• Washington Post

What Meghan and Megan tell us about the abuse of Black women

REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs, James Glossop/Pool
Right: Meghan Markle, the fiancee of Britain’s Prince Harry, arrives for a walkabout on the esplanade at Edinburgh Castle, Britain, February 13, 2018.
Left: 2019 MTV Video Music Awards – Arrivals – Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey, U.S., August 26, 2019 – Megan Thee Stallion.

This is a tale of two Megs: Meghan Markle and Megan Thee Stallion, the actress-turned-duchess and the rap superstar. The trajectories of their lives and careers could not be more different. Yet over the past week, both have come to represent how the systematic abuse of Black women works, no matter how rich or famous they are.

First, the Duchess of Sussex. In the Netflix documentary “Harry & Meghan,” Markle takes to the screen to open up about her life before and after marrying into the colonial institution that is the British royal family. The racist abuse Markle received from the media, the death threats and the lack of protection from the royals were so horrendous that she and Harry up and left Britain and the family fold.

Next, the rap songstress. Megan Thee Stallion (whose real name is Megan Pete) was in court last week to testify against Tory Lanez (real name Daystar Peterson), whom she accuses of shooting her in the foot in 2020. For two years, Megan Thee Stallion has endured allegations that she made up the episode, that it was her fault for getting involved in a relationship with Lanez (who has pleaded not guilty), and for all manner of other nonsense.

Nesrine Malik of the Guardian is not impressed with the kind of attention Markle has drawn, arguing that the focus on one rich woman’s plight distracts from conversations we ought to be having about racial inequity and how it harms genuinely vulnerable people. “If there’s one thing that is apparent from their recent documentary,” Malik writes of Harry and Meghan, “it is that they are not renouncing their unearned right to royalty, but are angry that they could not claim it.” They become, she says, “informal ambassadors” for British race relations anyway, even though they’re “not a reflection of the country’s successes or a resolution of its crises.”

Malik is dismissive on the grounds that Markle is too privileged to be taken seriously as a symbol. As for Megan Thee Stallion, her personal history with Lanez and other men has been used to undermine the seriousness of her accusations. As Jemele Hill wrote in the Atlantic, “The implication was that Pete was both promiscuous and a bad friend – notions likely to erode sympathy for a woman who, in her raps, glories in her sexual freedom.”

Meghan’s and Megan’s critics miss an important point: It matters to pay attention to their testimonies, because they give us an opening to talk about the specific jeopardy Black women face, at the nexus of White racism and male sexism.

Both Megs have said the abuse they absorbed drove them to wish they were dead. In the Netflix documentary, Harry says he blames the stress from the media pressure for Markle’s 2020 miscarriage. Megan Thee Stallion, attempting to prove what had happened to her, went so far as to share pictures of her wounded foot on social media.

The Megs’ stories also show how Black women are caught between a rock and a hard place as victims of abuse.

When the police, responding to a disturbance call, arrived to find Megan Thee Stallion bloodied, her first instinct, she said, was not to ask for help but to shield Lanez. “He shot me and I still tried to protect him,” she said in 2020, “because the police be killing us.” Markle recounted in the documentary that she and Harry were expected to remain mum and to preserve the institution of the royal family at all costs, even while the family was actively contributing to the harm. As Harry said, “We were being fed to the wolves.”

When it comes to the abuse of Black women, the real conversations we’re afraid to have are those about the actual foot soldiers of misogynoir. In Markle’s case, the documentary noted that a large number of the social media accounts launching and amplifying the most attacks against her belonged to White women. In Megan Thee Stallion’s case, most of the jokes and vilification have come from Black men in the hip-hop industry.

The people who should be Black women’s allies against sexism and racism are often the ones inflicting the most damage.

If a light-skinned, mixed-race duchess and a Grammy Award-winning Black woman artist are not safe from White women or Black men, what about the rest of us? Most women don’t have the resources to sue the media or to hire high-powered lawyers to confront those we have accused of hurting us. And we’re not going to #SelfCare or talk-therapy our way out of systemic mistreatment.

Meghan and Megan offer high-profile proof of the multitudes of violences against Black women. Time after time, in a world determined to break us, our survival is nothing short of miraculous.