During a National Action Network rally Saturday in Harlem, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that the marriage between His Royal Highness Prince Henry Charles Albert David, Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeen, and Her Royal Highness Rachel Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Countess of Dumbarton and Baroness Kilkeen—or Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, for short—indicates that “white male supremacy is on its last breath” because “little white girls in Wales are saying, ‘I want to be like Meghan.’”
Sharpton also said that little white girls wanting to look and dress like former first lady Michelle Obama, and Sasha and Malia Obama, means that “white supremacy is questioned.”
I just ... let’s just focus on his statement about the royal wedding for a moment and ruminate on how utterly ridiculous it is.
If I remember correctly, the Combahee River Collective taught us, “If black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression,” not if a mixed-race black woman married a prince sixth in line to the British throne.
So, exactly, how many white supremacist systems are being dismantled by their royal highnesses’ marriage?
In what corners of the world will the British Empire’s colonization and imperialism cease, and for what global violence will it be held accountable?
When has white women emulating black women ever, ever led to the destruction of white supremacy?
When has white men desiring or partnering with black—or, as Meghan identifies, mixed-race or biracial—women ever eroded white male violence?
These are rhetorical questions, of course, because the obvious answers are none, none, none, never and never.
“[White supremacists] are losing their minds because the world is passing away where they are the standard.” Sharpton went on to say. “Where they decide what is beauty, where they decide what is of intellectual depth.”
Really, Rev.? So, Meghan’s proximity to whiteness wasn’t a determining factor in the Crown’s acceptance of her into the fold? Her light skin and straightened hair aren’t the Eurocentric standard of beauty that black women are told is the pinnacle of attractiveness?
I can’t decide if Sharpton is being willfully ignorant or if he really believes that black women can sex, love and marry our way from underneath institutionalized, systemic white supremacy, simply because white girls want to be like us without the burden.
This is not to slam the newly minted Duchess of Sussex at all. She is a beautiful, talented, accomplished woman who, by all accounts, is a perfectly lovely human being, and I love seeing her joy. I love seeing, at least from the outside, how deeply she is loved.
But let’s make it plain: Marrying into whiteness does not dismantle whiteness. Further, diversifying white supremacy does not erase white supremacy. We saw this when President Barack Obama became leader of the U.S. empire. Many of the usual critiques that black people level against that most violent of institutions were muted, not only because they were just happy to see a black man at the helm but also because they felt protective of him in the face of white supremacist attacks.
Similarly, in this moment, many of us aren’t being honest about the things we’ve been taught to yearn for or strive for or the things we should unlearn. Many of us aren’t being honest about why this particular seat at the table feels like an accomplishment to so many people. And if we can’t honestly examine that, then, to quote Amiri Baraka, we’re “in big trouble.”
If we can’t admit that power and wealth are often aphrodisiacs, we’re in big trouble. If we can’t admit that Meghan’s breaking through what seemed to be an impenetrable wall of race, class and economic segregation to breathe the rarefied white air on the other side feels like “a win” to some folks—and why that’s dangerous—then we’re in big trouble.
If we actually have so-called leaders claiming that black faces in white spaces means the end of white supremacy, we’re in big trouble.
As always, more than one thing can be true.
Was the wedding beautiful? Yes, it was absolutely stunning—if one chose to overlook the exaltation of military, monarchy and the violence both have inflicted on the world, and just escape into the spectacle of it all.
Was it swoon-worthy when Harry gave his bride a smoldering look and bit his lower lip after telling her she was gorgeous? It sure was.
Is it kind of hilarious that one of the horses leading their carriage was named Tyrone? Yep, I chuckled.
The African ululating, the gospel choir, the black cellist, Mama Markle’s quiet grace and the black preacher who took the House of Windsor all the way to Jesus and John by the Riverside Church of God in Christ were all amazing.
But does the royal wedding signal that white male supremacy is gasping for air? Hell no—and, frankly, I’m embarrassed for Sharpton that he would even make such an asinine statement.
Rachel Meghan Mountbatten-Windsor, Duchess of Sussex, married a wealthy, white British prince. This has always been an aspirational possibility for little white girls in Wales and will continue to be an aspirational possibility for little white girls in Wales—the wealthy ones, anyway. So will they really want to be Meghan, or will they simply covet what Meghan has—a prince, wealth, almost universal adoration and power?
If white British girls wanting to be like a black American woman because a black American woman married a white British prince ushers in the end of global white male supremacy—which doesn’t take into consideration at all white women’s complicity in structural white violence—then tally-ho, cheerio and pip-pip to progress.
I’ll believe it when I see it.