African Royals? Eh, Not So Much

Well, look who decided, after all the fanfare surrounding the wedding of “Suits” actress Rachel Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of Wales, to finally acknowledge African royalty?

Holier-than-thou, pro-Black, anti-swirling vloggers, that’s who. You might have encountered some of them, the purists who create videos fervently preaching against, among other things, the sin of identifying anyone mixed or biracial as Black. They make long-winded screeds denouncing interracial couple vlog channels. They lecture at length about the proper way to promote dark-skinned Black women. (Hint: It changes, depending on what set them off.)

Ariana Austin Married Joel Makonnen aka Prince Yoel, the great-grandson of Haile Selassie on September 9, 2017. Haile Selassie was the last emperor of Ethiopia.
Sources: The New York Times, via Instagram

Almost as soon as news of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of Wales’ engagement broke, women’s mainstream e-zines ran silly stories proclaiming that Meghan Markle’s engagement gave Black women hope. I’m sure that it did for some Black women, especially for those yoga loving, globe-trotting, racially ambiguous types whose crisp white shirts, smooth voices, messy buns, and caligraphy skills endeared her to a crowd that would introduce her to an heir to an old European dynasty. But for those Black women who do not live in the outer reaches of what it means to be Black, for those who have medium-deep to deep-dark complexions, this was a pleasant distraction at best. (OK, for me it was more like an excuse to get up early, camp out on the couch in the TV room and watch Serena and Oprah show everyone how to wear hats and fascinators to a church wedding.)

The fawning over Meghan’s engagement had about as much intellectual nutrition substance as a box of Cheez-Its, but we liked munching anyway. In no way did the women in my circles actually believe that Meghan Markle’s experience and triumph of love was an indication that the tide of public opinion was turning in our favor. That the world was ready to see us as softer, more vulnerable, and more receptive to the care and attention of a rich, influential and handsome man. I wasn’t teaching my daughter that, and none of my friends were indulging in that fantasy for their girls, either. What we can learn from this, and previous royal weddings involving Black American women (and American women in general), is that foreigners are drawn to the openness, vibrancy and juvenescence that underpins American culture. The Black women marrying these foreign royals are accomplished professionals and have strong followings in philanthropic and social circles. They deserved more shine than the “not Meghan Markle again” treatment. 

When this spate of videos started cropping up, as a counter-balance to the so-called “we have a Black princess, y’all!” narrative, I thought: Well, great. Were they truly interested in normalizing feminine portrayals of Black women, how about giving their readers whatever scraps of updates they could find about their social engagements? Surely Princess Keisha, other African royals and even Ariana Austin have speaking engagements, attend brunches and do other things that reflect the more feminine image that these vloggers are promoting? They are, after all, Black princesses!

I think a few Web sites, who don’t know Black women very well, spun the angle of Meghan Markle winning for Black women as a way to get mileage out of the wedding. Sounds like our social critics who want to “promote dark-skinned Black women properly” were after the same thing.

 

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