Their ascensions were both celebrated. Barack Obama was supposed to usher in an era in which America would become a post-racial society. Meghan Markle proof Great Britain was accepting diversity and that “the Royal’s” could look more representative of the Commonwealth of Nations, which is up to 60% persons of color. Despite the rumors that up to six American Presidents may have some Black ancestry and that Britain may have had a Black Queen from whom many of the current Royals are descended. Barack Obama and Meghan Markle are generally considered historic firsts in their respective countries.
Both of them would find that the seemingly universal praise and acknowledgment of their achievement would not last. President Obama was met with a proclamation by then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell early in Obama’s first term that his main goal was to defeat Barack Obama in the next election.
The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.
Princess Meghan faced no future election but was immediately and often compared unfavorably to her sister-in-law Princess Kate, married to Meghan’s husband, Harry’s brother William. In some rather large circles, neither Barack nor Meghan could do anything right, and often the racism was barely concealed.
Barack Obama was the target of the birther movement, claiming he was not born in Hawaii but instead both Nigerian and a secret Muslim. Donald Trump didn’t found birtherism or originate the claim but became the chief ringleader and never clearly denounced the claim. Meghan Markle was greeted by racist headlines in the British Press saying she was “Straight Outta Compton,” another article literally talks about her mother, referring to her Black ancestry.
Miss Markle’s mother is a dreadlocked African-American lady from the wrong side of the tracks who lives in LA.
Being a President or a Princess means you will become the focus of your nation’s attention. The two-party political system in America means that one party will always be looking for something to say about the other party’s leader. In Britain, it seems the tabloid press has little to do but scrutinize the Royal’s and all of them have been subject to criticism, both fair and unfair. Still, the racist attacks on this pair of firsts have exceeded any previous boundaries. The question must be raised: Is the racism expressed in the media and politicians simply a reflection of the nations they represent?
Barack Obama’s wife Michelle and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, have all been depicted as monkeys at different times by politicians, right-wing media, and all over social media outlets’ comments section. Because of the resentment of a Black President in America. Being openly racist has become far more acceptable in America. Hoods are no longer required, and being clearly racist is a prerequisite to running for office in some locales. It’s probable Donald Trump could never have been elected President had he not followed the first Black one. America turned to the most anti-Black candidate available, and he largely gave them what it wanted. A president who spent four years focusing solely on his base’s needs, white supremacists and all.
America didn’t come by its racism by accident. More than any other nation, the influence of Britain shaped our laws and morals. Britain was, for many, the mother country, and part of its racism it got from its mama. The Commonwealth consists of fifty-four nations, many of which are former British possessions. According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, one in one-hundred-fifty members of the Commonwealth currently live in slavery. The head of the Commonwealth is the Queen of England.
One in 150 people in the Commonwealth are living in modern slavery. This represents approximately 15.7 million men, women, and children who are subject to forced labour, human trafficking, domestic servitude, bonded labour, or forced marriage. Given the scale of the problem it is critical that the Commonwealth collaborate to galvanise action to eradicate modern slavery in all its forms.
Racism exists because far too many people either actively support it, casually accept it, or automatically deny its existence. Joe Scarborough reacted by doubting the British tabloids were actively racist until guest Katty Kay cited them tying Meghan Markle to Compton (she’s actually from the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles) and calling her a monkey. The go-to response from most Americans and Brits is to deny the existence of racism which prevents them from having to do the hard work of addressing it.
Barack Obama and Meghan Markle have taken different paths to lessen racism’s impact on their daily lives. Obama completed two terms as President and has ascended to the position of an elder statesman. He can pick and choose his public statements and appearances, a hero to many in his own party though still hated by those who deny racist motives while sharing racist memes and supporting racist policies.
Markle had to leave the country that barely or never accepted her, depending on whom you asked. She had lived seven years in Canada, a Commonwealth nation that was far more accepting than mother England. She and her husband Harry gave up their royal titles of Princess and Prince, respectively. They are still the Duke and Duchess of Windsor though there are calls to take away those titles following their interview with Oprah Winfrey in which she revealed that while pregnant, Harry was questioned about “how dark their baby would be?” The suggestion of racism in both America and Britain is far more serious than actual racism. It has always been thus.
The treatment of the first Black Princess of England was eerily similar to that of the first Black American President. When she traveled throughout the Commonwealth, she was treated as a heroine by those who finally saw a Royal that looked like them. He was heralded as an example that there was nothing a Black person in America couldn’t achieve, though Mitch McConnell and others set about keeping him from achieving anything. Barack Obama’s hair greyed significantly during his two terms as President but came out intact on the other side. Meghan Markle is currently experiencing a wicked backlash from her interview in the British tabloids, while Buckingham Palace has yet to respond. She has acknowledged the strain on her mental health and admitted suicidal thoughts. She’s currently pregnant with what would be their second child after previously experiencing a miscarriage.
The stories of Barack Obama and Meghan Markle have not concluded. Both hopefully will have extended futures in the public eye, like it or not. I consider how long it will be before America has a second Black President or Britain a second Black Princess? I wonder if either will happen in my lifetime?
Previously Published on Medium