Underneath the surface of Oprah’s bombshell-loaded interview with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry, there’s an all-too familiar narrative: that of the token-diverse Black person who’s marginalized by the establishment that initially welcomed her as a symbol of its progressiveness.
Looking at the way Meghan was treated by the media and (according to her and Harry) by royal family members themselves, we can see three social forces at play in her experience: tokenism, colorism, and anti-black racism.
And the case of Meghan Markle reveals just how interconnected these three problems are. We can see this same tokenism cycle in countless contexts, including films and TV shows, which have a huge impact (for better and worse) on our collective assumptions about race.
For mixed race people like myself. or even the Duchess of Sussex, it doesn’t matter how like your complexion is. Because, for come whites there is no identification of the biracial person as anything more than ‘black’.
Meghan’s experience illustrates how these three forces (tokenism, colorism, and anti-black racism) mutually thrive off and fuel each other to maintain existing racial hierarchies.