Meghan and the Trolls

Writing in The Guardian, recently[1], Afua Hirsch added to claims that the treatment of Meghan Markle was driven by racism. Disappointingly, she then didn’t come up with any scandalous, white supremacist obscenities.  Her argument appeared to rest on the fact that some right-wing radio commentator called Andrew Pierce had said, “do you look at [Meghan] and see a black woman? ‘Cause I don’t…I see a very attractive woman. It never occurred to me.” Ms Hirsh suggested that Mr Pierce saw black women and attractiveness as mutually exclusive, so, because he did find her attractive, he had to reclassify her as not-black. 

I admit, the optics don’t look great for the pasty, middle-aged white guy. They never do. He may have been letting slip a subconscious opposition between blackness and attractiveness, but Ms. Hirsch’s argument seems a little too neat and logical to match the messy, illogic of the human brain. We’re a box of random associations, emotion and self-contradiction. 

Anyway, whether Andrew Pierce was being racist or not, he isn’t a spokes-person for Britain, or even white Britain or even white male Britain. In fact, I suspect he was intentionally admitting to a degree of lecherous sexism to show how honest he was and to thus give weight to his denial of racism.   

I, too, had no idea Ms Markle had a mixed-race background until her spat with the British press erupted, maybe a couple of years ago. I have no interest in the royal family and think celebrity culture and is horrifyingly toxic, so I was only vaguely aware of another slim, dark-haired young woman hanging around with one of the princes. She seemed very similar to the other one, Kate Hamilton(!), or whatever her name is (The Duchess of Cambridge one.)

As I have been saying ad nauseam, racism is the stereotyping of a group of people. It is making (usually dismissive) assumptions based on their visually perceived tribal characteristics. It is the useful ability to generalise gone rogue, an atavistic and emotional thing. 

So, Racism is likely to be triggered, not arrived at by logic. Meghan Markle doesn’t fit any of the racist stereotypes. She is a member of our most prominent social elite. Surely hostility towards her can’t be caused by racism if we all had to be told that she’s black.

That doesn’t mean she can’t be attacked on racist grounds, though. The tabloids, especially, are vile. They are just trolls who get paid for it, and told to use the odd tired euphemism. But trolls use whatever weaponry comes to hand. They target your vulnerabilities – if you’re gay you get homo-phobic trolling; if you’re trans you get transphobia; if you’re black you get racism. Your vulnerabilities attest to injustices in our society and the hostility of some, but not to a naked bigotry among the general population. Most people don’t feel this way. It’s unfair to call us all racist on these grounds[2]. The press always go for women associated with the royals. It’s their strange, hostile form of love. I suspect it’s misogyny[3]and resentful classism[4] before it’s racism.  

Interestingly, Afua Hirsch seems to be aware of this, because, in the same article, she says, “We saw a similar strategy of obsession and vilification play out with his mother.” As far as I know, Princess Diana was entirely, 100%, inbred, white aristocrat. So, racism was clearly not one of the strategies Diana could use to counter-accuse her detractors.

It is, however, one that can be used by Meghan Markle. 


[1] For Meghan Markle, leaving Britain must seem more and more like the right choice, 05/03/21

[2] Unfortunately, there are much better grounds, like those statistics we were discussing earlier.

[3] Meghan Markle is clearly female.

[4] “Ordinary people should know their place, not be putting on airs and graces, getting above themselves; it’s not fair of the rest of us, left behind in the gutter, unless they’re having a hard time, too.” Etc. Etc. 

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