Beyonce, British Royalty and Racism

Beyoncé and JAY-Z, also known as The Carters, landed an award at the 2019 Brit Awards, and although they were not actually in attendance, they accepted the title of Best International Group over a video message—and a portrait of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, gleamed in the background.

The husband-and-wife duo paid homage to their music video, which was shot in the famous Louvre Museum, “APES**T”, but instead of the Mona Lisa, which was iconically featured in the music video, the wall occupied Tim O’Brien’s painting of Markle shining in its place.

Photo courtesy of Beyoncé on Instagram

 

This excited the Internet, especially because the “cameo” came just in time for Black History Month. Under an Instagram post, Beyoncé dedicated her caption to Markle.

“In honor of Black History Month, we bow down to one of our Melanated Monas. Congrats on your pregnancy! We wish you so much joy,” she said.

Beyoncé elaborated on this on her website.

“In a post on her website, Beyoncé began by celebrating Meghan’s ‘charitable work in communities of color,’ which the Grammy winner noted began ‘years before becoming the Duchess of Sussex,’” said Stephanie Petit of People Magazine.

Let’s break this down: The Carters won a Brit Award, they dedicated their win to the black Duchess of Sussex and called her a “Melanated Mona” (how cool is that?) and it all took place during Black History Month. What does it all mean?

Since her relationship went public with Prince Harry, Markle has been the victim of undeniable racism in the UK.

Margaret Evans of CBC gives us examples of how the British media has handled the placement of a black duchess. “The Daily Mail ran a headline reading, "(Almost) Straight Outta Compton," after it became public that Harry and Meghan started dating in 2016,” Evans said. “One of its columnists wrote an article saying Markle would be bringing her ‘exotic DNA’ to the Royal Family and said she had a ‘dreadlock wearing’ mother from the wrong side of the tracks.”

According to Evans, the best-selling author Reni Eddo-Lodge said, “there’s no national push” to 'talk about current black British history of people who defied the odds or the odds that they were defying'" referring to British colonialism and racism.  

“Eddo-Lodge says black British history—slavery in particular—is often glossed over as a North American issue, even though British traders forced an estimated 3 million Africans onto boats and into slavery in the British colonies over the course of more than 200 years,” Evans said.

With all of this in mind, some see Markle’s new platform as a sign of hope for Britain’s race problems, while others are dismissing her place as royalty.

“In what absurd situation is it representative or even democratic to be chosen by a prince? It's simply not,” Eddo-Lodge said. “I will rejoice when the British population elects a person of colour to be our prime minister.”

Regardless, the remarks made towards Markle are a clear example of the long-lived race issue in Britain, and the Carters used their platform as international stars to acknowledge that.