The Current

Prince Harry's relationship exposes racism in British press, says journalist

Amidst the gossip of a new royal romance for Britain's Prince Harry is the story of vile media judgment of an actress living in Toronto. The Current looks into the racism at play in the tabloid criticism of Meghan Markle with writer Afua Hirsch.
American actor Meghan Markle is dating Prince Harry, who took the unusual step of publicly asking the media to back off. (Frank Augstein/Reuters/Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

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When British writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch first read stories about Prince Harry's new girlfriend Meghan Markle, she thought the references to the American actress as a "saucy brunette" and "not your usual society blonde" were "odd." When she looked up Meghan Markle, and discovered that she is of mixed race, the racial undertones became clear.

"The penny immediately dropped," Hirsch tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"Because this is what the newspapers here do. Instead of directly using the language of race and heritage, they allude to it without saying it. And it was clearly very racially charged, because they were suggesting this woman was not fit to be princess because of her background."

Hirsch says the discussion that has come of this has highlighted a deeper issue around language in British society.

"British people have never evolved a language to talk about people from minority backgrounds," says Hirsch. "We never had a civil rights movement in this country."

She adds that while she herself isn't always a fan of the royal family, she admires how they have handled the media attention Markle has been getting.

On Nov. 8, Prince Harry's office had issued a statement calling out "the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments."

"If we are to have a royal family," says Hirsch. "This is exactly the kind of moral leadership they should show."

"We should absolutely praise Prince Harry for that."

Listen to the full conversation.

This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese.