Meghan Markle on Fear of Being Seen as ‘Difficult’ and the Angry Black Woman Myth

Meghan Markle devoted the latest episode of her Spotify podcast Archetypes to the “angry” Black woman myth, having a candid conversation with Issa Rae about how the false stereotype has affected the way they conduct themselves in public, particularly in professional settings. And while Meghan let her subjects speak about their stories for the bulk of the podcast (as she always does), she did share a little about how her own fear of being seen as “demanding” affected the way she acted with others.

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Rae had mentioned she was called very particular by a colleague. “I was talking about just this, even this last show I did, and how I discovered about myself that I might be a control freak. That was new. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I think I might be a control freak because there are just certain things that I’m not willing to let go.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, you’re very particular.’ And I was like, ‘Really?’ But I took it as a compliment,” Rae said.

“You’re allowed to be particular!” Meghan responded.

“And some of my favorite creatives, I’ve noticed that they’re very particular,” Rae continued. “And I felt like I lacked that in a way. And so to me, I was like, ‘Thank you!’ And he meant it in a way like, ‘Yeah, you have control freak tendencies because you’re particular.’ But I was like, that just means I have a point of view. That means that, you know, I have a particular taste and I appreciate that. Thank you. And so, for me, it just means that I have a sense of what I want. And so I have no issue claiming those things.”

“But I think what, you know, even in [Rae’s] Awkward Black Girl, I think so many of those characters, this is about that, right?” Meghan said. “Like, women in how you show up in the workplace, how you’re conceived, misconceived, or portrayed. Because even though in that moment that you’re describing where this colleague says, ‘Yeah, you’re particular,’ you can receive it that way. But if he describes you that way to someone else, they’re like, ‘Oh, what does that mean?’”

Meghan then addressed her own experience: “Because I often find myself even in walking into a room, I’m particular. A) I think a high tide raises all ships, right? We’re all going to succeed. So let’s make sure it’s really great, because it’s a shared success for everybody. But I also know that I will find myself cowering and tiptoeing into a room where, I don’t know if you do the thing that I find the most embarrassing, when you’re saying a sentence, but the intonation goes up like it’s a question.”

“And I was just like, ‘Oh, my God, stop, stop, whispering and tiptoeing around it,’” she continued. “Just say what it is that you need. You’re allowed to set a boundary. You’re allowed to be clear. It does not make you demanding. It does not make you difficult. Makes you clear.”

Her quote about that is more poignant when you consider Meghan’s history with the label “demanding” and others’ descriptions of her in the workplace. When Meghan was a working duchess for the British royal family, the British tabloids often portrayed her as a “demanding” boss.

In January 2019, a royal source close to Meghan and Harry told that the stories about Meghan being difficult weren’t true, and that she was “well-liked” by her staff. The Palace would eventually launch a bullying investigation probe against Meghan days before her and Prince Harry’s Oprah interview came out. The Palace opted not to share results of the investigation to Meghan and Harry’s disappointment, but a source told Us Weekly that it cleared the duchess of any wrongdoing.

“Meghan is a fair boss and never bullied anyone who worked for her at the Palace in the first place,” that source said. “She’s happy that her name has been cleared from the defamatory claims. She and Harry are looking forward to putting the incident behind them and are happily moving on with their lives in Montecito.”

Before her conversation with Rae, Meghan revealed to Ziwe that she had her genealogy done “a couple years ago” and is 43 percent Nigerian. She also started the podcast by talking about her own introduction to the “angry” Black woman myth and her discussions with Harry about it:

About two years ago, my husband and I went to have a socially distanced dinner with another couple. Actually, it was just drinks because this was when there was still so much uncertainty with COVID. We followed all the rules and we met friends at a distance. And while it was great to just have human interaction again. An even greater moment happened as we were leaving. The wife handed me a book that she said she thought I might find interesting. I thanked her. I put it in my purse, only really having a chance to skim through it once I arrived back home. And when I did. I was actually shocked. Did you know this? I kept nudging my husband, as we were sitting there in bed—and what I was referring to was what I was learning in this incredible book. The title of which, by the way, is Algorithms of Oppression by internet studies scholar Safiya Noble. And in the book, Noble pointed out what she’d found in this research study, to better understand how the digital age shaped our perception of each other. Especially of women. And specifically of women of color. Her findings in this book had my jaw on the floor.

She established that when you type in a question on the Google search engine, it would, as we’ve all seen before with autofill, try to guess what your question will be. Sort of like the modern day technological Madlib. So to fill in the blank, to be intuitive for you, when she typed in why are black women so…the autofill from the computer, the machine, trying to guess your thoughts, maybe shape your thoughts. Completed her search with these options: Why are black women so loud? Why are black women so mean? And why are black women so angry? Those were the seeds being planted. This idea that a black woman must be angry, an angry black woman, when we all know that sometimes things make you feel angry or sad or hurt or upset. And that’s not a gender or racially specific feeling. Yet, this trope of the angry blackwoman, it persists. And as we saw in this book. It was being reinforced constantly in ways we hadn’t even realized. And from that I started to dig deeper. Where does this idea even come from? Why has it been attributed to black women? And how do some black women cower from it? Lean into it? Or sometimes even play into it.

You can listen to Meghan and Rae’s full conversation here on Spotify.

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