This Is Why the Biracial Royal Baby Will Make People Like Me Feel Less Alone
On May 6, Prince Harry confirmed that he and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle welcomed a baby boy.
Days after the birth, Harry and Markle stepped out at St. George's Hall at Windsor Castle to introduce him to the world with the royal baby's first photos.
While the announcement is news in itself, their child is making history as the first biracial royal born into the modern era. Here's why that's important:
Here ye, here ye: The day royal-loving Americans have been waiting for is here: Baby Boy Sussex has arrived. And the adorable bundle of joy is already making history in many ways, including by making his official public debut with his parents, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, during a photo call at St George's Hall at Windsor Castle-a departure from the standard hospital photo that Prince Harry's other royal family members have typically made with births in the past. And then there's the fact that this royal baby is the son of the first American to marry into the royal family since 1937.
Yes, he's certainly already in the history books. But the baby's mere existence is also significant for another reason: While we can't say for sure that he's the first biracial baby everborn into the royal family (many historians believe Queen Charlotte, who reigned from 1761 until 1818, may have descended from a Black branch of the Portuguese royal house), we can say for certain that the newborn is the first biracial royal born in contemporary times.
That bit of progress is, in itself, certainly something to celebrate. (Along with the fact that we'll soon have more delicious royal baby photos to coo over!) But as a mixed race woman, I know that this baby's identity is something that he will likely struggle with as he gets older. How someone chooses to identify should be a personal decision-but in our culture (both here and in the U.K.), society forces us to label ourselves, an expectation that can be difficult for people like me who need to select multiplelabels.
So unfortunately, thanks to his royal status, when this baby gets older he will probably be forced to grapple with the private matter of identity in a very public way. But as difficult as that might be for him, I also know what Baby Boy Sussex doesn't realize yet-that he is a symbol of hope for many biracial people around the world.
I know, I know. That's a very big weight to place on a tiny baby's shoulders. But I can say from experience that when you’re a mixed kid who often feels alone-like you'll never truly fit in with one side or the other-you spend a lot of your time looking for...well, other mixed kids who can validate your experiences. That's why when I met Meghan Markle back in 2013-long before she was a duchess, still a rising actress on a show called Suits who wasvisiting O for a potential story-we immediately gravitated toward one another, bonding over our shared experiences growing up biracial.
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Flashback to a few years ago when I had the pleasure of meeting @MeghanMarkle, a rising star on the show Suits whom I bonded over mixed girl hair tips with. I had no idea then that she’d eventually wed Prince Harry and become the Duchess of Sussex! Today I wrote about some fun royal history facts, including the fact that Meghan actually ISN’T the first Black woman to join the royal family. History nerds can read more at the link in my bio - but all that said, I’m OBSESSED with Meghan and Harry’s love story and have my pillbox hat ready for the wedding turn up! ❤️🇬🇧💙 #MeghanMarkle #PrinceHarry #RoyalWedding #TheCrown #Royals #Suits PS: Shoutout to @alb10016 for sending me the amazing throwback pic!
A post shared by Arianna Davis (@ariannagab) on Nov 29, 2017 at 4:26pm PST
Together, Markle and I sighed over the incessant "What are you?" question, with the actress joking that sometimes she just wanted to tell people: "Human!" We also found we'd had similar experiences with kids at school being confused when they saw our parents. (For me, I'd often get asked if my fair-skinned, blonde-haired mom was my "babysitter.") And then there was the dreaded task of filling out forms. From the SATs to college applications, when we had to answer anything inquiring about our race, there would be a handful of options, and then just: "Other." No option to write in your ethnic or racial makeup yourself, or to choose more than one answer. And let me tell you, there's no better way to make someone feel "other" than by forcing them to actually write it.
Things have changed, of course-it's a much different time now than when Markle and I were born in the '80s. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that as of 2015, 14 percent of babies born in the United States were multiracial, and it's now been 52 years since interracial marriage was legalized in this country. Still, for all the progress we've seen over the years-and despite it being 2019 and me well into my 30s-to this day I find myself experiencing the same pressures and confusion I did as a little girl.
When people ask "What are you?" and I respond "Black and Puerto Rican" (while secretly just wanting to use Markle's answer: "Human"), they'll ask which I identify with most-which for me, has always been impossible to answer, because that's essentially asking me to pick one parent over the other. With a Black father and Puerto Rican mother, not feeling "enough" for either side has always been something I continue to deal with. (For the record, no, Puerto Rican is not technically a race-by our government's definition, my mom is "Hispanic." The conversation of race in the Latino community is another conversation to unpack for another day, but for now, know that my mother identifies as Puerto Rican, a culture very different than my African American father's.)
Even in the "woke" times we're living in, Black acquaintances, friends, and family still think it's funny to tease by calling me a "white girl," while Latinos I meet (or even family) make fun of my less-than-fluent Spanish, blaming it on the fact that I'm only "half." And just last year, I had an argument with a friend who questioned my Blackness-insinuating that my opinion as a Black woman mattered less because my mother is Puerto Rican.
Markle and I are far from the only ones. Even my childhood idol Mariah Carey recently admitted in her acceptance speech for the Billboard Icon Award that the feeling of "otherness" is something that still follows her. Yes, one of the most well-known singers of our generation-someone with a decades-long career and several Grammy awards-can relate to being ostracized simply because her parents happened to come from two different backgrounds. "I guess I've always felt like an outsider, someone who doesn't quite belong anywhere," she said. "I still feel like that lost interracial child who had a lot of nerve to believe I could succeed at anything in this world."
Just like his mom, for Baby Boy Sussex, that confusion over his identity is something he will inevitably deal with. From the disgusting (and yes, often racist) headlines we've seen about Meghan Markle, we know he will likely also get teased on the school playground-or worse, in the press-and find himself having to answer questions about his identity that he might not have figured out...in front of the world.
On the bright side, it's clear that he's got a great support system with his parents. Just as Harry has frequently stepped up to defend his wife to the media, I have no doubt that he will for his son, too. And since entering the royal family, Markle has made it clear that she has no hesitation about proudly representing her identity, even incorporating a Black gospel choir to sing a moving rendition of "Stand By Me" and having Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, a Black head of the Episcopal church, deliver a sermon. That amount of African American culture at a wedding seen around the world was certainly a first for the royal family.
In an essay for Elle UK in 2015, Markle opened up about what it was like growing up biracial. It's clear from her answer that Baby Boy Sussex will learn an important lesson from his mom: To be proud of who he is.
"While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that. To say who I am, to share where I'm from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman," Markle wrote. "That when asked to choose my ethnicity in a questionnaire as in my seventh grade class, or these days to check 'Other', I simply say: 'Sorry, world, this is not Lost and I am not one of The Others. I am enough exactly as I am.'"
When the news hit of Baby Sussex's arrival, I immediately texted my sister plus my best friend, who is also biracial. Similar to my conversation with Markle years ago, the three of us have often bonded over the years over our shared experiences growing up mixed. Now, with this tiny baby entering the world, the three of us excitedly chatted about how important this moment feels for us.
With one grandmother who is Black and a great grandmother who is a British monarch, Baby Boy Sussex is already an important reminder to all of us that families and people really can come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And he has no idea the impact he has already had on millions of people just like him. I can only imagine how validated I would've felt when I was a little girl if I could've told the naysayers and confused people around me-and myself, for that matter: "Well, the newest royal is a mixed kid-just like me! So that makes me pretty special."
So while I know that Baby Sussex has a long road ahead of him, I'm excited for him, too. Because just by seeing his face representing one of the world's most famous families, those of us who have always felt "other" will be a little bit less alone-and we'll be cheering him on from the sidelines.
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