• Meghan Markle and Prince Harry spoke about the Royal reaction to their mixed-race child. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Being in a mixed race relationship makes you sadly prone to hearing racist comments from family and friends.
By
Saman Shad

9 Mar 2021 - 1:34 PM  UPDATED 17 Jun 2021 - 9:58 AM

OPINION

One day my daughter was in a lift with her father when a man walked into the lift and looked at the two of them for a while, before turning to my husband to say - 'I bet her mother doesn't look like you'. My husband casually asked him what he meant and the stranger said, 'I'm guessing her mother is from the subcontinent maybe, or somewhere in Asia?'

The lift journey ended, my husband and daughter (who was too young to understand what they men were talking about) went on their way, but when my husband recalled the interaction to me it really struck me how everyone seems to have an opinion on the appearance of mixed-race children. 

After my daughter was born, an Asian friend said to me, 'you're so lucky she's so fair'.

After my daughter was born, a Malaysian friend said to me, 'you're so lucky she's so fair'. I was taken aback by the comment, but in the years since I've tried to understand that what she said didn't come from a place of malice. Most people of colour come from lands that were once colonised, which is why the bias of colourism is deeply embedded in many of us. 

So when in her interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle spoke about the comments she was subjected to, especially in regards to what colour her child-to-be would turn out to be, it struck a chord.

Markle in her interview said there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.” In response, Winfrey, like many of us let out a shocked "What?!"

The revelation was shocking of course, but the fact remains that such conversations about mixed-race children occur either openly, or in hushed tones between many people - some due to simple curiosity, others due to an inherent bias.

When I lived in the UK one of my South Asian friends married an Afro-Caribbean man. In their instance the union was a harmonious one, especially amongst their families - all of whom seemed happy about it. Except in one instance where my friend revealed her mother had wondered, perhaps thinking out loud, how dark her grandchild would turn out to be.

I can't remember if my friend blasted her mother over that comment or just let it pass. I'm guessing she let it pass because for many couples in interracial relationships, comments about skin colour and skin tone often are sadly commonplace.

For many couples in interracial relationships, comments about skin colour and skin tone often are sadly commonplace.

Many people on social media echoed the feeling that being in a mixed-race relationship made them prone to receiving and hearing racist comments from family and friends.

"Any "mixed race" person or anyone in a "mixed race" relationship will know what Meghan's said likely is true almost immediately. We experience racism from our white family members all the time..." social media user, Jim Malo tweeted.

While others spoke about how women bore the brunt of dealing with racist comments.

The reason why women do bear the brunt of it is because we are the ones often left to organise all the major events that occur in a committed couple's life. It is us who are trying to unite families, making them come together for the wedding or for celebrations when (and if) a baby is born. We are the ones going to many of the social events and trying to smooth over any awkward family moments.

As Markle ended up revealing, the impact of having to face such heartbreaking comments from certain members of the Royal family, badly impacted her mental health.

"I just didn't want to be alive anymore," she told Winfrey in the interview.

"I said I needed to go somewhere to get help. I said that I've never felt this way before and I need to go somewhere. And I was told that I couldn't, that it wouldn't be good for the institution."

For many women, Markle's comments were heartbreaking and also revealed a truth - that being in an interracial relationship can sometimes be isolating.

For many women, Markle's comments were heartbreaking and also revealed a truth - that being in an interracial relationship can sometimes be isolating because while you're trying to be a bridge between two cultures, you are also feeling left out in the cold, not knowing where you should turn to yourself.

The one ray of positivity in the interview however, was how strong the Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry's relationship seemed to be, and how the Prince himself was learning and unlearning many of his own unconscious biases.

It's something he's spoken about before: "Unconscious bias, from my understanding, having the upbringing and the education that I had, I had no idea what it was. I had no idea it existed," he said in an interview.

This time round in his interview with Winfrey, Prince Harry was forthright about why he felt his wife was being attacked. “It wasn’t just about her, it was about what she represents,” he said. 

"Sad as it is to say it, it takes living in her shoes, in this instance, for a day or those first eight days to see where it was gonna go and how far they were gonna take it." 

If nothing else, at least one member of the Royal family now realises how hard women of colour have it, each and every day.

As for his son and the conversations around the colour of his skin, Prince Harry said: "At the time it was awkward. I was a bit shocked.”

But for Prince Harry at least, this is part of a much larger set of learnings he's had to do since he met his wife.

"I've spent many years doing the work and doing my own learning. But my upbringing in the system, of which I was brought up in and what I've been exposed to, it wasn't — I wasn't aware of it, to start with. But, my god, it doesn't take very long to suddenly become aware of it,” he said.  

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