Shortly after Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan ended, the comments on social media began to fly. While many sympathized with the couple’s plight, others dismissed them as “snowflakes,” unable to withstand the press scrutiny that comes with being rich and famous.
What I took away from the interview was much different. Put aside that we are talking about the royal family, and forget that Meghan and Harry are rich and famous. What they are experiencing could happen, does happen, inside so many families, whether in Great Britain or in the U.S. The cultural issues Harry and Meghan face are the same millions of people deal with every day. Of course, we’re talking on a smaller scale, but that doesn’t mean that the pain one suffers isn’t just as traumatic.
Some online allege that Meghan knew what she was getting into when she agreed to marry Harry. She admitted to Oprah that she was naive, but does anyone ever truly know what they are taking on when they marry? Whether the in-laws will be supportive or fine with throwing under the bus that new family member who might be different? Is there a mean girl among the sisters-in-law who will be happy to spread rumors? Those might not make headlines in the tabloids, but in a small town might be enough to seriously damage a reputation.
Harry is still haunted by how his mother, Princess Diana, was treated by the British tabloids. But Meghan’s situation was more precarious. Besides being an American, a divorcee, and an actress, she’s also mixed race. Racism played a large role in how Meghan was treated, not only by the tabloids, but by the royal family and “the institution,” a reference to the powerful administrative forces that surround the queen. Perhaps the most astounding revelation was the concern expressed by someone among the royals (both Meghan and Harry refused to identify the person), who wondered how dark skinned Meghan’s baby would be. One can only imagine how hurtful that comment was for both Harry and Meghan as they were anticipating the birth of their son, Archie. But with interracial marriages increasing, how many other new parents have had to withstand such cruelty, family members and friends commenting on a baby’s appearance?
When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced that they were “stepping back” from their royal duties, the public was shocked. Such a move seemed precipitous. Yet, as Meghan and Harry made clear, their isolation within the royal family had grown for quite some time. Communication between the couple and other members of the royal family broke down and no one seemed to be taking their concerns seriously. Certainly during the pandemic, staying close to family members has been difficult. How many are seriously hurting, possibly contemplating suicide like Meghan did at one time. Is anyone listening?
That disclosure, that Harry sought help for his wife and was rebuffed, was outrageous. What can we do to make sure that we are looking out for the most vulnerable among us, those who are lonely and depressed, those who may be abusing drugs, and yes, those who may be thinking about death by suicide? Can we put aside our differences and reach out?
There was talk about being “trapped” inside the royal family. Again, online pundits made light of this situation. Trapped in a castle? With all that wealth? But family obligations often make members, regardless of socio-economic status, feel trapped and unable to make independent decisions. How many have had to put aside their plans during the pandemic? Lack of resources has forced many students to drop out of college. Young people, just beginning careers may have been let go and forced to move back into a parent’s home. Caring for an elderly relative has derailed many plans. Start a new business? Not now.
When Harry spoke about his father not answering his phone calls his pain showed. How many can relate? For four years families had a hard time gathering for holidays, tiptoeing around incendiary topics like politics, religion, and racism. Differences continue to divide us and many broken relationships, not only within families, but among friends, might never be fully restored. Harry vows to continue working on the relationship, not only with his father, but with his brother. Being estranged from the family – any family – is devastating. Might we hope that after watching last night’s interview, some may reach out to recoup what has been lost?
Some may criticize Harry and Meghan for speaking out, creating more publicity when they, supposedly, hope for privacy. But by agreeing to sit down with Oprah, who didn’t shy away from asking the tough questions, they not only told their own story, but one that should resonate with many other people. Perhaps we can learn something from what Harry and Meghan have been through and truly begin to heal.
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