Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attends the Commonwealth Day Service 2020 on March 09, 2020 in London, England.
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Meghan’s Oprah interview: we can’t let Piers Morgan distract us from these 4 vital issues

Piers Morgan’s reaction to Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A Primetime Special is a prime example of gaslighting, pure and simple. Let’s not let it overshadow what’s really important.

Ever since Meghan’s marriage to Prince Harry, Piers Morgan has made a point of lambasting the Duchess of Sussex. He’s criticised her parenting skills, her decision to step back as a senior royal, her relationship with Harry. He’s insisted that she’s a “whiny spoiled brat” for daring to question the tabloids’ unhealthy obsession with her.

And, mere hours after Meghan’s emotional interview with Oprah Winfrey – an interview in which she discussed the racism she experienced as a working royal and the impact this had upon her mental health – Morgan has decided to twist the knife even further.

The TV presenter – yet another privileged white man – began sharing his thoughts via his platform Good Morning Britain, and his comments have since been expertly dissected for shock value by the tabloids.

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Naturally, these same comments have been published far and wide as incredibly leading headlines. 

And, just as naturally, many have expressed dismay and anger over the fact that Morgan’s comments are serving to gaslight Meghan over her lived experiences, fuel hatred on social media, and siphon attention away from the very real issues raised during her interview.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A Primetime Special
Meghan and Harry told Oprah how the former’s mental health had been impacted by her time as a royal.

We are not going to reprint Morgan’s opinions here; you will no doubt be aware of them already, as they’ve bled into every corner of the internet. 

Instead, we are going to take this opportunity to highlight four important issues raised in Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A Primetime Special which genuinely do warrant further discussion. 

Warning: the following article may be triggering for some readers, and includes an account of living with suicidal thoughts.

Why are the tabloids still allowed to demonise and vilify women, particularly women from BAME backgrounds?

During her time with Winfrey, Meghan spoke about the tabloid “monster machine” and its relentless attempts to tear her down.

Using the untrue media speculation that she had made the Duchess of Cambridge cry while planning the royal wedding as an example, Meghan said: “The narrative about making Kate cry was the beginning of a real character assassination. And they knew it wasn’t true.”

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Harry, too, addressed the “colonialist” tabloid coverage of his wife, echoing her sentiments that it was fuelled by racism.

“The race element, now it wasn’t just about her but it was about what she represents. It was not just affecting my wife it was affecting so many other people as well,” he said.

Of course, we here at Stylist are all too aware of the tabloid media’s unhealthy obsession with Meghan, and have made it our business to expose the many, many, many (far too many) examples of tabloid bullying she has experienced over the years.

We are just one publication, however. And the onus is on everyone – particularly the readers of these stories – to think long and hard about the toxic narrative they are not just consuming, but feeding into by doing so.

As Serena Williams – who is a good friend of Meghan’s – explains via a statement on Twitter: “[Meghan’s] words illustrate the pain and cruelty she’s experienced.

“I know first hand the sexism and racism institutions and the media use to vilify women and people of colour to minimise us, to break us down and demonise us. We must recognise our obligation to decry malicious, unfounded gossip and tabloid journalism. 

“The mental health consequences of systemic oppression and victimisation are devastating, isolating and all too often lethal.”

Williams added: “I want Meghan’s daughter, my daughter and your daughter to live in a society that is driven by respect.

“Keep in your memory the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Is it any wonder, then, that many are campaigning for an inquiry into the practices and policies of mainstream media organisations and social media platforms in their efforts to protect members of the public from harm?

“This campaign is calling on our government to launch an inquiry into the British tabloids and their conduct following the maltreatment of those in the public eye including Caroline Flack and Meghan Markle, to name a few,” reads the description of one such petition.

“The headlines, harassment and trial by media has to end and they must be held accountable.”

Why is the burden continuously placed on Black women to provide ‘proof’ of racism?

“When it comes to debating race in the UK, the burden of proof inevitably falls on mixed and Black women,” explains Stylist’s Miranda Larbi.

“Until Meghan came on the scene, the UK could kid itself that it didn’t have a race problem – something that has become an undeniable truth thanks to the way certain papers and presenters have gone after her. From Danny Baker tweeting an image of a baby ape at the birth of Archie (he later apologised for the “stupid unthinking gag) to those recent allegations of bullying, it seems obvious that the concerted campaign against her has a racist underdone. 

“And yet, whenever Black or mixed race people are called to talk about the situation on the radio or TV, it is seemingly always down to us to prove that these incidents are racist.”

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Miranda continues: “In my own experience of talking about race, I’ve often found myself up against (predominantly) white men who disbelieve what I’m saying, almost writing off any calls of racism as being oversensitive or being proof of ‘confirmation bias’.

“In fact, even this weekend in a WhatsApp conversation with a friend, I was accused of going out of my way to find ‘weak evidence’ of racism to fit with my view of the royal family, rather than the other way around. It’s exhausting. We should be debating social constructs and the ways in which we can make society better, but that doesn’t mean that non-white people should have their lived experiences ignored or questioned.

“Why isn’t it down to white people to prove that racism doesn’t exist? I’m yet to see any kind of interview in which the hard work is put on someone like Piers Morgan in a conversation about race.”

How can we become better allies in the fight against racism?

It’s all too easy, as someone who benefits from white privilege, to express dismay over the treatment of Meghan. To cite the most “shocking” revelations from the interview alongside a string of angry emojis. To insist you “can’t believe” the intense racial hostility that Meghan experienced, both within the royal family and the British tabloids.

However, all this does is flood social media with (albeit unintentionally) gaslighting messages. Because it’s actions, not empty words, that count when it comes to anti-racism

Meghan sits with Oprah on Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A Primetime Special
Meghan told Oprah that the royal family were worried about the colour of Archie’s skin.

If you would like to become a better ally, we have compiled a suggested reading list of books that serve to illuminate oppression and structures of white supremacy.

We have also suggested a number of ways we can all seek to become better allies, from white people acknowledging their own privilege to amplifying the voices and lived experiences of people of colour.

And finally, how can we improve mental health services for people from the BAME community?

During their interview with Winfrey, Harry and Meghan reviewed a series of photographs taken of them during a public appearance at the Royal Albert Hall.

At a glance, the images seem to tell a story of a happy couple; Harry is holding his wife’s hand, and Meghan – just weeks away from giving birth – is smiling radiantly. However, Meghan says she feels “haunted” by these images as they speak to a time in her life when she was plagued by suicidal thoughts.

“I just didn’t want to be alive any more. That was a clear, real, frightening and constant thought… [And] right before we had to leave for that [event], I had just had that conversation with Harry,” Meghan said.

“I was ashamed to say it, and ashamed to admit it, but I knew If I didn’t say it, I would do it.”

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Cirque du Soleil Premiere Of "TOTEM" at Royal Albert Hall on January 16, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Grover - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Meghan reflected on photos taken of her and Harry at the Royal Albert Hall in 2019, explaining that she was going through a very difficult time behind the scenes.

Meghan added that she only attended the event with Harry that night because she felt she could not be “left alone” and recalled Harry gripping her hand tightly while in attendance at the Royal Albert Hall.

But, while her husband immediately began working on a plan to help ease the pressure on his wife, Meghan said that other members of the royal household told her flatly that she couldn’t seek psychiatric help because it wouldn’t be good for the institution.

“Black women are more likely to experience common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and Black people are more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act,” explains Sharnade George, celebrity therapist and clinical director of Cultureminds Therapy.

“Having a high-profile figure such as Meghan open up about her mental health, and having some people publicly state that they do not believe her, is the very reason why people suffer in silence.

“It’s vile, not to mention very detrimental and damaging to all those other woman who are struggling to have their voice heard and share their story – particularly from these backgrounds.”

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George continues: “When you silence people, particularly in relation to their mental health, this can lead to the individual suppressing their pain, which can result in self destructive behaviours. 

“Thankfully, Meghan did not act on her suicidal thoughts – but there are still many ignorant, uncompassionate and damaging comments being made about her. Nobody has the right to questions someone mental capacity and how they are feeling.”

George adds that Meghan’s comments have shown us that we need to create a more open dialogue around mental health, as well as improve access to therapists and mental health services for people within the Black and Asian community.

“My business, Cultureminds Therapy, is a counselling directory platform aimed at all those people who are looking for a therapist,” she says. “And we have a listing of qualified Black and Asian professionals here to help improve access to mental health services.”

Mind, meanwhile, has issued a statement condemning Morgan’s reaction to Meghan’s interview, and revealed that the Mind team has been in contact with ITV about the matter.

“We were disappointed and concerned to see Piers Morgan’s comments on not believing Meghan’s experiences about suicidal thoughts today,” they said.

“It’s vital that when people reach out for support or share their experiences of ill mental health that they are treated with dignity, respect and empathy. We are in conversations with ITV about this at the moment.”

The charity also shared links anyone experiencing mental health struggles can use for help, which can be found here.

Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.

Please note that, at the time of this article’s publication, Buckingham Palace has yet to comment in response to the interview.

Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A Primetime Special will screen on ITV at 9pm tonight and on ITV Hub, Courtesy of Harpo Productions/CBS.

Images: Getty

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