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On Megan Markle, and the Ways We Can Better Protect Black Women

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Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry was heavy on the “Protect Black Women” because it highlighted how often we fail them. Markle shared the racism she endured related to her firstborn child, as well as thoughts of suicide she experienced due to mounting pressure and bias. For some this has been a shock, as many believe the U.K. to be a post-racial society, but this is not true. Unfortunately, there are few spaces in this world in which Black women can exist in a state of peace, wellness and live unbothered.

Back in the day, I dated a Black woman who fortunately called me out on my own misogyny and more specifically misogynoir. I’d internalized narratives that all Black women were often angry, strong and more than capable of carrying communities on their shoulders. I was called out for my myopic and damaging thoughts, and I faced all the ways in which I’ve played in to the sexualization and commodification of Black women’s bodies. Though I wasn’t alone in seeing Black women as a monolith, I took responsibility for the ways in which my own perspective and actions kept sisters, aunts, daughters and mothers from breaking through ceilings of any kind. 

I’m thankful, due to the work done by Black artist, doctors, creatives, judges, writers, activists, politicians and business women, society is beginning to learn more about how we fail Black women when it comes to: birthing and infant mortality, access to healthcare, hiring practices and all the ways in which we don’t allow little Black girls to have a childhood. This is on us. It’s on us to not only protect, but to center. This is at the heart of so many movements you’ve heard about. It’s not: no one else matters. It’s: we can’t get anywhere until Black women matter more. 

Meghan’s story is heartbreaking and it’s one of many. So, there’s work to be done from the kitchen table to the palace. Here are three ways we can do better when it comes to protecting Black women. 

1. Believe them the first time: In recent years we’ve learned how doctors have passed off Black women’s pain as hysterical. This is especially evident in the operating room, but this dismissive response is also evident when we don’t believe stories of hurt, disrespect and abuse Black women experience in their relationships, at work and in college. It’s not enough to just say, “I hear you.” We need to take it a step further and say, “What can I do to make the spaces you occupy safer and more welcoming.” 

2. Weigh in on policies that govern their bodies: From legislation around policing to rights around voting, there’s much work to be done. Get involved in advocacy work that goes beyond simply tweeting #SayHerName each time injustice is done. Next steps are researching, joining and donating to organizations already doing the work. Color of Change is pushing up against racial injustice through advocacy and massively successful campaigns. Black Mamas Matter works to “shift culture for Black maternal health, rights and justice.” And the National Black Women’s Justice Institute works hard to address the failures of the criminal justice system as it relates to Black women, girls and gender noncomforming people. There are so many other great initiatives to explore and support as well. Here’s 20

3. Unlearn your own bias: I’m big on the “it starts with us” because no change is sustainable until we address the stories we’ve told ourselves about Black women. Whether we learned them at our dinner tables growing up, profiles in the media or microaggressions thrown around in the group chat, we’re all responsible for doing the work. This could mean joining the book club, reading up on intersectional black feminists and womanist, or taking a free course

When I saw Meghan share her heart in that interview, I saw my wife, my daughter, and all the Black women who continue to carry the burden of a world still reckoning with its history of violence, abandonment and blatant disregard of life. Let’s not miss this moment and take it for another headline. This is a call to action. 

Lead image via Wikimedia Commons

Originally published: March 9, 2021
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