“Although it alone doesn’t solve systemic social problems, representation matters.”
On Monday morning, news notifications about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement lit up social feeds and sent group chats into a frenzy.
We got us a Black princess ya’ll. You really can’t tell me a damn thing for the rest of the day because it won’t matter. Shout out to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Their wedding will be my Super Bowl. pic.twitter.com/WmBnGm5AuZ
— GirlTyler (@sheistyler) November 27, 2017
But one group celebrated and debated and engaged more than others: black women. Alysha woke her dad up at 5 a.m. on the west coast to tell him the news. (He thought it was an emergency. Sorry, Dad.) Meghan Markle will be the first black woman ever to marry into the royal family. (There is some debate among historians as to whether Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III was black.)
Is this a step forward in representation? A black princess that brown and black faces can see themselves in and look up to? Or does Markle’s new position reinforce harmful stereotypes around beauty and colorism—that lighter skin is more desirable.
We, two black women, initially celebrated the engagement because it felt like a victory. In an age where marriage rates are dropping for black women, and a standing U.S. president spews racist, divisive vitriol daily, we were excited to see representation from a familiar face in such a prominent place.
Of course, it’s more complex than that. For starters, marriage is not necessarily an accomplishment to be celebrated, even if it is to a prince—sorry, Disney. And there’s a deeper and necessary conversation to be had around colourism and colonialism.
Ahead, we looked to fellow black women in our communities for their reactions and responses.
This article originally appeared on elle.com