Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Remember, Meghan Markle knows what it means to be a part of a minority

The royal faced media scrutiny after reportedly backing moves to increase diversity in UK universities

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, at the Association of Commonwealth Universities at City, University Of London. Getty Images
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, at the Association of Commonwealth Universities at City, University Of London. Getty Images

Meghan Markle has had a rough time in the media, as of late. The Duchess of Sussex has been deemed demanding, pushy and high maintenance by the tabloids, who have woven her into feuds with everyone from her sister-in-law to her private staff.

Some think the former Suits star is just acting for the cameras. Others have accused her of trying to lose her American accent and many say the mother-to-be clutches her bump too much.

It seems that whatever Meghan does, she spawns huffs, sighs and irritation across social media and front pages alike.

However, her latest move might just be enough to persuade the naysayers of her positive impact, and her potential in her regal role.

Her stance against 'antiquated' academia

According to reports, the duchess threw her support behind a campaign that seeks to "decolonise" university curriculums in the United Kingdom, and promote women and people of colour as thinkers and writers.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex speaks to students during a visit to the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Getty
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex speaks to students during a visit to the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Getty

The initiative is the work of a group of academics and students, and Markle reportedly learnt about it during her visit to City University in London last month, as part of her work as patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

The royal, according to a report by the Sunday Times, exclaimed "oh my God" when shown data illustrating that most university professors in the UK are white men. Bystanders added that Markle encouraged students to create a dialogue about a lack of representation and diversity.

"Just open up that conversation so we are talking about it as opposed to continuing with that daily rote ... sometimes that approach can be really antiquated and needs an update,” said the royal, according to The Times.

The publication added that this was Markle's first apparent "political intervention since joining the royal family", a noteworthy occurrence given the monarchy's politically neutrality. As head of state, Queen Elizabeth II must maintain an apolitical position and is unable to vote or stand for election.

While Prince Charles, Prince William and co aren't necessarily bound by the same rules, they typically remain quiet when it comes to openly giving opinions on political matters.

Markle, however, established a firm moral code and political position before she even met her husband, Prince Harry. "Aged 11 [the duchess] successfully campaigned for a company to alter their television advert that had used sexist language to sell washing-up liquid," her profile on the royal family's official website reads, adding that Markle has a "lifelong commitment to causes such as social justice and women's empowerment".

Empathy: she's a royal who truly knows what it means to be 'the other'

The former actress publicly supported Hillary Clinton's 2016 US presidential campaign, and once shared an anti-Brexit meme – which featured a protest sign stating "If EU leave me now, you take away the biggest part of me" – on her now-deleted Instagram account.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their wedding day on May 19, 2018. AP
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their wedding day, May 19, 2018. AP

While the mother-to-be has had to toe the (neutral) party line, her support of shaking up British academics is a clear signal that her entrance into the royal family will help guide the monarchy into a "woke", post-#MeToo, Time's Up future.

After all, as mentioned a multitude of times since the duke and duchess's engagement in 2017, Markle is a divorced American feminist of mixed heritage – and a refreshing addition to a family that is predominately white and privately educated.

At the time her relationship with Prince Harry was confirmed, Markle was subjected to derogatory articles and online comments, causing him to issue a rare and emotive statement.

"[Markle] has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment," his statement read. "Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments."

Thus, the royal knows what it's like to be part of a minority, both as a woman and a woman of colour, allowing her to perhaps be more empathetic, perceptive and supportive of issues of equality. Whatever your opinion of Markle, she might be just what's needed to further modernise Britain's royal family.

As lecturer Meera Sabaratnam, who is leading the campaign to modernise the curriculum at SOAS University of London, said, "it is great to see [Markle] embrace this".

"Change is long overdue."

Updated: February 18, 2019 05:47 PM

SHARE

SHARE