Decolonisers rejoice as not-so-fair 'princess' Meghan Markle weds

The royal wedding is a woke fairytale come true

16 May 2018 - 15:19
Meghan Markle will tie the knot with Prince Harry on May 19 2018.
Meghan Markle will tie the knot with Prince Harry on May 19 2018.
Image: AFP/Adrian Dennis

A long-awaited e-mail finally appeared in my inbox - an envelope sent via an e-vite, the environmentally friendly, time- and money-saving, preferred millennial method of invitation (that's when it's not a WhatsApp message or a tweet, of course).

Written in gold lettering, beneath a gold crest featuring the letters M and H, were the following words: "Please join me for the wedding viewing of Rachel Meghan Markle and Henry Charles Albert David." E-mail subject line? "When Harry wed Meghan" (cute, right?) The time: May 19 at 1pm. 

I had been hounding my friend to send out the invites for the royal wedding screening she was hosting, and boy, did she deliver. Those invites - for sitting in front of the TV - looked better than the ones for my own wedding.

And when we all settle in at my friend's apartment in front of the telly on Saturday, we'll be wearing our Sunday best, cheering and maybe even shedding a tear or two when the soon-to-be Duchess of Sussex (that's the rumour) walks into Windsor Castle at 11.59am (12.59 local time).

People familiar with my friends and me have been shocked to find out that some of us are hardcore royalists (we had an MCC breakfast to celebrate Meghan and Harry's engagement announcement), and that while many people don't care much for the royals, we are incredibly excited about the impending nuptials.

That this should be surprising makes sense. We are unapologetic black and brown feminists who could be called "woke", and we champion decolonisation (of our education system and of our society).

We're the same people who were tickled pink when the Black Panther movie villain Killmonger said to a white curator, as he was about to take some ancient African artefacts from a London museum: "How do you think your ancestors got these? Do you think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it, like they took everything else?"

We were also tickled when, in another Black Panther scene, one of the only white characters in the film was referred to as a "coloniser".

We question and challenge everything, we're trying to change narratives, and we don't believe in looking on the bright side of colonisation à la Helen Zille.

As columnist Afua Hirsch wrote in The Guardian: "We no longer live in an age where people accept the official version of events, nor in a society where the descendants of the colonisers are the sole authors of the story."

Yet here we are referring to Meghan Markle as "sis" on Twitter, following details of the royal wedding, giddy that a biracial actress is marrying into the most famous welfare recipients on earth

Yet here we are - like many others across the globe - referring to Meghan Markle as "sis" on Twitter, following details of the royal wedding, giddy that the biracial actress from a show many of us love to hate yet can't stop watching is marrying into the most famous welfare recipients on earth.

Many say the British monarchy is outdated and belongs only in the history books, which may be true. The monarchy is, among other things, a surviving symbol of colonisation and of the British Empire in all its murderous terror, theft, whitewashing, imperialism, racism and violence.

The scales of the monarchy are also tipped more in favour of its male members than its women.

The women who marry into the royal family are often the ones who have to give up whatever life they led before, surrendering themselves to being part of (and heavily controlled by) an institution that is hundreds of years old.

Got a career? Forget about it, love. Your career will now be to smile and wave, give the occasional speech, produce a few heirs, and publicly be at your husband's side.

And while it's encouraged that you shine on your own, you must never outshine your husband.

So, aside from the imperialism of being British, the thinly veiled sexism of public royal life is also something that should repel anyone who is "woke" (this is in quotation marks because the concept of wokeness these days is a bit dicey).

But fairytales are appealing, even to the cynical among us.

The idea of a woman marrying a prince and living happily ever after is as outdated and silly as it is beautiful and exciting. And while many in my generation of women believe that marriage isn't an achievement, there is something romantic about a man keeping the royal family relevant by marrying a woman who, more than any woman who has yet married into the Windsors, sort of looks like us.

As old (and perhaps outdated) an institution as the British monarchy is, the progressiveness of Harry marrying a woman of colour feels like a PR-friendly sign that the world and people of colour's position in it are slowly changing.

This isn't to say that love isn't love or that a biracial duchess means the eradication of structural racism (it doesn't), but it's a delicious slice of cake in a world where many of us are constantly fighting to be seen, heard and allowed to freely exercise our agency.

Even "bitter feminists" or members of so-called "Woke Twitter" enjoy a good fairytale. It's been fun watching one unfold on the internet and, soon, on our TV screens, too. Long live Meghan and Harry.