Last week I made an appointment to get my hair colored at a beauty salon in the Evansville area. I chose this salon because they have a photo of a woman whose hair is the same texture as mine in the front of the store advertising their services. My hair is very curly and slightly kinky due to my mixed heritage of Indigenous American and European. I walked into the salon excited for my appointment. As I walked into the store a stylist approached me with a panicked expression on her face. “May I help you?”
“Yes,” I replied. “I have an appointment to have my hair colored.” She hesitated and said “Well, you will have to come back another day”. Her voice was shaking. “Another day? Why?” I had arranged my schedule to accommodate this appointment. The other stylist and customers stopped what they were doing and stared. “I can’t do your kind of hair.” She said. “Ethnic hair”.
Don’t get me wrong. My hair does require a little extra time to comb through with a wide tooth comb. First you separate it into four or five sections. Then starting at the ends, you work your way through to the scalp. Altogether it takes an extra five minutes tops to detangle. Don’t they teach this in beauty school? And why is a large picture of a woman with hair exactly like mine in the front of the store advertising their services? I’m afraid that the answer to this question is that I’m looked at as a Black woman. Nothing more.
The whole hair debacle that I experienced reminded me of the situation in the UK where Harry and Meghan made the decision to step back from a senior role in the royal family. I applaud their decision which removes them and their newborn son from a toxic environment that only sees Meghan and her son as Black. But even though I agree with their decision, I can’t help but be disappointed because I had such high hopes that the world could embrace a multiracial family. This could have caused a watershed moment and could have helped to unite a divided Britain.
Although some people in the UK did embrace the American actress, the British tabloid media and many in the Twitterverse did not. The hate became so bad that Kensington Palace released a statement scolding the press about her treatment. And now with the couple’s announcement that they are leaving the message changed from “We don’t want you here.” to “Where do you think you’re going?”.
Meghan Markle is getting what’s known as ‘The Negro Treatment’. Every ethnic woman and man, including myself, knows what that means. As far as the western world is concerned your entire being is determined by the color of your skin or in my case the texture of my hair. And the reaction to Prince Harry protecting his wife just reinforces the stereotype of ethnic women being divisive and destructive. If we stay silent in the background, we are left alone. But the moment that we stand up for ourselves and say “This isn’t working for me” we are ostracized. Especially because Harry is a European prince of royal blood that married a woman of mixed heritage which in the eyes of many puts her on equal footing.
The British tabloid press has succeeded in its removal of Meghan from England. From the first headlines about her being ‘Straight outta Compton’ to Princess Michael of Kent wearing an overtly racist brooch to an event in which Harry and Meghan attended. The worst incident was when someone called Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s newborn son a Chimpanzee. These incidents as well as many others too numerous to name, prove that no matter how beautiful you are, who you marry, how educated you are, how many charities you support and how
much money you have, bigotry will still follow you.
It has been said by many that Meghan should have known what she was getting herself into by marrying into the royal family. The British empire was built on white supremacy with its role in the slave trade and the racist ideology that enabled it and still currently does. It’s policies of recruiting people from Africa for low wage jobs and them discriminating against them in housing and education still go on today. So maybe Meghan was naïve. But when we are young and in love, we all believe with hopeful anticipation that love will conquer all. However, as Harry and Meghan have discovered, rather than their marriage showing us how far we’ve come, it has shown us how little progress our society has made.