiced and maybe the Black and brown people who have suffered for centuries because of their actions, might’ve just imagined it. Alas, Britain is so committed to her racism that she isn’t willing to give it up even if it means losing their princely darling, Harry.
Black British women could see exactly what was really being said every time an article spoke about you in ways they would never speak about Kate Middleton for doing the exact same thing. Black British women like myself rallied together and spoke out on your behalf by going on the news, writing articles and highlighting your mistreatment on podcasts. When your son, Archie was compared to a baby chimpanzee literally hours after being born by a well-known radio DJ, we refused for the incident to be swept under the rug despite all who were adamant it was just a harmless joke.
The neuroses of Whiteness manifests itself in Britain in various ways and one of the ways has been made clear since you and Harry have decided to spend less time in Britain. A lot of the British public are very accustomed to the racial violence inflicted on Black people to simply be tolerated. Any push back against racism in this country is met with furor and claims of “reverse racism” which we know doesn’t exist. The fact that you’ve shown your autonomy by choosing to distance yourself from the vitriol makes the dissenting British public and the media furious because, like Diana, they thought you would stick it out for the sake of your family and their “good” name.
We all know what happened to Diana and Black British women are glad you chose your happiness over their bloodlust.
I’m sorry you had to experience the dusty behavior of this woe begotten island. I am glad you were insulated from the maddening violence experienced by the Black people of a lower class in this country. Just as we’ve seen with the Grenfell fire, the government is very happy to deny safe living conditions for working-class Black and brown people.
Meghan, you are creating what happens next when the princess marries her prince, not the ravenous tabloids or ignorant British public. Go get your happily ever after.
A Black British Woman Who Gets It
Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) is writer, multi-award-winning Benz Punani Womanist and creator of @SayYourMindPod and #SallyinHR