When it was revealed that Prince Harry was dating an American actress – and not a member of the Royal clan or British bourgeois – many people were stunned. However, when they learned that Harry’s new girlfriend was a person of color, there was quite a deal of abuse unleashed at a very public level. In the media, Meghan got subtly slewed by some of the press, and trolls attacked her and her upbringing. And, the now-Duchess of Susex alleges she was also discriminated against within the Royal family, with Harry maintaining that close family members said some very racist and unkind words about her relating to her skin color. Now, an actress is chiming in about the abuse Meghan endured.
Denée Benton, who stars in The Gilded Age, opens up about how race has impacted her life, even when it comes to watching her favorite period dramas on television. “I was with the rest of the world binging Downton Abbey,” she told Tatler, adding that she felt disconnected due to the fact that nobody looked like her. “Unfortunately, whitewashing can be such an intentional part of keeping people out of stories so that we don’t feel empowered,” she said.
Benton brought up Meghan’s famous interview with Oprah, explaining why she and Harry stepped down as working Royals. She discussed not only the implied racism she experienced, but the fact that nothing had been done to help her when she was struggling with suicidial thoughts. “Nothing was ever done,” Meghan told Oprah. “So we had to find a solution.”
“It’s such a layered conversation, obviously,” said Benton. “Being the first and only [person of color], you’re really set up for an incredible amount of abuse – the system isn’t set up to support you. And I think that [because of] the lineage of the really profoundly devastating effects of colonization as it relates to the monarchy, you can’t necessarily just pop a black person in.”
She continued: “It requires a lot of reckoning. Unless you’re ready to do that work, then the person who’s put in that position ends up suffering more than the changes they are able to make. It’s [going to take] much more than one person coming in to trigger all of that change. It doesn’t really work. They just get eaten alive or make the choice to protect themselves and [in the latter case], I’m like, power to you, sis!”
Benton herself says she connects with the Royals. “My friends joke I must have been royalty in a past life,” she continued. “I don’t know why. Maybe because I’m not afraid to ask for help and support, or for someone to bring me nice things.”