England Politics Pop Culture Racism

The Cultural Significance of Meghan Markle

For anyone who believes in the strength of diversity this wedding was a win.

Shanika Lee-Morris

Naked Politics Blogger

Whether you’re a stark raving mad monarchist, a staunch republican or something between-you’ll have heard about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding ceremony yesterday.

Aside from the glitzy celebrity guests and the glamour normally associated with a royal wedding, there were some real stand out moments that say a lot about the cultural significance of this wedding.

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When it was first announced that Harry and Meghan were dating, amongst a lot of positive coverage of the couple, were a lot of unfortunate, culturally insensitive if not downright racist coverage of Meghan and her family. So much so that the royal family had to make an official announcement, calling for an end to the insensitive commentary about Meghan’s heritage. So the build up to the wedding was not all particularly positive.

The political context of Britain right now is also important; we live in a country which feels increasingly hostile to foreigners and those who are different. Increasingly diversity is often being used as a byword for economic and social issues facing the nation. Last month was the 25th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence’s death; and despite all that time the inequalities and injustices faced by black people with regards to the police continue to happen. Equally in America rise of Donald Trump, a man who called Mexicans rapists and referred to African countries and “shitholes” isn’t really a ringing endorsement of multiculturalism. 

But this wedding represented something to counter that. A fusion of two individuals from two cultural and racially different backgrounds reflected in the ceremony. The usual royal traditions were still there, but slotted amongst an unapologetic embrace of black culture and heritage. It would have been easy for Meghan’s background to be subsumed and give way to the thousand year heritage of Harry’s- but it didn’t.

A sermon delivered by black american priest Rev Michael Curry (to the shock of many who wouldn’t be used to such a lively performance) referred to Martin Luther King and the resilience of black people’s faith during slavery. The Kingdom Gospel Choir sang a beautiful soulful rendition of Otis Reading’s Stand By Me which has also been frequently used as a civil rights anthem. The black cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason playing classical music amongst a beautiful wreath of flowers was a very different vision from the type of stereotypes were are used to seeing of young black men.

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For anyone who believes in the strength of diversity this wedding was a win. Meghan has opened herself up to a new family whilst retaining and being openly proud of who she is and where she has come from. She has shown us an overwhelmingly positive representation of black culture. Long may Princess Meghan reign.

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