The Black Princess

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
December 05, 2017

Princess we are happy
You came our way
But unfortunately
You could not stay.

This is a welcome
That has no end
Please pay us a visit
Now and then.

— The Mighty Sparrow

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIn 1955 Princess Margaret came to Trinidad to visit. Most of Her Majesty’s subjects felt elated. I attended Tacarigua AC School at the time. All of my fellow students lined the Churchill Roosevelt Highway with our flags (the Union Jack) to pay tribute to our princess. Two days later we headed down to the Queen’s Park Oval to give her a royal welcome.

Princess Margaret arrived on February 1. My sister Margaret was born on February 13. My mother named her Margaret Rose after Princess Margaret whose middle name was Rose and my grandmother (my mother’s mother) whose first name was also Rose. That was the closest that I ever came to royalty. Margaret remained my mother’s princess and, to all of us, she is royalty.

Today, black women, around the world are elated. They regard the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as a symbol of their elevated status and a confirmation that their black and brown skins, seen previously as a badge of shame, is now a thing of beauty and acceptance.

The Daily Telegraph (London), a conservative newspaper, began its lead editorial on Tuesday in the following manner: “A divorced, mixed race, Hollywood actress who attended a Roman Catholic school is to marry the son of the next King. Such a sentence could simply not have been written a generation ago.

If this were written in the United States, the editor would have replaced “mixed race” with the word “black.” Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a white mother and black father, identifies as black, a status he claimed on his census form. In its joy, The Daily Telegraph cautioned: “Perhaps it might have been different had the would-be groom been Prince William and just one remove from the throne.”

For a family that once shunned commoners, treated Catholics with scorn and made Harry’s great-granduncle (King Edward VIII) abdicate the throne because he fell in love with a divorced American socialite (Wallis Simpson), Harry’s daring was nothing short of revolutionary. Princess Margaret, his great-aunt, denied the permission to marry the man she loved, wallowed in alcoholism for most of her adult life.

I asked my students to respond to this union. One of them was disappointed that Markle chose to identify as “a confident mixed-race woman” because of her need to address her “racially ambiguous features.”

Another student mentioned that Markle could pass for white. She likened it to the “one drop of black blood will make you black” that was deeply embedded in the American consciousness. She placed Markle in the same category of “a vast majority of African American females, stars like Beyoncé and Mariah Carey, who are not fully black, exhibit paler skin tones and more European features,” which make them more acceptable to white people.

Yet another student wrote, “I do not believe that her acceptance by the royal family compensates for centuries of colonialism and post-colonial economic policies that continue to plague black populations.” While most of my students accepted the union, many could not get over the ingrained privileges white people have enjoyed over the centuries and a dominant Eurocentrism that pervades their world.

One month before Princess Margaret arrived in Trinidad, the Guardian ran a feature that read: “Princess Margaret, with delicate, small boned figure, small exquisitely shaped hands and feet, and expressive blue eyes, looks as if she might well have been created for the purpose of wearing beautiful clothes….

“As a child, she had golden hair; soft like her mother’s wide-open eyes, tiny ears and roguish smile. As she grew older her hair darkened slightly but lost none of its lustre. Her skin, never quite so fair as her sister’s, retained its delicate coloring.

“For a little time, in her early teens, she shed some of her childish daintiness, but that phase soon passed, and she emerged from a truly charming young woman to be with a face and figure to inspire dress makers in any part of the world (January 2, 1955).

These views constituted our daily consumption that whiteness was/is equal to beauty.

Harry and Meghan’s engagement has excited many people even as it has produced deep anxieties. One of my students noted, “Meghan Markle is a beautiful woman with what seems like a kind and gentle heart and great humanitarian aspirations. These traits make her an exciting public figure to follow. With the platform that comes with joining the British Royal family, Markle will have many opportunities to promote her humanitarian work. These philanthropic endeavors make her an ideal role model for other young women.”

My mother, the granddaughter of a Portuguese mother and black Bajan father, had definite views about race matters. She identified as black. She probably would have responded to Harry and Markle’s engagement with the words of St. Paul, “Every man in his own order.”

In pronouncing such a judgment, she would have wanted to wish them the best even as she asserted that all men and women are even (her word) as herself.

11 thoughts on “The Black Princess”

  1. *I asked my students to respond to this union. One of them was disappointed that Markle chose to identify as “a confident mixed-race woman” because of her need to address her “racially ambiguous features.”*

    I think this union will have a tremendous effect on societies like T&T, with our skewed census.
    Frederick Douglass must be paying attention and asking, HOW COULD A MAN ENSLAVE HIS OWN CHILD? Whip him, force him to work sunup to sundown without pay, the many questions on slavery.

    Anyway, I came across this interesting article sometime ago..

  2. In an article for Elle magazine, Meghan wrote: “Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating.”

    “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.”

  3. What was the point of this article? On one side it attempts to illuminate the cringeworthy reason the relationship is making news (the colonial and racist history of the British royal family and the whole nation at large towards non-white peoples), while it discretely celebrates the union.

    And what exactly makes her black? Her year-round tan? This desire to group every mixed-race ambiguous person as black by black people is what keeps racism and colorism alive. Is she supposed to represent the many visibly African looking women?

    You have people screaming “Black lives matter” in the morning and swooning over this relationship in the evening. What exactly are black people celebrating here?

    I wonder if over afternoon tea she brings up the not so small topic of reparations.

  4. Kudos to you RAMK, once again, you continue to be batting. I aint going along with the professor of this one, it seems that the good DR C still have nostalgic dreams of colonial past, Royal protitute Margarete, was before my time, but i did line the streets of San Fernando, to wave the RED,WHITE and BLACK in welcoming LEOPOLD SENGHOR of SENEGAL, and HAILE SELASSIE of ETHIOPIA, ELIZABETH, also passed through , even at my common entrance age, i didn’t care about her. Now. i for one, don’t deal with ISM and SCHISMS, the black woman has shown that she is willing to lay down, if the price is right, no more being held down and raped, she presently gives it up voluntarily, History ,for Meghan means nothing, or maybe she lacks the knowledge that really matters in the now. ELIZABETH’ distant grand mother was an ETHIOPIAN GERMAN princess by the name of CHARLOTTE, yes, a black woman, CHARLOTTESVILLE, the State Capital of North Carolina, is named after her, covered history i may say, Meghan will be scrutinized like a fine tooth comb in Racist England and thats not my concern. I must say VIVA, VIVA to my truly real princess, DAVINA of JAMAICA for her captivating all African looks and poise, in representing the how a real black woman should look, she has sent shock waves on what black beauty, which is real beauty looks like, a lot of lessons for a vast %tage of black women in Trinidad, Davina, is the type of Woman that turns me on, today and every day, my true African princess.

    1. I guess I missed Ms Jamaica.. Nice.
      But, I do expect The Professor to educate us (the nation) more on the Charlotte issue.. Thanks.
      The Hypocrisy of White Supremacy.

  5. I do not think this article discretely celebrates the union, I think it openly does so and the author displays a strong pro-colonial mindset.

    The Mighty Sparrow’s quote at the beginning was written in a time of appeasement to the British monarchy when Trinidad and Tobago, and all its black bodies, were considered property – a colony. Why is it needed and what does it have to do with any discussion on a black princess?

    Why in the first paragraph does Cudjoe refer to Princess Margaret as “our” princess? If he is not pro-colonialism then there would be no need to write that. And so much has been written about the context for the use of European names for our African children and the racism attached to cultural erasure, it is beyond puerile for him to mention his sister’s name and ‘closeness’ to Princess Margaret. There is nothing empowering about that piece of information in the way it is written. It simply seeks to endear and celebrate any association with whiteness.

    In the second paragraph it is also very off-putting when he says “this is the closest I ever came to royalty”. So much attention and detail is placed at Cudjoe’s awe at whiteness and our colonial past that it sets the tone for the rest of the article and it is beyond a doubt where Cudjoe’s primary fascination lies.

    His students made some important points upon which he could have elaborated or outright chose a position. It is telling that Cudjoe chose the most pacifist comment of his students that does not deal with racial identity as a closing reference. He does not provide any information that Markle views herself as “black”. And what is the point of mentioning that Markle has “a kind and gentle heart” – throughout history many monarchs have been described as kind and gentle and benevolent by propaganda media. These so called “kind” people gained their wealth and white privilege as a direct result of racism tied to the calculated rape and pillage of several continents over centuries which continues to this day. Black, mixed – race, white and anything else – anyone not interested in addressing these issues is not worth attention or discussion.

    It is no wonder Cudjoe went to the bible (an important tool in justifying slavery and supporting colonialism) to end this very confusing mess of an article.

  6. We have come a long way. The most powerful man on earth was a black man name Barrack Hussein Obama. The most powerful woman in Britan is set to be Markle at least until the wedding. She will come under close public scrutiny. The media is already “gogogaga” over her.

    I am happy for Harry. He has lead an unconventional life more so with the knowlege that his grandpa ordered the hit on his mother according to a dying MI5 operative who wanted a clear conscience before death. Harry may have chosen this pathway as an act of rebellion or as a stand up to his grandma and all the British fuhfarah.

    All I can do wish him and Markle the best. She radiates love when she is around him. They represent the future.

Comments are closed.