The INSIDER Summary:
• Meghan Markle is an actress who’s dating Britain’s Prince Harry.
• She’s also biracial, and she wrote an eloquent essay on identity and race relations in America.
Meghan Markle is an accomplished actress, humanitarian, and writer. Unfortunately, most people know her only as the confirmed new girlfriend of Britain’s Prince Harry — and the subject of bitter media brouhaha.
Earlier this year, British tabloids began speculating that Markle, 35, and Harry, 32, were dating. But a handful of articles were insensitive and outright racist in their coverage. This prompted Harry to issue a statement that both confirmed their relationship and urged reporters to back off.
Now, just about a month later, Markle has written an essay for Elle UK detailing her struggle to own her identity as a mixed race woman in America. (Though the essay doesn’t appear to be a direct response to those offensive tabloid stories, it’s certainly related.)
She begins by writing that, when she was young, her parents protected her from self-doubt and encouraged her to embrace both halves of her racial identity. They even gave her a customised family set of Barbie dolls with a black mother and a white father.
But as Markle got older, it became difficult to wrangle with a world eager to categorise her as one thing or the other.
Take this anecdote from her teenage years:
There was a mandatory census I had to complete in my English class — you had to check one of the boxes to indicate your ethnicity: white, black, Hispanic or Asian. There I was (my curly hair, my freckled face, my pale skin, my mixed race) looking down at these boxes, not wanting to mess up, but not knowing what to do. You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other — and one half of myself over the other […] I didn’t tick a box. I left my identity blank — a question mark, an absolute incomplete — much like how I felt. When I went home that night, I told my dad what had happened. He said the words that have always stayed with me: “If that happens again, you draw your own box.”
And today, Markle writes that she still heeds that advice. In short: She’s created an identity for herself instead of letting others define it for her.
“You make a choice: continue living your life feeling muddled in this abyss of self-misunderstanding, or you find your identity independent of it,” she concluded in the essay. “You draw your own box.”
The piece covers a whole bunch more — including her struggle as a biracial actress in Hollywood and her experience on the TV show “Suits” — and it’s well worth reading the entire thing. Check it out over at Elle UK.
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