At this point, two days before her wedding to Prince Harry, the world knows quite a bit about Meghan Markle.
We know she’s 36, she portrayed Rachel Zane in the legal drama series “Suits,” and that she plans to retire from acting after her wedding. We know her father, a former actor, won’t be at her wedding and that she was married before to actor and producer Trevor Engelson.
What we don’t know enough about, according to the Washington Post, is her race.
The paper attempts to catch us up with a piece headlined, “The making of Meghan Markle: What happens when a ‘confident mixed-race woman’ marries into the royal family.”
It begins with vignette centered around a scene from “Suits.”
“Meghan Markle was glaring at her love interest. She leaned forward, fury clear in her expression as she asked the question: Was it so had to believe one of her parents was black?
“’You think,’ she spat, ‘this is just a year-round tan?’ He stammered. She grimaced. The opening credits began to roll.”
It was just a few lines from a TV show, writes the Post’s Jessica Contrera. “But Markle would later describe it as something more: the moment she was no longer playing the role of ‘ethnically ambiguous.’ That was the description assigned to so many of the jobs for which she had auditioned. Others asked her to be white, like her father. Or black, like her mother.
“Finally, in ‘Suits,’ she’d been cast to play a character who was not one or the other – but both.”
Five years later, the woman who “was grateful just to have her biracial identity represented on cable television is about to step into one of the world’s most glaring spotlights. On Saturday, she will marry His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales, better known as Prince Harry – popular, ginger-haired and sixth in line to the British throne.”
This is not just another royal wedding like the 2011 ceremony for Harry’s older brother, William, who actually could assume the throne. With Markle, “there are layers of history and culture to dissect,” she writes.
“Is this a sign of progress in a post-Brexit Britain? Will she remind the world that the United States is proud of its diversity? Is the most fascinating aspect of this moment the fact that, under almost any other circumstances, an interracial marriage would not longer be fascinating at all.
“She is both the heroine of a fairy tale come true – American meets prince! – and a spark for a debate about the role of race in society. And it is that topic, those who know Markle say, that is far more central to the story she would tell about her own life.”
After all, Contrera writes, “The chances of a biracial, divorced, American citizen marrying into the British royal family previously hovered at approximately zero/not in a million years/not over [insert name of your favorite monarch’s] dead body. And yet, ask the people who know Meghan Markle before she was soon-to-be-duchess Meghan Markle what they think of this turn of events, and they will express, again and again, that this is all very unsurprising.”
Contrera wrote that little has been written about Markle’s heritage but says “when she has spoken and written about her life story in the past, race is front and center,” then points to a 2015 essay Markle wrote for Elle UK.
Then she unwittingly provided a likely explanation for why not enough has been made of Markle’s racial makeup. A man who performed in plays with Markle when she was attending her “all-girls Catholic high school … “ which was a “portrait of diversity,” told the Post he didn’t even realize her ethnicity until it came out after she became engaged to Prince Harry.
“In L.A., we are all used to so many different races, lifestyles and creeds,” the man told the Post. “That stuff doesn’t even register.”