Full disclosure: This story contains an interview of Sonia Smith-Kang, the co-founder of Culturas.
When the Washington Post published “Parents of Mixed-Race Children Share Advice with Prince Harry and Meghan“, we received comments from some readers that these tips were moot to the couple because they are royals.
Readers believed that somehow, the Sussex tag would protect Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from unconscious bias and racism. This is the same racism that most interracial couples face around the globe. This same brand of racism propelled the landmark 1967 Loving v. Virginia civil rights decision, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws which forbade marriage between people of different races in the United States.
In that honorable role of ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’, protecting your children, keeping them safe, and raising them to be compassionate, strong, and resilient individuals are some of the most imperative tasks. As a multiethnic woman (African American, Native American, and Caucasian) who is also a mother to a multiracial child, I feel it is important that we collaborate to create and support an inclusive community where this new diverse generation of multiracial children have literature, film, events, organizations, and tools to help them in celebrating their own heritage. It is a heritage unique from being identified only as a singular background but, instead, by any of the many ethnic and cultural backgrounds that make up the multiracial community.
The royal couple sat down with Oprah Winfrey for a candid interview and viewers across the globe witnessed Harry and Meghan share that having a child of mixed heritage can bring a new-found awareness of bias. They also spotlit old values and outdated thinking in others. Their riveting truths shocked some and triggered many others.
In the interview, Harry says he was unaware of unconscious bias within the institution of the British monarchy until he started a relationship with Megan.
Not only did race play a part in the trolling and vitriol they faced, but Meghan also suggested that it may have played a part in why Archie was not given the title of prince. Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor is Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandson. His father, Prince Harry, is sixth in line to the British throne. His mother, Meghan Markle, is the Duchess of Sussex. Despite these deep royal connections, Archie is not a prince. Unlike Archie’s first cousins—Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—Archie does not even hold the title of His Royal Highness. Instead, he is referred to as “Master Archie.”
Knowing that split family ties are issues that many multicultural families face, I asked experts to share advice on how to handle racism and bias in the everyday family dynamic.
“Do not feel obligated to continue a relationship with someone in the family who is racist towards your spouse or your children. Although we don’t choose our family, we can choose who can continue to hurt us,” said Dr. Jenn Noble, a psychologist and parenting coach for parents of mixed-race kids. She continued: “You do not have to take on the responsibility of someone unwilling to examine their own bias. Instead, you can find chosen family members who will provide the guidance, support, and love you’re looking for.”
Lesli Mitchell, a licensed clinical social worker, echoed Noble and advocated for boundary-setting. “I feel it is important for multiracial families to maintain a safe, protected space for themselves. Those with racist ideas can not have unrestricted access to multiracial families because their thoughts and actions are harmful to both the marital and family unit,” she told me.
“To maintain this protected space, boundaries and rules must be set regarding comments, expectations, and interactions. This can be very painful because we often still have a love for these family members, but in order to have any real access, they must decide to honor established boundaries. Our families, created in love, can not invite and allow hate into our protected space,” said Mitchell.
The question of title was also wrapped up in other pressing matters. Meghan learned that since the unborn child was not to receive an HRH title, he or she would also not receive security. “Having the title gives you the safety and protection,” she explained. Due to these concerns, Markle and Harry chose not to take photos at the hospital after Archie was born.
Despite numerous reports that Harry and Meghan had intentionally opted for their young son to forgo a royal title, Meghan said it was actually the opposite. In fact, the decision was made for them. “It was not our decision to make,” Meghan said. The couple still has not been provided an answer as to exactly why Archie did not receive a title. They alluded to the fact that it might have had to do with Archie’s race and the potential color of his skin. There were “conversations with Harry about ‘how dark your baby is going to be’ and what that would mean or look like,” Meghan shared.
The revelation about the royal baby’s skin color coming into question proved that no one is immune to preconceived notions stemming from racism. Now, more data exists than ever, which empirically makes mixed-race individuals and relationships deeply visible. Sonia Smith-Kang, the president of Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC), bridged numbers and humanity in her advice.
“Data shows we are changing and becoming more culturally and ethnically diverse so it’s surprising to find that only 54 years ago the U.S. didn’t allow interracial marriages to take place. Today, the multiracial community is one of the fastest-growing populations. We are seeing a steady rise in interracial marriages, with 11 million interracial marriages, making up 10 percent of all U.S. marriages,” she said. Smith-Kang went on, “Research shows multiracial children are the largest demographic group among U.S citizens who are younger than 18, and 44 percent of the adopted children are adopted by parents of a different race. This rapid growth illustrates why a safe space like MASC is necessary. We are advocates and activists in the community. We offer support while providing opportunities to share one’s personal multicultural identity, as well as holding space for courageous and intentional conversations while honoring ourselves and our children.”
When Oprah asked if the royal family saw Archie’s possible being brown skin as a problem, Meghan responded, “I wasn’t able to follow up. If that’s the assumption you’re making…[it] would be a safe one.” She emphasized that the titles, in the end, are not her concern. “All the grandeur surrounding this stuff is an attachment I don’t have. I’ve been a waitress, an actress, a princess, a duchess. I’m clear on who I am, independent of that stuff. The most important title I will ever have is ‘Mom’,” she said.
Finally, in the words of poet Amanda Gorman: “Meghan was the Crown’s greatest opportunity for change, regeneration, and reconciliation in a new era. They didn’t just maltreat her light–they missed out on it.”