For some black women, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s engagement was something more. One of the world’s most eligible bachelors has chosen someone who looks like them and grew up like them.
It’s the kind of storybook plot twist they don’t always experience.
“It’s that old ‘Cinderella’ tale,” said Essence Magazine Editor-in-Chief Vanessa K. DeLuca. “No matter what, we all have this fantasy of being swept off our feet by the prince. It’s validation that, of course, we can be princesses. … We need to see that as black women, that that’s possible. That’s something we don’t get to see enough of, and that’s what we’re responding to.”
Markle, whose mother is black and father is white, will be the first woman of color in modern history to join the British royal family. She joins famous black women like Serena Williams, rapper Eve and Janet Jackson who have recently found love outside of their race, with powerful men.
Ashley Mosley had been living in London this summer, across the street from Kensington Gardens. Engagement gossip between Markle and Prince Harry was all anyone could talk about at the black hair salon in her neighborhood. When the news broke this week, Mosley shrieked, “Oh my God!”
“‘Coming to America’ was fictional, but this is going to be real,” said Mosley, referring to the 1988 Eddie Murphy film that imagined an African prince finding a black wife in New York.
Though the celebrations this week have been wide and plenty, the royal engagement has not come without strife for Harry and Markle. After their relationship was announced this year, Harry lashed out at what he described as “racial undertones” in media coverage and overt racism on social media.
Markle this week called it “disheartening” to have to still deal with questions about her identity in 2017.
For Markle, some of the negative coverage marked a sad refrain. When Markle was growing up in Los Angeles, her black mother was mistaken for her nanny, and her father worked hard to shield her from bigotry. As an actress, she struggled with her dual backgrounds preventing her from landing both black and white roles.
The engagement mirrors broader trends in interracial marriage both in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data, among newlyweds, the share of recently married blacks with a spouse of a different race has more than tripled, from 5 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2015. Another study showed that more than 2 million people in…