Royal Central’s Editor talks about his experience of moderating racist abuse against Meghan Markle, and why it has to stop.
It is August 2017, yet I find myself writing a headline about why racism has to stop. Since the news emerged last week that Prince Harry had whisked Meghan Markle away to Africa to celebrate her 36th birthday, speculation has understandably been rife about whether an engagement is imminent. With news and speculation comes commentary and opinions, with some people expressing their admiration of Meghan Markle and some expressing dissatisfaction of the young American actress. However, some have gone one step further than criticism and are using racism to express a point, whether it is overtly or covertly apparent.
Some of the comments I have read recently include: “I thought the reason everyone flies the red, white and blue flag in England is because they don’t want black in the land.”
Other people, usually those commenting on Facebook posts, do not hold back when comparing Miss Markle to a monkey or when calling her a ‘black bitch’. This is nothing short of racism, and anybody making these comments, or indeed justifying them brings shame to all those associated with them.
But some of the abuse is more subtle dog-whistle racism. What does this mean I hear you ask? Well, by saying that Prince Harry dating a mixed-race woman is “why people voted for Brexit” for example. Or, saying that Miss Markle has “exotic blood” or even linking her to the slavery trade in some way. With every article and news story that is published, there are often idiots and trolls who seek attention. However, speaking as Editor of a news website who manages and moderates comments both on the website and social media, I can say without a doubt there are a large proportion of people who are abusing Meghan Markle because of the colour of her skin.
Of course, we also get hundreds of comments which say they dislike Miss Markle for whatever reason – and that is fine, who cares? Personally, I couldn’t care less whether you dislike Miss Markle, or whether you do in fact like her! The problem I have, and the problem every right thinking member of society should have, is when the colour of a person’s skin is used as a reason for justifying their distaste.
It isn’t often I am in agreement with Kensington Palace, but last year they released a statement addressing the issue:
“[Prince Harry’s] girlfriend, Meghan Markel, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper, the racial undertones of comment pieces, and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
But what are racial undertones, and have they actually been used? Let’s take a look at an article in the Mail on Sunday last year, where columnist, Rachel Johnson (brother of Boris), said if Harry and Meghan had children, “the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA”.
Exotic DNA? What is that supposed to mean? Is it a covert racial smear just because Miss Markle’s mother is African-American? On Twitter, Ms Johnson said: “My col was the opposite of racist and “exotic” means foreign, non-native, or originating in a foreign country. So shoot me now!” I’ll leave you to make your own mind up about this statement.
Some may be asking what is the point of me writing this post today, and what it seeks to achieve? For starters, I know it will not stop the racist abuse. In fact, I am certain this very post will attract blatant racism! What I hope it does do, however, is highlight the problem that exists. Many readers may be ignorant to other users comments and believe the matter of racist abuse is made up by the media to create a story. But let me tell you, as somebody who has to trawl through thousands of comments each day, there unquestionable racial abuse that makes my skin crawl. Fortunately, we manage to catch most of them before they make it onto the website. As I have said previously, feel free to criticise Miss Markle, as you are free to criticise any person. However, attack their character, not their skin colour!