Everything Meghan Markle Has Said About Being Biracial and the Fight for Racial Justice
By Desiree Murphy
Tim Rooke/Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage
After stepping down as a senior member of the royal family earlier this year, Meghan Markle has been using her platform to raise awareness on topics close to her heart.
In just the past few months, the Duchess of Sussex has been a powerful supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, working behind the scenes with her husband, Prince Harry, to help enact real change in our country. Now, ET's breaking down everything Meghan has publicly said about being biracial, and why she's so passionate about continuing her fight against racism.
Even before meeting Prince Harry, the former Suits star was vocal about some of the struggles she faced growing up as a biracial person. Her mother, Doria Ragland, is Black, and her estranged father, Thomas Markle, is white.
"I'm biracial. Most people can't tell what I'm mixed with, and so, much of my life has felt like being a fly on the wall," Meghan said in a 2012 video for an anti-racism campaign called "I Won't Stand for Racism" for the charity Erase the Hate. "Some of the slurs I've heard, or the really offensive jokes, or the names, it's just hit me in a really strong way. And then a couple of years ago, I heard someone call my mom the N-word."
"Certain people don't look at me and see me as a Black woman or a biracial woman," she continued. "They treat me differently, I think, than they would if they knew what I was mixed with, and I think that is -- I don’t know, it can be a struggle as much as it can be a good thing, depending on the people that you’re dealing with."
Meghan added at the time that she was "really proud" of both sides of her heritage, along with "where I've come from and where I'm going."
"But yeah, I hope that by the time I have children that people are even more open-minded to how things are changing and that having a mixed world is what it's all about," she shared. "I mean, certainly, it makes it a lot more beautiful and a lot more interesting."
"We were leaving a concert and she wasn't pulling out of a parking space quickly enough for another driver," Meghan recalled. "My skin rushed with heat as I looked to my mom. Her eyes welling with hateful tears, I could only breathe out a whisper of words, so hushed they were barely audible: 'It's OK, Mommy.'"
"I was trying to temper the rage-filled air permeating our small silver Volvo. Los Angeles had been plagued with the racially charged Rodney King and Reginald Denny cases just years before, when riots had flooded our streets, filling the sky with ash that flaked down like apocalyptic snow," she added. "I shared my mom's heartache, but I wanted us to be safe. We drove home in deafening silence, her chocolate knuckles pale from gripping the wheel so tightly."
In that same essay, Meghan remembered a time in seventh grade when she felt conflicted over a mandatory census she was asked to fill out. She recalled not being able to decide which box to check to indicate her ethnicity.
"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," she said. "You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other -- and one half of myself over the other."
"My teacher told me to check the box for Caucasian, 'Because that's how you look, Meghan,' she said. I put down my pen. Not as an act of defiance, but rather a symptom of my confusion," Meghan added. "I couldn't bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. So, I didn't tick a box. I left my identity blank -- a question mark, an absolute incomplete -- much like how I felt."
Meghan wrote that being biracial "paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating." She said that even later in life, when she was looking for acting roles, she found it difficult to find work, as many projects called for particular ethnicities.
"I wasn't black enough for the black roles and I wasn't white enough for the white ones, leaving me somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn't book a job," she shared.
Meghan eventually landed the role of Rachel Zane on Suits, but said she still faced racial discrimination from fans, mainly due to the fact that they cast a Black actor, Wendell Pierce, to play the role of her character's father.
"I remember the tweets when that first episode of the Zane family aired, they ran the gamut from: 'Why would they make her dad Black? She's not Black' to 'Ew, she's Black? I used to think she was hot,'" Meghan recalled. "The latter was blocked and reported. The reaction was unexpected, but speaks of the undercurrent of racism that is so prevalent, especially within America."
"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 added. "You push for color-blind casting, you draw your own box. You introduce yourself as who you are, not what color your parents happen to be. You cultivate your life with people who don't lead with ethnic descriptions such as, 'that black guy Tom,' but rather friends who say: 'You know? Tom, who works at [blah blah] and dates [fill in the blank] girl.' You create the identity you want for yourself, just as my ancestors did when they were given their freedom."
Before marrying Prince Harry, Meghan ran a lifestyle website called TheTig.com. In a 2017 post marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the actress recalled a time when her grandfather told her about his experience of moving their family from Ohio to Los Angeles. She said the story still "haunts" her today.
"It makes me wonder what my parents experienced as a mixed race couple," she wrote. "To Martin Luther King Jr., to Harvey Milk, to Gloria Steinem and Cesar Chavez, to my mom and dad for choosing each other not for the 'color of their skin, but the content of their character,' to all of you champions of change: Thank you."
More recently, Meghan was the first from the royal family to speak out following the death of George Floyd, whose fatal arrest sparked outrage and protests across the nation.
"[It's] absolutely devastating," Meghan said, in a message to the graduating class of Immaculate Heart High School, her alma mater. "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," she continued. "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 wanted to say the right thing. I realised the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing. George Floyds life mattered & Breonna Taylors life mattered & Philando Castiles life mattered & Tamir Rices life mattered & so did so many other people” — Meghan Markle #BlackLivesMatterpic.twitter.com/KeIxkkooCc
Then, in a joint video call with Prince Harry on behalf of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust earlier this month, Meghan said that being "a little uncomfortable right now" amid the Black Lives Matter movement will eventually lead us to a place "where a high tide raises all ships."
"Growing pains are painful. This process is painful and it has been for a long time. But through that immense pain, what we can have tremendous faith in is knowing that there will be growth," she advised. "And that's what we're seeing happen every single day."
"In people's complacency, they're complicit. And that, I think, is the shift we're seeing," she added. "It's not enough to be a bystander and say, 'Well, it wasn't me.' And that's what I think is very much manifested in what you're feeling from people's outpouring [of support] surrounding the murder of George Floyd. It wasn't that this wasn't always happening, it's that it's come to a head at time where people just said, 'Enough.'"
Royal expert Katie Nicholl tells ET that "The Black Lives Matter movement matters to Meghan and it matters to Harry, and I understand that this is going to be an area where we're going to see the couple doing a lot more work and taking a lot more interest."
"They've been very busy with the COVID-19 efforts, particularly how it's impacting on their charities. Their focus is now, I'm told, shifting onto this movement. Black Lives Matter is something that really resonates with both of them," she says. "They come in on this from different perspectives -- Meghan as a Californian, Harry as an Englishman, both of them keeping abreast of what's happening, both here in the U.K. and in L.A. But this is a campaign that matters to them."
"This is something they want to be more involved with and I'm told we're going to see them really focusing their energy on this over the next coming weeks," she adds.
Nicholl says that Meghan, in particular, is passionate about the movement, and sees herself as a "role model" who can speak to the issues of racial equality. "She believes that there is an expectation on her to address what's going on and to [show] support. And that is what they're doing."