Everyone is still talking about the interview with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview raised so many issues having to do with privilege, racism, and mental health. Yet it also brought to light the familial challenges faced by multi-racial families and interracial couples.
It is hard to believe that it’s only been a generation since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws banning marriage between persons of different races. Loving v Virginia 388 U.S. 1 (1967). How families grapple with society’s reaction to their relationship is one burden, and yet it’s quite another to unpack the microaggressions that occur within the immediate or extended family.
While opportunities exist when people learn from others who differ in race, culture, identity, religion, etc. the opposite can also be true. Negativity, bias, judgment – conscious or otherwise – can impact their well-being and make children especially feel sad, hurt, isolated or helpless. The impact may come from social media posts that children observe, derogatory comments made by a family member, not being invited to family gatherings, or being treated differently in a small or large way (family gatherings, family photos, inheritance). Even if these examples don’t arise within the immediate family, children will notice how and if their family reacts to external comments, from extended family, friends, neighbors, or in the media. As the interview with Meghan and Harry illustrates, silence from one’s spouse, parent, or family member in the face of derogatory behavior or racist comments made in public can be even more damaging to the child than from the actual comments or acts themselves.
As Harry revealed, he has been awakened to the experience of what it is like to be a person of color through his dating and then marriage to his Wife, Meghan Markle. As is often the case for members of the privileged caste who begin the journey to understand and then confront the systems that serve to reinforce societal inequities, Harry expressed his pain over the lack of similar understanding or acknowledgment by his immediate family. As he shared with Oprah Winfrey in the interview, “For us, for this union and the specifics around her race, there was an opportunity — many opportunities — for my family to show some public support. And I guess one of the most telling parts and the saddest parts, I guess, was over 70 female members of Parliament, both Conservative and Labour, came out and called out the colonial undertones of articles and headlines written about Meghan. Yet no one from my family ever said anything. That hurts.”
Witnessing the constant vitriol lobbied against his beloved was clearly impactful on the Prince. And, as with all parents who want only to protect their children from any sort of suffering, his feelings resonated more deeply once he and the Duchess had Archie. With their second child on the way, their concern was palpable.