Meghan Markle (left) with her mother, Doria Ragland Credit: REUTERS
Ordinarily, my hairdresser Verona doesn’t watch royal weddings; they’ve never captured her imagination. This time, it’s different. This time she has bought flags. This time, she’s hosting a party with her family, who will gather around the television in their west London home to watch a biracial American woman marry a (white) prince, who is sixth in line to the British throne.
Why is my hairdresser- a daughter of Jamaican immigrants – so much more engaged? For the same reason, I’d wager, as many other members of the black community, and other ethnic groups besides: when you see yourself represented, you know you belong and that you’re welcome. We feel different because this wedding is different.
At royal weddings past, any people of colour have usually been representatives of charities or Commonwealth citizens. Today, they will be among the key players – namely the bride and Doria, her mother, a proud, black woman with dreadlocks who will be gloriously central to the day. This isn’t about including a few people of colour on the guestlist; it’s about two families from across a racial divide coming together and showing up that “division” for the humbug it is.
In so doing, the Royals are moving in the same direction as families in the wider world, where the number of interracial marriages is increasing. And they stand to benefit enormously, since the union of Harry and Meghan will help bring them into the 21st century and keep them relevant.
Appearances are one thing, however, but actions speak volumes. When Harry and Meghan visited Brixton in January – a home to black Britons for decades – they sent a signal that they, perhaps more than any Royals before them, will engage communities that haven’t necessarily felt included.
Meghan’s role in Suits was notably about fighting for the underdog. She may have given up her career, but with her new husband, I think we will see her continue that fight in the real world.
A man wears a Union Jack suit with matching hat and glasses as he waits 24 hours before for the procession on the Long Walk Credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images Europe
I’m sure the happy couple will bring about change. On the other hand, we mustn’t confuse the sight of a biracial woman at the altar today with a giant leap forward in improving the plight of people of colour in general.
This is not about black people looking at Ms Markle and seeing what we could achieve. We have always achieved great things. Nor can we expect one marriage to change centuries of disconnect, alter Government policy or help more children of colour get into the top universities. Achieving greater equality is a separate conversation. This is about perception: the Royals beginning to resemble the rest of us.
‘This is about two families from across a racial divide coming together’ Credit: OLI SCARFF/AFP
In recent weeks, we have witnessed public outrage at the shameful treatment of our Windrush migrants. People of every colour came together and said “Not on our watch.” We are seeing things starting to shift; it’s almost as if Harry and Meghan’s union is part of that process, perfectly timed to coincide with a greater coming together of different groups to right some of the wrongs of the past.
We see this most starkly in the younger generation, many of whom don’t feel connected to the outdated narrative of rich, white people in palaces. They are as likely to look up to the Kardashians as the Royals.
Today, these groups mix and that is when the magic happens. When you bring diverse communities together, everyone stands to benefit.
We don’t feel lucky to be included today. We see ourselves – and Meghan and Doria – as equals, whose presence will stand to benefit everyone. Not just people of colour, but the Royal family itself, and the whole country beyond.
As told to Rosa Silverman