Like Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, Houston’s interracial couples find race still matters

Love conquers everything, even racism. I would like to believe it.

After watching Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry last week, it was bittersweet to see a happy ending for the mixed race couple who suffered micro-attacks and racial hatred. No one should have to go through this.

The interview, which was viewed by 17 million people in the United States, captivated the couple’s supporters for several reasons. First, Markle revealed that the racial attacks had become so intense that she was considering taking her own life. When she asked for help, she encountered a disdainful, sorry-not-sorry shrug. Second, she and Prince Harry shocked Winfrey when they shared that some members of the royal family were concerned about the blackness of their son’s skin.

Maybe Markle, who has an African American mother and a white father, was naive to believe that the British monarchy and the media would accept him. Critics said Markle had lived an enchanted life at Buckingham Palace so he shouldn’t bristle at rudeness.

But rudeness and racism are not the same thing, she told Winfrey.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sit down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese / Harpo Productions / TNS)

Joe Pugliese / Harpo Productions, MBR / TNS

Markle’s sanity and the racism she suffered are intrinsically linked. You can’t talk about her mental state without discussing the tabloid headlines that called her upbringing “almost) straight out of Compton” and that her skin was “rich and exotic,” an objectifying stereotype often given to women in the world. color.

“From the very beginning of our relationship, they attacked and incited so much racism, really. It changed the level of risk, ”Markle told Winfrey.

A native of Houston, Danielle Burns-Wilson, like me, watched the interview intensely and she felt connected to the couple. Burns-Wilson is a black woman married to David Wilson, a white man, and together they are raising their young son.

“There were always nuances about race when we got married, but for us it was all about the hair,” she said. “People were curious about what her hair would look like. There is always a mystery with interracial couples, especially when they are having children.

Burns-Wilson said she and her husband never really discussed race or how their child might be viewed in the world. Maybe neither Markle nor Harry.

“These are conversations you think you had, but they really aren’t,” Burns-Wilson said. “Not in depth. After the birth of our son, we had to talk about how he would be seen. I knew he would be considered a black boy, but David didn’t see him. Whites think of race differently from blacks, so we had to talk about it. “

Burn-Wilson’s fair complexion, like Markle’s, adds another layer to the breed discussion.

“I know that being fair skinned you are often seen as less threatening because you are not so obvious, but race always matters. I am a black woman and I see the world through this lens, ”she said.

As this nation continues to face a racial calculation, Hollywood appears to be focused on normalizing marriages and race relations. Nexflix’s “Bridgerton,” a series set during the British Regency era of the 1800s, features multiracial cast and courtship displays. There is a black queen – based on the real Queen Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz – who is said to have African ancestors. Among his descendants is Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry’s grandmother.

A variety of new Netflix and Amazon Prime romantic comedies pair couples from different ethnic groups without race ever being mentioned in the storyline. I find it refreshing.

In an ideal world, race shouldn’t be an issue, especially in love. Until someone has something to say about your child’s skin or hair, or worse.

Stéphanie Dedeaux, seated, center, and Charlie Keene pose for a portrait with their daughters, Madeleine Keene, 15, far left, Claudia Keene, 14, and Camille Keene, 18, Thursday March 11, 2021 in The Woodlands .

Stéphanie Dedeaux, seated, center, and Charlie Keene pose for a portrait with their daughters, Madeleine Keene, 15, far left, Claudia Keene, 14, and Camille Keene, 18, Thursday March 11, 2021 in The Woodlands .

Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

The experience of racism can have a devastating effect on mental health and can lead to depression and other stress-related illnesses.

“We need a larger conversation in our society about how we help people with mental health issues,” said Rheeda Walker, Ph.D., registered clinical psychologist, professor at the University. from Houston and Director of Culture UH. , Risk and Resilience Laboratory. “Then we need a conversation about how we deal with racism, because part of the problem with racism is having to convince people that it is a problem. Black people often have to convince others that racism is as serious and stressful as it is. And no one wants to have to go through this.

Walker, who is also the author of “The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health” (New Harbinger Publications), said research shows that people who grow up in mixed-race families tend to identify more with the race. the mother.

“So having an African American mother, Markle would have had some understanding of how black women are treated in society,” Walker said. “So I wonder what was her disconnect that it wouldn’t be once she got married into the royal family. It could be that she feels so incredibly loved by both Harry and the Queen that she is. “she allowed herself to believe that she wouldn’t be subjected to what other black people are subjected to. But no matter who you are as a black person, you will have to navigate racism.”

One in six newlyweds is married to someone of a different race or ethnicity, according to the Pew Research Center. Asians and Hispanics are by far the most likely to marry in the United States, and whites are the least likely of all major racial or ethnic groups to marry someone of a different race or ethnicity . Although Houston is recognized as the most diverse large metropolitan city in the country, only 19% of Houston-area marriages were interracial between 2011 and 2015, according to the center.

Stephanie Dedeaux, who is black, and her husband Charlie Keene, who is white, have been married since 1996, when there were “not a lot of interracial couples,” Dedeaux said. They have three teenage daughters.

“Everyone wanted Meghan and Harry’s fairy tale to be real, but even in interracial marriages you will always face headwinds,” she said.

“My daughters grew up with other interracial kids. I had to learn to see things through their eyes, not ours. A lot of my worries were more about being female and the vulnerabilities we face. I try to help them live in the world they live in, but when you see or hear racism, you feel it. “

Interracial marriage has only been legal in the United States since 1967 with the United States Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia.

Burns-Wilson’s brother, Stafford Burns, is also in an interracial marriage with his wife Jill, who is white. They have lived in Britain for several years and have witnessed Markle’s scrutiny, in particular, from the British media.

“I thought the royals were turning a corner,” he said. “But (after watching Winfrey’s interview) it was like we had a seat at the table, but they took the seat by not giving their son a title.”

Markle told Winfrey that the Royal Family have decided that their son, Archie, who turns 2 in May, will not be given a title and the security that goes with it. Prince William has defended the family, saying the royal family is “not really a racist family”.

Regardless of his naivety, Markle’s decision to speak candidly about the emotional toll of racism makes Walker proud.

“While we wait for our society as a whole to correct racism, we as women of color, black women, need to be there for each other – (as well as) the people who care about black women because that obviously Harry cares about his wife, ”Walker said. “People who are in the inner circles of black women need to reach out and be available to these women. Because I don’t see racism going anywhere.

joy.sewing@chron.com


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