When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle introduce their new baby boy to the world on Wednesday, the moment will make history: the baby is the first biracial heir (he is seventh in the line of succession) in the royal family’s centuries-long history.
The baby’s debut marks yet another pivotal milestone in Meghan’s journey as a “Black princess.” Black Americans rejoiced over Bishop Michael Bruce Curry’s passionate message and a gospel choir belting “Stand By Me” in a ceremony that “celebrated her heritage.” The joyous occasion marked a contrast to the racist, sexist tabloid pile-on that Meghan, a 37-year-old biracial woman, had endured since she began dating Harry in 2016. The early negative coverage even prompted Harry to release a statement through Kensington Palace, decrying the “wave of abuse and harassment.”
Now, the new royal has reached another milestone, giving birth to a little boy on May 6. Like many little girls, I grew up watching Disney movies that birthed in me a desire to wear a crown and declare myself a princess at every turn. Of course, none of the princesses looked like me. It wasn’t until 2009’s The Princess and the Frog that a Disney princess was Black. And by then, I had a much deeper understanding of the racial significance of the brown-skinned character.
Still, my cheers and praise over a “Black princess” have long accompanied concern. What can we expect of a Black baby’s place in the royal family? How will the press treat the British monarchy’s first Black mother? It is only natural to expect that the deeply-rooted myth of the bad Black mother will follow Meghan, as it does all Black women, rendering her motherhood suspect. In short, a Black mother in the royal palace is still a Black mother.
I have no doubt that Meghan is up to the challenge, though. Her ability to gracefully endure these tabloid attacks for years is a testament to her fortitude. The same can be said about one of Meghan’s closest friends, tennis legend Serena Williams. Williams has long been the target of racists throughout her decades-long pro career, and opened up in 2016about being scrutinized because “I am Black and I am confident.”
With that, I was not surprised by the athlete’s reaction when I asked her about Meghan’s journey to motherhood at a New York event last year.
“We’re excited to welcome her baby,” Williams told me. “We don’t really talk about it publicly but she’s really just a great person.”
I understood that Williams was tight-lipped not only because of her private nature and the fact that it wasn’t her business to tell, but because she understood that giving any information could subject Meghan to more criticism.
Implicit bias, subconscious, usually negative beliefs about a group of people, casts Black mothers in an unfair light and leads to ill treatment in several areas — healthcare, social life, housing and work, among other things. This myth is not confined to the United States, though. Anti-Blackness is as global as it is local — and it is no respecter of class or socioeconomic standing.
Many Black parents can relate to the life the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will soon know: affirming Baby Sussex when they ask why they look different from the white kids, why their hair is curly or kinky, and what it means to be Black in a white world. Black kids everywhere know this struggle. It is difficult, it is confusing, and it marks the beginning of a lifelong journey to fully accepting, understanding and loving one’s Blackness.
Even with all my concern for Meghan, I am eager and excited to see her thrive in life as a royal Black mother. To be a Black mother in the British monarchy will be no easy feat. If Meghan’s past statements are any indicator of how Baby Sussex will be raised, we can be sure that she and Harry will teach their son to not only embrace his heritage but “to say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman,” Meghan wrote in Elle in 2015. At just one day old, Baby Sussex has already made history. Now, as we watch and wait for the lessons that come from this new mixed-race family, I’ll always rejoice in the magic of seeing this little one command his place in the palace.