When people ask me what I envisage for the trajectory of my career, I often tell them that I see myself as a ‘Baby Oprah’ and most times a look of slight confusion scuttles across their face. What I mean when I make this comparison is that I wish for the space, as a Black woman to be able to express my creativity through various outputs - whether that be acting, podcasting, writing or running my own pole dance studio. I am clearly already well on the way to realising my aspiration but now I wonder, at what cost?
Watching Oprah interview Harry and Meghan about the British tabloids’ disparaging representation of Meghan brought up waves of conflicting truths within me. The most obvious thought that struck me as the interview began is ‘Who is Oprah’s equivalent in the UK?’ The truth is that there is no equivalent to Oprah in the UK because Black women are rarely given the space and the trust that they can excel as standalone talent.
I bring this observation to your consciousness because while the conversations heave about the racist motivations behind the British tabloids’ approach to Meghan, I notice that yet again Britain is unwilling to accept that there is a massive racism issue that continues to grip this country like a stranglehold.
The commentary since the Oprah interview with Meghan and Harry aired in the UK last night has been worrisome, because people are insistent on talking in absolutes and failing to consider that many truths can co-exist.
It is possible to acknowledge that Meghan willingly married into an imperial institution which has maintained its relevance due to the oppression of formerly colonised states, and still feel empathy for the very vicious manner she has been treated by the royals.
What if there are no absolutes, but rather numerous truths that we can respect simultaneously?
We can definitely discuss the detrimental aspects of Meghan wanting ‘representation’ within the monarchy so that little Black or brown girls within the commonwealth can ‘relate’ to her, while holding space for the fact that many people are yet to learn that we marginalised communities do not need representation within the institutions that are marginalising us. Rather, we would actually need for those institutions to be abolished, so as to limit further harm.
Monday evening consisted of me reading the reactions to the ITV broadcast of the interview and witnessing people falling over themselves to settle on a concrete thought regarding what is playing out in front of us through this royal fallout. What if, in fact, there are no absolutes, but rather numerous truths that we can respect simultaneously?
Many people tweeted that they saw no issue with speculations about how dark Meghan and Harry’s son, Archie, would be before he was born, and most said that at worst this was a case of ‘casual racism’. A similar sentiment was uttered on yesterday by Jane Moore on Loose Women, much to the dismay of fellow panelist Charlene White, as well as Black women like me who have experienced a similar conversation.
The only type of people who could possibly group racial trauma in terms of perceived severity, seem to be the ones who will never experience that specific violence. There is no such thing as ‘casual racism’ because it isn’t casual to the person who is experiencing it.
All types of racism are harmful, whether they’re through words (falsely frequently ascribed to the ‘older generation’) or actions. To attempt to minimise and categorise racial trauma that you would never experience, is callous and a means of further dehumanising the person living through that experience. It can also be true that since last summer when a lot of white people realised that racism exists and they posted black squares to combat it, a number of the same people may be feeling conflicted about realising that change needs to happen but feeling very awkward about how they could bring this up to older relatives without hurting their feelings.
There is definitely a necessity for spaces to explore these nuanced observations and I’ve become acutely aware that social media is rarely the space, however it can be a space to signpost and share learning resources.
I will now contradict myself here by saying that there is one absolute truth that we should all hold dear, and that is the fact that it is abhorrent for any daytime TV host to assert that he doesn’t believe Meghan’s account of her suicidal ideations because she could possibly be acting.
Suicidal thoughts are personal to the individual and in Meghan’s case, she shared that she felt so isolated within the royal family and the persistent bullying by the press, that she had considered no longer living. That is a courageous truth for anybody to share, only to be met with doubt and ridicule? As a Black woman I am often told not to ‘play the race card’ and to ‘leave race out’ of things, as if I have the individual power to simply press the off button on a system that took centuries of intricate design to construct. If we were to take race out of it for just a moment though, would we as a nation feel comfortable watching a man pester a heavily pregnant woman simply because she set a boundary with him years ago? I doubt it.
Meghan had not been subjected to the full manifestations of the insidious racism that is synonymous with Britain and it was still too much.
I will finish my musings with another consideration that I feel we must all commit ourselves to exploring; Meghan is a very light skinned biracial American woman who was brought into the highest echelon of British society, yet she still fled this country because she hadn’t experienced racism like it.
Meghan had not been subjected to the full manifestations of the insidious racism that is synonymous with Britain and it was still too much. Meghan was able to choose an option which could preserve her sense of peace, but what about the women who are darker than Meghan and aren’t afforded the same socio-economic privileges?
When people like myself go onto national news to discuss what Meghan has experienced, it is so we can all understand that what is happening to Meghan continues to happen to Black women daily in the UK and something must be done about it.
So when I ask, where is the UK version of Oprah, it is because while one truth might be that Britain is making progress in diversity in some fields - another truth is that it won’t ever be quick enough if we continue to deny and debate the impact of racism in this country.
Click through for anti-racism charities to support across the UK and US
Charities To Support - Grazia
Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust
Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds aged 13 to 30 to inspire and enable them to succeed in the career of their choice
Peace and Healing for Darnella Fund
Darnella Frazier, the brave young woman who filmed the murder of George Floyd, deserves peace and healing. In addition to the trauma of watching a black man be murdered by police, she has had to deal with trolls, bullies and ignorant people harassing her online. This fund is to support the healing and the restoration of hope for Darnella Frazier —whatever that means to her.
Justice for Jacob Blake Fund
Set up by Blake's mother, this fund will cover his medical expenses, mental and grief counseling for his family and to assist them in the days to come, as they continue to seek justice for Jacob. A portion of these proceeds will also be used to benefit his six children.
Milwaukee Freedom Fund
MFF was started by Black and Brown Milwaukee organizers to support residents' right to protest for justice. Donations help support their work helping protesters and community mutual aid and start a locally controlled and operated Milwaukee Bail Out Fund that is part of the National Bail Out Network. Through this work they will build on ongoing bail abolition efforts, support immigration efforts, work towards Black and Brown Liberation and support Black and Brown young people as they build a new world.
George Floyd Memorial Fund
This fund covers his funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling for the family, lodging and travel for all court proceedings and to assist the family in the days to come as they continue to seek justice for George. A portion of these funds will also go to the Estate of George Floyd for the benefit and care of his children and their educational fund.
Minnesota Freedom Fund
The MFF is working with the US National Lawyers Guild and Legal Rights Center to help bails that are set for protestors.
Prison Reform Trust
Prison Reform Trust works to make the prison system in the UK just, humane and effective.
Joint Council For The Welfare Of Immigrants
The JCWI aims to create a world in which immigration law and policy are based on sound evidence, promote the rule of law and are underpinned by respect for human rights and human dignity
Helps reduce BME youth unemployment, provide employment and training solutions for youth offenders and implement anti-gang initiatives in the community.
Charity So White
Tackles institutional racism in the charity sector.
Black Thrive works to reduce the inequality and injustices experienced by Black people in mental health services.
The Ubele Initiative
Supports the African diaspora community.
Women In Prison
Supports women affected by the criminal justice system and campaigns to end the harm of prison to women, their families and our communities.
Race On The Agenda (ROTA)
Race On The Agenda (ROTA) is a social policy research organisation focusing on issues that impact BAME communities.
Show Racism The Red Card
Provides educational workshops, training sessions, multimedia packages, and a whole host of other resources, all with the purpose of tackling racism in society.
The Equality Trust
Works to improve the quality of life in the UK by reducing economic and social inequality.
Stop Hate UK
A service for victims of racial harassment aiming to end hate crimes in the UK.
Generates intelligence to challenge race inequality in Britain through research, network building, leading debate, and policy engagement.
National Bail Out
This US charity is a Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.
Black Lives Matter
This US organisation (for which there is a UK movement here) fights to end state-sanctioned violence, liberate Black people, and end white supremacy forever.
BEAM is a US training, movement building and grant making organization dedicated to the healing, wellness and liberation of Black and marginalized communities.
Ahmaud Arbery Memorial Fund
Ahmaud Arbery was chased and gunned down by Travis McMichael, son of retired Brunswick investigator Greg McMichael, under the father's and son's pretenses of witnessing a burglary in Satilla Shores of Glynn County. There is no evidence of the alleged burglary.
Belly Mujinga Memorial Fund
For the memorial of Belly Mujinga, the railway worker who was spat at before she died of Covid-19.