Opinion: Meghan Markle is a human. It’s time to treat her like one.
Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, is a human with human emotions, and human reactions to stories, like any other human. So why is it that, three months after one of the most spectacular progressive weddings in Royal history, so many fail to acknowledge the damage they can cause directly and indirectly? So many fail to remember that, behind the glitz and glamour of the tiaras and carriages, real humans with real emotions read the words put out, and see the same stories we see. So many see her name as just words on a page or a screen, and forget the person behind that name, and the good she brings.
Since the week before the royal wedding on that sunny day in Windsor, family issues with Meghan Markle have been exploited by so many that have no intimate knowledge of the issue, with Markle’s family, or with no personal understanding or experience of similar family issues. Her father pulled out of the wedding, citing health issues, and some found a way to blame the Duchess-to-be. “You put too much pressure on him,” yelled one Twitter account, failing to acknowledge the long and proven assistance and direct help the various Palaces provide to family and friends of new entrees to the royal bubble. “You expected too much from him,” others suggested, failing to acknowledge that the build up was long and gradual, with plenty of notice (and plenty of behind-the-scenes notice away from the public eye).
For Meghan, the honeymoon period ended before it ever began.
The Duchess, whilst remaining a princess of all most hearts, is subject of unfounded and pointless daily, hourly, even second-by-second abuse. Myself, alongside countless senior royal reporters and photographers, have faced endless anonymous, private DMs and message requests filled of horrifically racist insults being hurled towards the Duchess. After every one photograph I post after an engagement, I now sadly expect dozens of message requests filled with hatred and aggression. The outright racism and sexism of trolls needs to be called out and stamped out.
Meghan’s father is by now weekly paraded on the front page of national newspapers in the UK, brandishing the same worn-down, tired wording of “exclusive” to provide a platform of misguided and uneducated hate, complication and further frustration to those directly affected. Thomas Markle is not a horrible man, nor do I think he creates his comments out of malice to harm his daughter and son-in-law, Prince Harry, but I think he is misguided, confused, and perhaps desperate to put forth a message that he is still relevant. And the sad reality is that, should he not have made a comment from day one, he would be relevant, and close, and happy within the family unit. But, because of his now-continuous comments and track record of breaching privacy, the reality is that a tight family unit is unlikely. And that is heartbreaking to watch from the outside, because I know of the same pain, and so do millions of others from a ‘broken’ family.
His comments to papers create further animosity towards himself, but shockingly, they provide extremists online further ammunition to target hatred towards Meghan; racism, sexism and abusive messages hurl her way after every front page. Because to them, the problems that Thomas claims to face is all the fault of Meghan — when it isn’t. The solution really is simple; to stop making comments.
But that wont happen.
What we’re seeing today through the targeted and systematic abuse aimed towards the Duchess of Sussex is unprecedented in royal history, due to the social media age we live in. In the 1960s, front page stories were first seen on the morning they were intended to be published, and comments made on the day. Today, front pages are seen within minutes, remembered forever, dragged back up constantly, and comments made forever.
Vitriolic and spiteful tweets made today can gather thousands of retweets before being taken down, slowly adding to an already amassed pile of unacceptable and shocking abuse, that radicalises and manipulates others into believing false rumours and targeting their own misplaced and fictitious hatred. False stories created by malignant extended family, like the “joke” created by half-sister Samantha Grant that Thomas would create his own fashion line, fuel the fire of torment and depressing abuse aimed at Meghan, with the sole apparent intent of causing her discomfort, unhappiness, and further misery at the situation flung at her through no fault of her own.
Samantha Grant, who parades herself as Samantha Markle, writes daily inflammatory tweets that perpetuate further negativity towards Meghan and her mother’s side of the family, in increasingly racially charged insults and comments that entertain racists and trolls, and shock supporters of the royal couple. In one of her most recently racially charged tweets, Samantha wrote: “It would be unreasonable to ask that my father [Thomas Markle] try to get through a cloud of marijuana smoke to get to Doria.” This spawned disgusting jokes and quips by supporters of Samantha, disregarding Doria as a human and making atrociously shocking allegations fueled solely on the colour of her skin.
How someone an fuel, condone, facilitate and endorse such comments aimed at another human, without regard for their feelings or wellbeing, is simply abhorrent.
What we all need to do is realise that a human exists behind the name, and that negativity on such a persistent, continuous basis benefits no-one. We need to acknowledge that a name isn’t just a bunch of letters on a computer screen, it is a person with feelings, with emotions, ambitions and plans.
Meghan Markle is more than the negative side of her family, she is the Duchess with personal focuses on Children’s HIV association, on the homelessness charity Crisis, on the Myna Mahila Foundation, on Scotty’s Little Soldiers and StreetGames, Surfers Against Sewage and the Wilderness Foundation UK. She is someone who has vocally and continually advocated for disadvantaged young people to succeed in life, for women to thrive against patriarchal values, for people of colour to thrive without fear of discrimination or racism, and for people to chase their dreams, no matter how big or small.
The negativity needs to stop and a clear line drawn between constructive criticism and targeted abuse. The old homage “treat others how you wish to be treated” needs to apply here, and soon, because the perceived negativity is fueled by nothing in reality. The Duchess if Sussex has brought happiness to hundreds of thousands, and to some, jealousy takes hold and shapes their response.
Through photographing the Duchess of Sussex from before the marriage, and engagements thereafter, I have seen first-hand the positive effect she has on those she meets; I remember the schoolgirl in Birmingham who nervously hugged Meghan, explaining her ambitions to be an actress, and Meghan assuring her it to be possible — on International Women’s Day. I remember the elderly man sat next to me in Cheshire, suffering severe advanced Dementia, who just 5-minutes after shaking the Duchess’ hand had already forgotten the entire day but remembered ‘feeling so, so happy a few minutes ago’. I remember the gay American church rector who had travelled to see the royal wedding in Windsor with his husband beaming with happiness in the build up to the day, and when seeing the carriage travel past.
You can criticise the existence of a monarchy in the 21st century, or the existence of a grand royal wedding, or tiaras and dresses and fancy wedding rings, but you cannot criticise the incontestable positivity that the Duchess has brought so many. you cannot disregard the happiness felt by some, and you should not seek to infringe on the happiness of others — for no reason than for self-gratification or to create headlines.
You can’t disregard someones existence, simply for existing.
So much positivity has happened and continues to happen, and it’s about time we shift our focus on this positivity and avoid the unfounded negativity. Focus on the smiles left in the wake of her royal visits, and her actions as a progressive, charitable and new figure in the oldest of historic traditional families.
It’s time we start directly calling out those targeting anyone with racist, sexist, abusive and trolling comments, and challenging negativity with our own stories of positivity.
Meghan Markle is a human. It’s time to treat her like one.