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Meghan Markle Commencement Speech.png

'The Only Wrong Thing To Say Is To Say Nothing:' Meghan Markle Talks About George Floyd and Police Brutality

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | June 4, 2020 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | June 4, 2020 |

Meghan Markle Commencement Speech.png

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, delivered a virtual graduation speech to her old high school this week. She addressed the current protests against police brutality happening across America and related the experience to being a child and watching the L.A. riots following the police abuse of Rodney King in 1992.

‘And I wasn’t sure what I could say to you. I wanted to say the right thing. And I was really nervous that I wouldn’t, or that it would get picked apart, and I realized the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing. Because George Floyd’s life mattered, and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered, and Philando Castile’s life mattered, and Tamir Rice’s life mattered, and so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we don’t know. Stephon Clark. His life mattered.’


The first thing I want to say to you is that I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you have to grow up in a world where this is still present.


I was 11 or 12 years old when I was just about to start IHMS (Immaculate Heart Middle School) in the fall and it was the LA riots, which were also triggered by a senseless act of racism. I remember the curfew and I remember rushing back home and and on that drive home seeing ash fall from the sky and smelling the smoke — and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings and seeing people run out buildings and looting and seeing men in the back of the van just holding guns and rifles


And those memories don’t go away.

Britain is an extremely racist country. This seems like the most obvious point one could ever make given our centuries-long history of slavery, colonialism, and exploitation of the planet, but it bears repeating. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of people on my side of the pond claiming that Britain ‘isn’t as racist’ as America and that we would never allow what happened to George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or the countless other Black individuals murdered by the authorities to happen here. These people are liars, of course.

Look at the abhorrent treatment of the Windrush generation by our government. Look at how Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by London Met police officers at a train station after they wrongly deemed him to be a terrorist. Look at the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1997, which led to the Macpherson report and the conclusion that the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist yet led to no action (as well as one Michael Gove calling it ‘illiberal.’) Look at how the current COVID-19 death rate in England is higher among BAME people, all while our Prime Minister declares that the danger has passed. Look at the embarrassing neglect by the authorities following the Grenfell Tower fire and the unanswered questions surrounding dozens of residents’ whereabouts. Look at our Prime Minister’s long history of racist and Islamophobic comments. Look at how we have turned the decades of racist abuse spewed by Prince Phillip into some adorable old-man quirk. Look at the treatment of Stormzy.

And look at the treatment of Meghan Markle, a mixed-race American woman whose greatest crime in the eyes of this country was to marry a Prince and want to do some good in the world.

We’ve talked a lot about the racist abuse and press endorsed harassment that Meghan has received over the past four or so years, ever since it was revealed that she was seeing Prince Harry. We’ve discussed the coded rhetoric (‘almost straight outta Compton’, ‘exotic’, ‘difficult’), the double standards of her treatment versus that of Kate Middleton, and the outright denial of her personhood. Take a quick peek on social media and it won’t take you long to find the ugliest comments made about Meghan, both from random strangers and well-known talking-heads. It also won’t take you long to find articles, angry tweets, and other such screeds from white people insisting that racism has nothing to do with how they treat Meghan.

I bring this up because, after watching this commencement speech that Meghan gave to her old high school, Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School in Los Angeles, I can’t stop thinking about how blatantly racist the treatment of Meghan is. I can’t stop thinking about every smarmy comment I’ve heard over the years about how Britain is oh-so-much smarter and more compassionate than America, that we’ve moved beyond racism in this country, that we’re somehow more enlightened than our friends across the Atlantic.

And throughout that propagandistic bullsh*t, I now see the same British journalists who claimed that Meghan was complaining too much about her treatment, that she wasn’t the subject of racism at all, demand to know why she isn’t speaking up about George Floyd or Black Lives Matter. The gall…

I think about how Meghan Markle was run out of Britain by racism and how, even now that he is no longer a full-time front-line member of the royal family, she admits that she is still worried that what she says will be ‘picked apart.’ And it will be. She’ll be called ‘too political’ or ‘attention-seeking’ or, bafflingly, ‘not political enough.’ There’s already a Daily Mail article on how some are ‘baffled’ by her supposed silence on these protests as if they wouldn’t be screeching from the rooftops that she ‘didn’t know her place’ if she had spoken about this earlier. Hell, we’ve already got conspiracy theories forming over how that Tatler piece on Kate was somehow Meghan’s fault. Meghan STILL gets more critical press for the most benign reasons than accused sexual predator and BFF of a literal pedophile, Prince Andrew. And then there’s this crap.

The treatment of Meghan Markle by Britain is not the only or most insidious example of modern racism in this country, but it is the one that plays out daily here, a constant reminder that to merely exist as a Black woman is akin to a crime.

Black lives matter.

Death to the monarchy.

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Kayleigh is a features writer for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter or listen to her podcast, The Hollywood Read.

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