Irish backstop –
Back in 2016, when the British press had just discovered that the biracial American actor Meghan Markle was Prince Harry’s new girlfriend, she was described by the Mail on Sunday as having “rich and exotic DNA” that would thicken the “watery, thin blue blood” of the Windsors. (The journalist who wrote that, by the way, was Rachel Johnson, brother of Boris.)
The relentless racism that Meghan, now duchess of Sussex, was subjected to during her short time living in Britain was a key factor in the decision she and Harry made to move to her home place of Los Angeles. This week, as cities across the United States exploded with frustration, anger and horror at the brutal killing of George Floyd by a police officer, Meghan Markle gave a stirring speech to her old secondary school.
Addressing the 2020 graduating class of the all-girls Immaculate Heart High School, in the Los Feliz district Los Angeles, the duchess explains that she has been preparing for the speech for a couple of weeks. Whatever she was originally planning to say, it is instead replaced by an impassioned, moving and empathetic address, delivered with sincerity and authority.
“As we’ve all seen over the last week, what is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of LA has been absolutely devastating,” she begins. “I wanted to say the right thing, and I was really nervous that I wouldn’t, or that it would get picked apart, and I realised the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing. Because George Floyd’s life mattered, and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered, and Philando Castile’s life mattered, and Tamir Rice’s life mattered.”
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She tells the graduating class that she recalls being a student at their school during the riots that followed the infamous beating of Rodney King. Then, as now, people raged at a “senseless act of racism”. She vividly describes driving home during that volatile time to make curfew, and smelling ash from burning buildings, seeing smoke and looters on the street, and how, when she finally reached the safety of her home, the tree in the garden was charred and destroyed.
The class of 2020, she says, are also living though a time that history will record. She just wishes, for their sake, that history were not repeating itself, that progress and equality had been attained in the meantime for all citizens. The duchess points out that they should be encouraged, however, by “seeing communities come together and uplift. And you are going to be part of this movement.”
Perhaps her most powerful message is about the importance of exercising their political franchise. The duchess reminds her audience that being 18, which most of them are or soon will be, brings with it a right to vote. A presidential election is due to be held on November 3rd. “You are going to use your voice in a stronger way than you have ever been able to,” she says, speaking of the importance of empathy and open-mindedness. “I know that you know that black lives matter.”
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