By Suzannah Young
Racism, sexism, mental health, and suicide were just a few of the controversial topics discussed by Meghan Markle and Harry the Duke of Sussex in their interview with television personality Oprah Winfrey. The interview aired on CBS on March 13.
The interview, which took place in California, began with Winfrey and Markle discussing Markle’s entrance as an American into the royal family.
“I didn’t fully understand what the job was,” Markle said. “That’s what was so tricky. When the perception and the reality are two different things, and you’re being judged on the perception, but you’re living the reality.”
Later, the two discussed a rift which was highly publicized in British tabloids—the conflict between Markle and her then to-be sister-in-law, Kate Middleton. Just days before the royal wedding in May of 2018, the British tabloids claimed that Markle made Middleton cry in an incident surrounding the event.
In the interview however, Markle explained that it was actually the other way around.
“I think that’s when everything changed, really,” Markle said.
Markle believes that tabloids and “the institution” contributed to a false narrative that led to vicious attacks against the future duchess via the British press.
“The institution” refers to the “business of the monarchy” or its “public role,” according to Victoria Arbiter, a commentator for the royals. This includes private secretaries, palace aides, and the communications team that corresponds with the press.
While the interview covered many topics, including motherhood, the royal family, and the couple’s security issues, Markle’s statements about mental health and racism were arguably the highlights of the conversation.
Markle’s exposé about her mental health began to unfold when she explained the severe isolation that came with her new role as a royal in the public eye.
Specifically, Markle’s feelings of isolation and loneliness were brought on by the realization that she was not being protected from the British press. In addition, Markle was told not to leave the castle and encouraged not to talk to her close friends and relatives outside of the royal family. These factors all contributed to Markle’s worsening mental health.
“I just didn’t see a solution. I didn’t want to be alive anymore,” said Markle.
Winfrey responded with empathy and questioned other events that led to Markle’s ultimate break.
In addition, Winfrey’s curiosity led Markle to begin discussing racism, which she insinuated was present amongst the royals.
“In those months when I was pregnant, we have in tandem the conversation of ‘you won’t be given security,’ ‘not going to be given a title,’ and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born,” Markle said.
Winfrey’s response was pure shock.
“What? There is a conversation with you about how dark your baby is going to be?” Winfrey said.
She prodded Markle to reveal who made the racist remarks, but Markle declined to say.
Still, sophomore pre-nursing major Izabella Ruiz thought it was important that Markle used her platform to speak up on racism within higher institutions.
“No one would know about [racism in the royal family] unless she said something,” Ruiz said. “It was really brave of her to speak out because that is a big family that has a lot of influence and power.”
After the interview aired, Markle also received some positive feedback from notable public figures.
“Meghan was the Crown's greatest opportunity for change, regeneration, and reconciliation in a new era,” tweeted youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman. “They didn't just maltreat her light. They missed out on it.”
However, other reactions weren’t so supportive.
“In which M & H pretend that no royal has had it worse in the press than they have. Give me a break,” said former MSNCBC Fox News broadcaster, Megyn Kelly, via Twitter. “Have you ever seen such privileged people wallowing in their own (perceived) victimhood like this?”
Despite this, Ruiz thinks it is still important for people like Markle to be transparent about their lives and speak their truth.
“I think people who have a lot of influence in society have the power to bring more attention to these issues,” Ruiz said. “It’s important that they speak up and talk about it.”