Black Americans’ complex response to Harry and Meghan’s Netflix series –

Bryndis Roberts watched the documentary series Harry & Meghan with tears in her eyes.

An avid royal fan since the days of Princess Diana, she said she cried watching the family being harassed by the tabloids and Prince Harry describing how he and his brother, Prince William, have drifted apart.

But as a 65-year-old black woman who grew up in the segregated American South, Roberts said it was the frank discussions about race and racism that resonated with her the most.

She said she acknowledged some of her own experiences in Meghan’s admission that she felt she constantly had to prove herself and that she would never be good enough.

“I have been called an angry black woman and all the tropes that are used to demean and dehumanize black women, so I certainly empathized and sympathized with [the duchess],” she said.

Race was a central theme of the six-part series, but not in the way many had anticipated.

There were no new revelations about Meghan’s explosive accusation in her interview with Oprah Winfrey that an unnamed member of the royal family had commented on how “dark” her baby’s skin would be.

Instead, the couple used the Netflix show to argue that Meghan’s biracial heritage was often an underlying factor in what they described as a relentless tabloid campaign against her, and more obviously the racist abuse she suffered online.

It’s a narrative Roberts acknowledges. In 2018, he helped popularize the #SussexSquad hashtag when his timeline was inundated with racist comments about Meghan after the royal wedding. The trend quickly amassed a following of men and women around the world, predominantly people of color, who wanted to use social media to support the Duchess and her family rather than tear them down.

“One of the things about dog whistles is if you haven’t experienced racism, or if you haven’t been a victim of it, then you don’t recognize it,” Roberts said. “What may appear innocent to another person, you can see, no, that is not intended to be innocent at all.”

When trolling crosses the line

In the series, Prince Harry revealed that one of the first reactions he saw to the announcement of the birth of his son Archie was a tweet from Danny Baker, a former BBC presenter, who posted a photo of a couple holding hands with a chimpanzee.

“At the top it said: ‘Royal baby leaving hospital.’ That was one of the first things I saw,” Prince Harry said. Baker apologized and was later fired.

American tech entrepreneur Christopher Bouzy told the BBC that the couple’s children were regularly compared to monkeys in online attacks, and the N-word was frequently used against Meghan.

Bouzy appeared on the series after her company, Bot Sentinel, discovered that a small but powerful number of anti-Meghan accounts were responsible for much of the hateful content on Twitter.

“This mimics something from a Russian troll farm,” Bouzy said. “I’m not saying there aren’t people who just don’t like her for some reason, but it’s my opinion looking at the whole picture of these hate accounts that you can’t see that and come to a conclusion. that this is not about race.”

RS Locke, an American royal observer and commentator, claimed that the virulence against Meghan was rooted in misogyny, hatred of a person simply because they are black and female. The documentary series, he said, captured the dramatic change in the tone of media coverage that he had witnessed in the years after the royal wedding.

“The UK, like the world at large, wants to see itself accepting and embracing this very diverse and modern couple,” he said. But the backlash and racist abuse that Meghan says she’s endured since then showed just how far that had to go.

“It’s a tug of war between how we see ourselves and who we are.”

Not everything is black and white

While many black Americans have welcomed Harry and Meghan to speak out about racism, as well as tough topics like the legacy of slavery and colonialism, the Duchess has also been criticized for saying she was shocked by the reality of living. like a black woman.

In the second episode of the series, Meghan deals with what it was like to grow up as a biracial woman in the United States. The Duchess hints that she was never discriminated against or “treated as a black woman” until she moved to the UK.

Growing up, she explained, her mother never had “the conversation” with her, referring to the frank discussion many families are forced to have about the realities of racism, discrimination and the challenges of being a person of color in America.

For some who watched the series, that admission felt like a slap in the face.

“I don’t understand that, how she was raised by an all-black woman in America and then says her parents never talked to her about being black.” a user posted on Twitter. “We are supposed to see her as this black woman, but she was never related to us.”

Others wanted the Duchess to clarify whether she even identified as a black woman before marrying Prince Harry.

Roberts said she felt that statement showed colorism is still an issue in the United States and she did not want to perpetuate that bias by blaming the Duchess for having different life experiences than growing up with a darker complexion.

The couple have started a new life in California.

Many online agreed with her.

“Meghan realizes that being allowed in doesn’t necessarily mean acceptance. Diversity is not necessarily inclusion. one user tweeted. “It’s a moment that most black people have and it’s time to choose whether my seat at the table is worth the pain and humiliation.”

Roberts said watching Harry and Meghan present their side of what happened, and what went wrong, was especially emotional because it felt like a missed opportunity for the royal family.

“It’s tragic that the institution didn’t realize the jewels they had in Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan and didn’t say, ‘These two people can reach members of the British and Commonwealth public that the rest of us don’t. we can arrive. ‘” she said.

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