Why Meghan Markle’s Interview Won’t Stop the Racist Media
Meghan Markle's day arrived, and she was ready for it. After a wedding with Prince Harry that made international news, Markle went on the air with Oprah Winfrey on March 7, 2021, to set the record straight. What we heard was disheartening, but it wasn’t shocking. Her experiences with both the royal family and the British media were in stark contrast to those of her sister-in-law, Kate.
Meghan Markle was hesitant to state the cause outright, but it doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines. The difference between Meghan and Kate had nothing to do with character, class or nationality. It had to do with skin color.
The media shows that racism is far from dead.
To people of color, this isn’t breaking news. Meghan’s interview confirmed what they’ve been saying for years — that racism is far from dead, and our media perpetuates it without hesitation.
Before you say that we’ve come a long way, look at these headlines.
The media treated Meghan Markle drastically different than Kate Middleton.
The difference between the portrayal of Meghan Markle, a woman who identifies as mixed-race, and the lily-white Kate Middleton, is undeniable. The media made Kate into an angel, and it was frighteningly easy for them to cast Meghan as the devil.
But wait, didn’t Meghan just break new grounds? She was interviewed by Oprah, a Black woman and one of the best interviewers of all time. It aired internationally, and 17.1 million people tuned in to watch. Thousands more are showing their support on social media. Shouldn’t we celebrate that?
We should absolutely applaud the bravery and accomplishments of both women, but we should be angry that we still need to have the same conversation about racial inequalities that we’ve been having for centuries.
Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview was the start of the conversation, not the end of it.
Our laws have changed on paper, but in practice, there are layers upon layers of systemic inequality. Oprah is being hailed across the web as the “GOAT” of interviewers, but let's not forget that it was infinitely harder for her to become the woman she is today because of her race. The experience of Meghan Markle, a biracial young woman, has proved that not much has changed.
Yes, she’s in the news, but she’s in the news because of the abuse she suffered from both the media and the royal family. If you think abuse is an exaggeration, she allegedly begged to be allowed to seek help for ongoing suicidal thoughts. She was denied. That’s abuse, plain and simple.
Some have argued that the decisions of “the firm” had nothing to do with race. But had her skin matched the swans in the palace pond, do you really think we’d be having this conversation?
The media is still racist because we allow them to be.
The media is in the game for one thing and one thing alone: money. The vast majority of publications are in it for profit. They’re businesses, and that’s just how business works. Sadly, most of them value profit above all else — and that includes ethics. They publish stories that sell, even if they’re untrue or damaging. Even if they’re racist. Tabloids are particularly guilty of this, but they’re far from the only ones.
The thing is, you don’t have to agree with a racist article to pad a racist publication’s pockets. The dollars add up as the comments and clicks trickle in, regardless of the intentions behind them. Publications continue to post inflammatory, hurtful content because it works.
But here's how you can help.
The only way to change this hurtful system is by breaking down their sinister business model. You can do this in a few ways.
Be Selective About What You Read
If an article seems like clickbait, don’t open it. If a title has racist undertones, don’t read it. The fewer views racist content gets, the less it will be published.
Learn to Recognize Racial Bias
White people, Prince Harry included, can never truly experience what it’s like to be a person of color. We have to accept the fact that having good intentions doesn’t mean we’re incapable of contributing to a racist system. The devil is in the details.
In Heather McGhee’s book, “The Sum of Us,” she addresses the discrepancy of how the media covers criminal activity in the U.S. Specifically, she writes that white people make up 69 percent of criminal arrests in the U.S., but they only represent 28 percent of the crime reports on TV news, where specifically Black people are dramatically overrepresented. Just think about how that alone manipulates the racial narrative.
So, if a headline is trashing a person of color for something innocuous (like in the ones pictured in this story), don’t read the article. If a website, magazine or paper constantly spins stories about people of color in a negative direction, stop following them. We all turn to the media for entertainment, but before we click out of curiosity, interest or even anger, it’s imperative that we consider how the impact of that click might affect racial discrimination.
Understand the Power of an Audience
One click seems like nothing. To a reader, a click is harmless. To the subject of slander, a click is anything but. Each click amplifies the voice of the media and muffles the cries of its victims. When Oprah asked Meghan Markle if she was silent, or if she had been "silenced,” Oprah already knew the answer.
One click can quickly add up to thousands. And thousands of clicks tell a tabloid that being racist pays. The same goes for TV broadcasts, streaming services and every other form of media and entertainment. Don't tune in and feed the beast. If people stop tuning in, ratings go down, and advertisers leave. When bottom lines get impacted, that is when editorial policies change.
Just take Piers Morgan and Alex Beresford as an example. Alex Beresford, a weatherman, called out Piers for his harsh criticism of Meghan Markle, and Piers couldn't take it. He walked off the set of his own show. To create lasting change, we need more people like Alex Beresford to step up, speak up and call out biased representation in the media.
The audience holds the power. And you’re the audience.
Our current reality isn’t great. Systemic racism didn’t disappear after the civil rights movement — it just got a lot better at hiding in plain sight. Meghan Markle brought it to our attention yet again, but how many times do we have to read the same headline to act up?
Let's not forget that just this past July numerous authors, including J.K. Rowling and several other white writers, signed a letter calling for "fair" journalistic practices that completely missed the point.
Journalism rarely is fair to people of color, which is why 160 journalists and academics rebuked the letter, stating that "the Harper’s letter signers fail to address systemic silencing of minority voices." And on March 10, 2021, Iowa reporter Andrea Sahouri was found not guilty after being arrested while covering a Black Lives Matter protest in summer 2020.
While both of these offer glimpses of hope in regard to how the media covers racial issues, we still need to do our due diligence on what we read. Until now, we’ve enabled the media to continue posting racist content by showing up to read it, but we do have the power to change that by refusing to be part of their audience.