By Karolina Jalowska
After Prince Harry confirmed that he was dating Toronto-based actress Meghan Markle, best known for her role in the television show Suits, there was a whirlwind of media attention. Naturally, every major newspaper and media outlet tried to get information about Markle as news related to the royal family is always somehow worth reporting. The media quickly became obsessed with finding out information about the actress and it seems they could not get past her race. The media has been critical about Markle not only because she is dating the Prince Harry, but because she happens to be half Caucasian and half African-American. The issues surrounding racism towards Markle have caused Prince Harry to publish a statement addressing the media’s unethical and inappropriate coverage of their relationship and more specifically, his girlfriend.
Meghan Markle has unfortunately become another victim to black racism in the media. Black racism is an ongoing issue even in the 21st century. It is unfortunate that the media takes it upon themselves to distort their stories so that black celebrities are ridiculed and depicted more harshly because of their race. Racism in the media is strategically veiled in stories for an appearance to be fair and unbiased. In other instances, it is apparent that the media deliberately misconstrues information.
In this case, the media took Markle’s race and placed negative connotations to it in their stories. Since Markle is well-respected as an actress, her race is the only thing evident enough to turn into a problematic story. For example, the Daily Mail published an article with the headline, “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton: Gang-scarred home of her mother revealed — so will he be dropping by for tea?” If this headline doesn’t scream racism I don’t know what does. The article went one step further and discussed where Markle’s mother lives. Her mother lives in Crenshaw, Los Angeles, and as pointed out in the article, the area is gang central, implying that it is not a suitable birthplace for a Prince’s girlfriend. Another article from the Daily Mail entitled: “Sorry Harry, but your beautiful bolter has failed my Mum Test” claims that Markle,“Genetically… is blessed. If there is issue from her alleged union with Prince Harry, the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA.” Here the writer implies that Markle’s DNA is “exotic,” indicating that she is an outlier in the royal family. This comment indicates veiled racism, as the Prince is not dating Ms. Markle only for her DNA. The author objectifies Markle based on her race. These are only two of the many articles published in regards to Markle’s race; it is then of no surprise that readers views on Markle are influenced by what the media has to say. The media is the gatekeeper that sets the agenda for what news people deem as important. If the media only posts negative articles about Markle because of her race, this is the information readers will deem as true, or those readers that don’t know any better.
But the issues of black racism of celebrities in the media are not recent issues; these are issues that have existed for years as pointed out by bell hooks in her article, “The Oppositional Gaze” as discusses how black women are depicted in movies. She points out that black actresses take on undermining roles such as servants, and slaves, which makes black spectators, and gazers in general view black people belonging to such roles. In a more present case, the 2001 film Monsterball portrays the black racism hooks describes. Halle Berry plays the role of Leticia, a struggling black widow working at a diner. She is also depicted as sexually promiscuous as she quickly engages in sexual activity with Hank, one of the main characters in the film. The way Leticia is portrayed in the movie exemplifies black racism as her character is constantly troubled and sexually objectified. Leticia is portrayed as being incapable of making rational decisions. The producers used a black actress to depict the character of Leticia purposely as black stereotypes are common in film.
Black celebrities are at high risk for being ridiculed by the media, as seen in the case of Meghan Markle. It is unfortunate that not only do these issues of racism exist at all but that they are influencing the thoughts of many people. It is up to the readers to think critically, analytically, and to understand the fact that a person’s skin colour has nothing to do with their worth.