Britain reacts to Meghan Markle's interview with Oprah

The World
A man is shown with white headphones and read shoes walking past a pub called The Duke of Susex.

A bombshell interview between Meghan Markle and Oprah has rocked the UK and its royal family.

The interview covered issues of race, mental health and personal security for Markle and Prince Harry and their son Archie. The World’s Marco Werman spoke Cleo Lake, a councilor for the city of Bristol, about the issues surrounding the interview and its aftermath.

TRANSCRIPT:

Marco Werman:
The Royals. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and Oprah's exclusive interview with them. The bombshell moment between Oprah and Markle …

Oprah Winfrey:
There's a conversation with you ...

Meghan Markle:
With Harry.

Oprah Winfrey:
About how dark your baby is going to be?

Meghan Markle:
Potentially and what that would mean or look like.

Marco Werman:
That clip from Harpo Productions and CBS. Cleo Lake has been following reaction in the UK.
She’s a counsellor for the city of Bristol. I asked her how people there have been taking in parts of the interview.

Cleo Lake:
Some people aren't surprised, particularly people who are a little bit more conscious and woke to a lot of the issues that many people of color have endured for centuries and are quite with it in that regard. No big surprises. Obviously, this is quite painful to hear the extent of everything. Yeah, I think we've got this kind of movement of people speaking their truth, and that is what I think is needed. You know, as some of the campaigners that I work with often say — public truth — there can be no healing without public truth telling. So I really feel that this is part of it. And of course, you'll always get some people who don't want to believe and couldn't possibly have a negative thing said about the royals. But, you know, they perhaps don't live in the reality that many of us live in.

Marco Werman:
Speak to that. How do the revelations in the Meghan Markle-Prince Harry interview reflect wider problems with race in British society today?

Cleo Lake:
Well I think, you know, again, it's highlighting how the almost covert element of racism. So when some people think of racism, they think of the N-word, they think of it being quite outlandish and vocal and, you know, in your face. But in Britain, there's a subtlety. We call it, you know, the microaggressions, and the power dynamics and the, you know, being made to feel that, you know, you can't speak out or be made to feel that you're boxed in or crushed in some way and that you can't be yourself. So I think it really does speak to the power dynamics of the UK and the structural racism that perhaps people are even practicing structural racism or a part of that system, perhaps in some ways don't recognize it themselves.

Marco Werman:
Well, some of that structural racism you're talking about, Cleo, is visible on a daily basis. If you just look at tabloid headlines in the UK. I mean, it feels very divided. Some have criticized the media. And not just now, but when it comes to Meghan Markle, an American woman of color, how have tabloids perpetuated these issues of race and specifically racism against this woman?

Cleo Lake:
Well, I think as well as, you know, throwing a spotlight on things and trying to present someone in a negative way, for the least thing. You know, is picking up on any little thing. Maybe a hair is out of place, and it's a news story. When we all know that there's bigger, more important news stories that needs to go out there. But again, the media has largely been controlled. I mean, it's probably similar in the US. It's not an independent media. It's often politically driven. It's got a conservative element to it in places. It's very much about traditionally dumbing people down so that people can continue to live like zombies and robots following the system, not challenging it and just plodding on through life. Rather than actually enjoying true freedom and true freedom of thought. So we've always had that problem. But the media has in this country, as well — if we think about some of our politicians, particularly of female politicians, of African heritage, African descent, how they've been treated in the press is also a disgrace.

Marco Werman:
I mean, a lot of people over the past year especially have been revisiting history. The British crown and the imperialism of Great Britain, and the rest of the world — in the rest of the world over the centuries. I mean, reparations have come up time and again. Why, in your view, are reparations important to addressing the issues of race in Britain today?

Cleo Lake:
By large, the condition of our communities is not great. I'm sure it's similar in America. Whether that's mental health, whether that's overrepresentation in the prison system, whether that's failing education systems — there's a whole host, health inequalities and not least the wealth gap and inequalities. We have a council that has tried very hard under this administration to put schemes in place to deal with diversity and inclusion. But let's be real, no matter if diversity and inclusion is going to get us to where we need to be quick enough. And that's both from the wealth inequality gap, but also systemic racism and systemic privilege. I think it's a wake-up call for certain people in certain places to understand, actually, history is not just resigned to the past informs today. And how do we want to go forward in the future.

Marco Werman:
Cleo, before I let you go, as we were speaking, Buckingham Palace released a statement about some of the things that were raised in the interview with Oprah. They said, in part, it says the issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Can I just get your reaction to that statement or that part of it?

Cleo Lake:
Well, you know, it's the kind of bog standard statement, isn't it? It could have been worse. It could have been better. What a lot of people in privilege need to start to do is to simply say the mantra when it comes to African heritage, people speaking their truth. They need to say, I see you, I hear you, I believe you. Because that's what we have to fight, sometimes the right to be heard and the right to be believed on our experience. We are our own witnesses to our experience, and that cannot be dismissed or denied by anyone.

Marco Werman:
Cleo Lake is a councilor for the city of Bristol. She's been speaking with us from Bristol. Thank you so much for your time and for your thoughts.

Cleo Lake:
You're very welcome. Thank you.

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